Shimini Atzeres – The Post Aliyah Party

Moshiach is supposed to arrive after Succos.  This event is to occur after the inspirational seven day Succos holiday.  Even if Moshiach ben Yosef does not arrive, this time period is intended to at least inspire the Jewish nation to facilitate his arrival.  Jews bring the era of Moshiach closer by making Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.  In this manner we bring the Shechina home and demonstrate that we believe in the one and only G-d and accept his mitzvos.

The day after Succos, Shimini Atzeres, is the post Aliyah party with G-d; G-d says don’t leave and stay another day. In Israel we call this holiday “The 8th day of Atzeres”.  It is a unique day separate from Succos; that is the reason why one is not allowed to sit in the Succah on this day.  In Chutz LaAretz, this holiday is celebrated for two days.  For this reason they created a separate holiday in Chutz LaAretz called Simchas Torah; in reality, there is no such distinct holiday.

What Do We Do On Shimini Atzeres?

On this day we repeat all of the seven hakafos from the Succos holiday.  However, on this day we dance with the sifrei Torah and not the arbah minim. We review all of the sefiros with our seven hakafos as follows:

  1. חסד – אברהם, (למען אמתך) “כי אמרתי עולם חסד יבנה, שמים תכן אמומתך בהם” (תהילים פט:ג).
  2. גבורה – יצחק, (אבן שתיה) “לך זרוע עם גבורה תעז ידך תרום ימינך (תהילים פט:יד).
  3. תפארת – יעקב, (אום אני חומה) ” תתן אמת ליעקב, חסד לאברהם” (מיכה ז:כ).
  4. נצח – משה, (אדון המושיע) ” נעמות בימינך נצח” (תהילים טז:יא).
  5. הוד – אהרן,(אדם ובהמה) “אשר תנה הודך על השמים” (תהילים ח:ב).
  6. יסוד – יוסף הצדיק , (אדמה מארר) “צדיק ה’  בכל דרכיו, וחסד בכל מעשיו” (תהילים קמה:יז).
  7. מלכות – דוד, (למען איתן) “והיה ה’ למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה ה’ אחד ושמו אחד. (זכריה יד:ט) .
  8. Chesed – Avraham, For I said, “Forever will it be built with kindness; as the heavens, with which You will establish Your faithfulness.” (Tehillim 89:3)
  1. Gevurah – Yitzchak, You have an arm with might; Your hand is mighty, Your right hand is high. (Tehillim 89:14)
  1. Tiferes – Yaakov, You shall give the truth of Jacob, the loving-kindness of Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from days of yore. (Micha 7:20)
  1. Nezach – Moshe, You shall let me know the way of life, the fullness of joys in Your presence. There is pleasantness in Your right hand forever. (Tehillim 16:11)
  1. Hod – Aharon, Hashem, our Master, how mighty is Your name in all the earth, for which You should bestow Your majesty upon the heavens. (Tehillim 8:2)
  1. Yesod – Yosef HaTzadik, Hashem is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. (Tehillim 145:17)
  1. Malchus – Dovid Hamelech, And the Lord shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one. (Zechariah 14:9)

In addition, we complete the annual reading of the Chumash and we start anew from sefer Bereishis.

The Wedding With G-d

The Binei Yasasschar explains, that on Pesach the Jewish Nation עם ישראל  was born. On Shevous (Atzeres) we accepted the responsibility for the 613 mitzvos, whereas on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we were purified from all of our sins, thereby becoming a new spiritual construct called “man” אדם , similar to the initial creation at Bereishis.

After this process, we can then enter with our “bride”, G-d Himself, into the spiritual succah or the chuppa wedding canopy.  On Shemini Atzeres is the wedding between G-d and the Binei Yisrael, symbolized by the tallis canopy during Chassan Torah and Chassan Bereishis.   Today is our yichud, alone time with G-d. After every wedding there is a seven day period of sheva berachos, so too at this time, we do not say tachanun prayer for the seven day period after Shemini Atzeres until Rosh Chodesh Mar Cheshvan (Rav Issur Zalman Meltzer).

The Esrog  Is Similar to Moshe Rabenu and The Heart

On this day we do not take lulav or the esrog.  The esrog process started on Tu b’Shevat and it ended on Hoshanah Rabbah. On Tu b’shvat we daven for a nice esrog,  since from that day onwards  the maximal growth has been completed.  For that reason the 15th of Shevat is the time period shemita begins for esrogim.  On Shemini Atzeres we do need to take the esrog, because the entire day is hadar (exalted beauty); the esrog is called “pri etz hadar“.

The esrog represents the Tzadik who is complete with mitzvos and good middos, like Moshe Rabenu.  In addition, the esrog is also compared to the heart, לב . Today we celebrate the heart of the Jewish people, The Torah.  We complete the sefer  Torah with the word ישראל  which ends with the letter lamed ל , and the we begin anew from בראשית  with the letter ב.

The middle letter of the Torah is a vav ו.  Taking the first middle and last letters spells “בול” , this means a legal seal or stamp.   A legal stamp makes something official and creates a legal reality.  For a similar reason, The Mabul flood in Sefer Bereishis occurred on the 17th Cheshvan, in Hebrew it is called the מ-בול ,  or from the seal; the Flood set the world back on its correct path.  The sins of the New Year start being counted on day one of succos.  The first month of serving G-d is the month of Mar Cheshvan, there are no official holidays.  However, this is the time to set the year straight on the correct path for our annual worship of G-d.

The last word the Torah wants to be etched in our minds is our ultimate purpose as עם ישראל  .  We can only be בני ישראל  if we live in ארץ ישראל . Halachically, only the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael are counted as the Jewish Congregation or קהל ישראל. It should not be of any surprise that the last word of the Torah is Yisrael.  Rashi explains the Torah begins at Bereishis to teach the Jewish people that Eretz Yisrael is ours, despite what the nations of the world claim.

At the conclusion of the holiday, we then begin the annual Torah cycle and start to read parshas Bereishis.  The very first Rashi explains that the entire purpose of relating the story of Bereishis is to convince the Jews   “לעמו”that we must live in Eretz Yisrael. Some Jews are still not convinced!

רש”י בראשית א:א

בראשית – אמר רבי יצחק: לא היה צריך להתחיל את התורה אלא מ”החודש הזה לכם” (שמות יב, ב), שהיא מצוה מצוות קידוש החודש ראשונה שנצטוו בה ישראל כל העם ביחד (פרו ורבו, מילה וגיד הנשה הנזכרות בחומש בראשית נאמרו עוד לפני שנוצר עם ישראל), ומה טעם למה מסופרים כל סיפורי בראשית, אם מטרת התורה היא שנדע את המצוות פתח בבראשית? משום התשובה רמוזה בפסוק “כח מעשיו את כוחו שנתגלה במעשיו, בבריאת העולם ובהנהגתו הגיד הראה ה’, סיפר בתורה לעמו, לתת כי רצה לתת להם נחלת גוים את ארץ כנען” ,שאם יאמרו אומות העולם לישראל לסטים גנבים אתם, שכבשתם ארצות שבעה גוים עמי כנען שישבו בארץ בימי יהושע בן נון, הם אומרים ישראל יוכלו לענות להם: כל הארץ של הקב”ה היא, הוא בראה, ונתנה לאשר ישר בעיניו, ברצונו נתנה להם וברצונו נטלה מהם ונתנה לנו ודבר זה (שהארץ שלנו) חשוב הוא והובא לפני כל המצוות, כי רוב המצוות תלויות בארץ, ושם מקומו הטבעי של העם.

  1. Yitzchok said: The Torah should have begun with [the verse] “This month shall be [your first month],” it being the first precept that the Israelites were commanded. Then why does it [the Torah] begin with “In the beginning”? This is because [of the concept contained in the verse,] “He declared the power of His works to His people in order to give to them the inheritance of nations.” Thus, should the nations of the world say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you have taken by force the lands of the Seven Nations,” they [Bnei Yisrael] will say to themselves: “All the earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to whomever He saw fit. It was His will to give it to them and it was His will to take it from them and give it to us.” (Rashi, Bereishis 1:1)

Once Moshe was told  definitively that he will never enter Eretz Yisrael, he died.  He had no practical reason to continue living.   Imagine what Moshe would say to the Jews today who chose to live in Chutz LaAretz?  Today, we are celebrating in this holiday that we are following the word of Moshe – we are here in Eretz Yisrael!  We who chose to live in Eretz Yisrael can truly sing the words .משה אמת ותורתך אמת  The Torah instructs us to serve G-d by living here and based on the teachings of Moshe, we are doing just that.  The Land of Israel is the only place for a Jew who truly believes in G-d to live. Moshe is correct and his Torah is correct.

Those Who Chose G-d, Chose To Live In Israel

G-d Himself is very clear as to why he took us, as the Jewish Nation out of Egypt.  He took us out , in order for us to serve Him as our G-d in the Land of Israel. That is the only reason given.

ויקרא כה:לח , פרשת בהר

אני ה’ אלקיכם  אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים, לתת לכם את ארץ כנען להיות לכם לאלקים:

I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the Land of Egypt, to give to you the Land of Canaan, to be for you a G-d (Vayikra 25:38).

Rashi, who lived in France, always explains the pshat or straight forward explanation of the Torah. He points out that only those live in Eretz Yisrael recognize G-d properly.

רש”י, ויקרא כה:לח

להיות לכם לאלקים – שכל הדר בארץ ישראל אני לו לאלקים, וכל היוצא ממנה כעובד עבודה זרה.

To be for you a G-d: for anyone who lives in Eretz Yisrael, I am a G-d to him; and anyone who leaves the Land is like one who worships idolatry.

Rashi’s source is the Midrash and Talmud.  When we day the Shema prayer, we must have in mind to accept upon ourselves subservience to the One and Only G-d, this is called  עול מלכות שמים.  This verbal belief can only be truly manifested in Israel.  This is why the prayer starts out שמע ישראל  “Listen Israel!”.

ספרא (תו”ת) בהר ה:ד

מכאן אמרו: כל בן ישראל היושב בארץ ישראל מקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים, וכל היוצא  לחוצה לארץ כאילו עובד עבודת אלילים…שדוד המלך…היה דורש ואומר: כל היושב בארץ ישראל מקבל עליו מלכות שמים, וכל היוצא חוצה לארץ כאילו   עובד עבודה זרה.

Based on this Chazal said: “Any son of Yisrael who lives in Eretz Yisrael, accepts upon himself the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom, and anyone who leaves it to go to Chutz LaAretz is as one who worships idols.”…King Dovid…expounded and said, “Anyone who dwells in Eretz Yisrael accepts upon himself the Heavenly Kingdom, and anyone who leaves it and goes to Chutz LaAretz is as one who worships idolatry.” (Sifra, Toras Kohanim) Behar 5:4.

The Talmud states that by living in Israel we demonstrate that we are compared to those that accept G-d.  Conversely, those that do not live here, are compared to those who do not have a God!

כתובות קי עמוד ב

ת”ר לעולם ידור אדם בארץ ישראל אפילו בעיר שרובה עובדי כוכבים, ואל ידור בחוץ לארץ ואפילו בעיר שרובה ישראל.  שכל הדר בארץ ישראל דומה כמי שיש לו אלוה, וכל הדר בחוצה לארץ דומה כמי שאין לו אלוה…לומר לך: כל הדר בחוץ לארץ כאילו עובד עבודת כוכבים…וכן בדוד…אלא לומר לך: כל הדר בחוץ לארץ כאילו עובדת כוכובים.

Our Rabbis taught: A person should always dwell in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city inhabited mostly by gentiles, and he should not dwell outside the Land, even in a city inhabited mostly by Jews.  For anyone who dwells in Eretz Yisrael is like one who has a G-d, and anyone who dwells in Chutz LaAretz is like one who has no G-d…it is to tell you: anyone who dwells outside the Land is like one who worships idols…Similarly, regarding King Dovid…it is to tell you anyone who dwells outside  the Land is like one who worships idols.

After the spiritual cleansing of the holidays who do we want to be like? Those who have a G-d and accept His commandments and dance with His Torah?  Or, to be like those who truly have a “Simchas” Torah and strive to follow all of its lessons and commandments.  Accepting G-d depends on keeping all of the Torah’s mitzvos.  Therefore, anyone who accepts the yoke of Torah and mitzvos is one who has a G-d.  One who rejects the yoke of Torah and mitzvos does not have a G-d.  However, the Land of Israel is a special place, for whoever merely lives there has a G-d, just by the simple act of living on the Holy Land of Eretz Yisrael.  This is the true celebration of  “Simchas Torah”.  This is a reason to stay another day in the Palace of The King on Shemini Atzeres.

הפלאה, כתובות קי עמוד ב

…אם כן כל המקבל עול תורה תצות הוא אשר יש לו אלוקה…אלא שאמר במעלות ארץ ישראל דכל הדר בו אפילו במצוה זו בלבד כבר דומה למי שיש לו אלוקה…וכל הדר בחוץ לארץ אפילו מקבל עליו עול תורה ועול מצות ובאמת יש לו אלוקה, מכל מקום כיון שדר בחוץ לארץ הוא דומה כמי שאין לו אלוקה…הם ניזונים על ידי שליח…אבל ארץ ישראל מושפעת מהשם יתברך בכבודו ובעצמו…

…Therefore, anyone who accepts the yoke of Torah and mitzvos is one who has a G-d…However, the Gemara says that one of Eretz Yisrael’s qualities is that anyone who dwells there is like one who has a G-d, just by virtue of this mitzvah alone, as it says, “To give you the Land of Canaan, to be for you a G-d”.  And anyone who lives in Chutz LaAretz – even if he accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah and mitzvos and really does have a G-d – nevertheless, since he dwells in Chutz LaAretz, he is like one who has no G-d…the lands of the nations receive their sustenance by way of messenger…Eretz Yisrael, on the other hand, receives its bounty from Hashem Himself…(Hafla’ah, Kesubos 110b). 

Like Yom Kippur

Just like Yom Kipur, the minhag is to go to the mikva prior to the holiday and in some places the minhag is for the chazzan to wear a kittel for davening.  In the Beis Hamikdash, we only brought the karbon of one bull, just like Yom Kippur.  However, the kedusha today is higher in some ways than Yom Kippur, since the holiness is achieved via joy שמחה  of dancing and feasting with the Yom Tov meals.


Why Do We Complete the Chumash Annual Cycle Today?

Why did the Rabbis choose to complete and restart the Chumash every Shemini Atzeres and not on Shavuos? The Torah calls the holiday of Shavuos, Atzeres.  The seven days of Succos parallel the seven weeks of Sefiras Haomer leading up to Shevuos or Chag Ha’Atzeres.  Thus, there is a direct parallel between the holidays of Shevuos and Shmini Atzeres.

When the Bnei Yisrael left mitzrayim, the original plan was to receive the Torah and then proceed directly, over an eleven day journey, to then conquer and settle Eretz Yisrael, i.e. Aliyah.  This did plan did not occur.

On Shevuos (Atzeres) we heard the first two statements from G-d Himself on Har Sinai.  On the seventh of Sivan, the actual mountain was raised over our heads like a barrel and we were compelled to accept the Oral and Written Torah of G-d.  On the 17th of Tamuz Moshe came down the mountain with the Luchos written by G-d Himself.  However, we sinned by allowing the Eruv Rav to worship the Golden Calf idol.  The Eruv Rav were a group of insincere converts and those who rejected Moshe (Rabbinic Judaism). These elements of alternative Judaism are still around today.

The Luchos were broken, we did not receive the actual written Torah at that time.  We needed a kaparah (forgiveness of sin).  On Yom Kippur we actually did receive the written Torah Luchos written by Moshe. Then we started to build Mishkan.  The Mishkan was not officially inaugurated until the first of Nissan.  However, on the first day of Succos the Ananei HaKavod clouds returned.

With this background information, we see that the actual celebration for receiving the Torah, ,תורה שבכתב  occurred after Succos, on day eight called Shemini Atzeres.  On the holiday of Shavuos (Atzeres) we recall the revelation of G-d at Har Sinai and receiving the Oral Torah.

However, on Shemini Atzeres we also have a component for celebrating the Oral Torah תורה שבעל פה, since this enables us via teachings of Moshe Rabeinu, to follow its laws. All the laws of Succos can only be carried out via knowledge of the Oral Law.  This can be appreciated from learning the laws of how to build a kosher succah and what actually are kosher arbah minim.  Similarly, the Rabbis (who are the keepers of the Oral Torah) decreed that Chutz LaAretz Jews celebrate two days of Shemini Atzeres and only one day for Eretz Yisrael Jews.

We use this day to review our tikkun of the sefiros. But we are reminded after every hakafa circuit that this tikkun and our  ultimate goal is to live  in Eretz Yisrael.  At the end of every hakafa there is a short prayer beseeching us to make Aliyah with the help of the Ushpizin, who is represented by that Sefira.  This ceremony of hakafos is  a review of our spiritual accomplishments of the past several days.

תפילה בסוף כל הקפה

שכינה הקדושה בתוכנו, זכותה ד(אברהם, יצחק, יעקב,משה,אהרן,יוסף,דוד) עמנו, ושם נשמח כלנו, בבוא לצין ברננה. רחמנא אדכר לן זכותה ד(אברהם רחימא,  יצחק עקדתא, יעקב שלמתא, משה רעיא ההימנא, אהרן כהנא קדישא, יוסף צדיקא, דוד מלקא משיחא) ישמח עמנו… לשנה הבא בירושלים!

The Holy Shechina is among us [the shechina is in Eretz Yisrael], the merit of the righteous (Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, Dovid); may we all rejoice there, arrive in Zion with glad song. Merciful One, remember for our sake the merit of (Avraham the merciful, Yitzchak the sacrificed, Yaakov the complete, Moshe the faithful shepherd, Aharon the holy Cohen, Yosef the Tzadik, Dovid the anointed king( celebrate with us…next year in Yerushalayim! (prayer at end of every hakafa circuit).

The message is clear that the spiritual goal of the holidays and the purification of the hakafos is to get every Jew to want to move to Eretz Yisrael.  Those of us who have made the leap of faith and are already here, are doing our part to bring Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid and thereby hasten the redemption. The next step is to actually build the Beis Hamikdash.

The Torah Comes From Israel

One of the most popular songs of this holiday is כי מציון תצא תורה , “From Tzion comes forth The Torah”, and this means that the Torah is found in Eretz Yisrael and not in the USA.  For this reason G-d blesses the Jewish nation from the land of Israel.

תהילים קכח:ה

יברכך ה’ מציון, וראה בטוב ירושלים.

May Hashem bless you from Tziyon, and may you gaze upon the goodness of Yerushalayim all the days of your life (Tehillim 128:5).

For those of us who live here in Israel, Shemini Atzeres is our annual Aliyah party; symbolized by the fact that every adult and child gets an Aliyah to the Torah.  May the entire Bnei Yisrael recognize that G-d wants us here in Israel, have a “real aliyah” to the Torah.  In this manner only can begin the next phase of redemption which is to start building the Beis Hamidash.  This will bring the Moshiach for whom we pray for every day.

וראה בטוב ירושלים

Only See the Good of Yerushalayim

About the Author
Arie Pelta MD is a board certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA who made aliyah with his wife and 7 children. He is also a active Medical Corp Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya and Assuta Medical center in Tel Aviv, part of the Assia Medical group. Speciaizing in surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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