A joint Torah publication of DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys, Torah Academy of Bergen County, & The Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy

Surrounded by Faith
by Rabbi Elly Storch Assistant Menahel - DRS

The gemara in Avoda Zarah tells us a fascinating event that will occur at the end of time. The nations of the world will complain to Hashem that they were not given mitzvot with which to achieve spiritual heights. In response, Hashem will give them the “easy mitzvah” of Sukkah and the nations will immediately proceed to build their Sukkot. Soon after, Hashem will bring a heat wave which causes the nations to kick down their Sukkot and flee. But why, we must ask, would the mitzvah of Sukkah, of all the commandments, be the one chosen by Hashem to determine if the nations are truly sincere in their desire to do mitzvot? In order to understand this aggadita we must examine the essence of the mitzvah of Sukkot. The Torah tells us “b’Sukkot teishvu shivat yamim… lima’an yeidu doroteichem ki ba’Sukkot hoshavti et B’nei Yisrael b’hotzi’I otam mei’eretz Mitzrayim”, we should sit in the Sukkah for seven days in order that the future generation should know that we sat in Sukkot when we left the land of Egypt. This Passuk indicates that the Sukkah is to commemorate the annan hakavod that protected the B’nei Yisrael while they traveled through the desert. There were actually three miracles performed in the desert: the anan, the manna, and the be’er. But, only the anan was chosen to have a holiday to commemorate it. The Slunimer Rebbe asks why the anan was singled out for this honor and he explains that yomim tovim are not merely days to memorialize events that occurred in the past, rather they were established because they have some relevance today as well. The anan in the desert was a constant reminder that in any situation, Hashem was watching over the B’nei Yisrael. So too today, when we sit in the Sukkot, we are reaffirming our emunah that Hashem is always watching over us. The mitzvah of Sukkah is performed by bringing our entire body inside the Mitzvah. The Sukkah completely surrounds us, just as our emunah must surround us at all times. This is why the Yom Tov of Sukkos, Chag Haasif, is specifically during the Fall. When we gather in our grain and it is a time of great wealth, sometimes, we forget who is really controlling our wealth. We might think, "b'kochi u'votzem yadi" but, in truth, Hashem is fully in control. Therefore, he tells us to leave our homes for seven days and to go into temporary huts, all-encompassing reminders of Hashem’s presence. For this reason, Hashem tests the nations of the world specifically with the mitzvah of Sukkah – to determine if they are capable of exercising true emunah in the omnipotence and

SUKKOT — ‫סוכות‬ 15-23 TISHREI, 5772 OCTOBER 12-21, 2011 Volume 1II Issue 1

omnipresence of God. The Sukkah represent to us and the nations of the world true belief in Hashem. Good Yom tov.

The Mitzvah to Sleep in a Succah
Rabbi Michael Taubes Menahel - MTA

The Torah tells us that during the seven days of the Yom Tov of Succos, each Jew is required to dwell in a Succah (Vayikra 23:42). The Gemara in Succah (28b) explains that this pasuk, specifically the word “teishevu,” which here means not “you shall sit” but rather, as the Yerushalmi in Succah (2:10, 11a in Vilna edition) points out, “you shall live” (see Korban HaEidah ibid., s.v. viyeshavtem), is to be understood as commanding us “teishevu ke’ein taduru,” meaning that one must live in one’s Succah during this holiday as one normally lives in one’s home all year long. The Gemara (ibid.) then says that this is the source for the statement in the Mishnah on that same page that for the seven days of this Yom Tov, one must treat his Succah as his permanent dwelling place and his home as his temporary dwelling place; the Gemara then adds that one ought to take all of his finest utensils and put them in the Succah, where he should eat, drink, learn, and spend most of his time. The Rambam (Hilchos Succah 6:5) and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 639:1) rule accordingly. The Gemara earlier in Succah (26a) indicates that one may also not sleep outside of the Succah for even a short period of time; the Rambam (ibid. No. 6) and the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. No. 2) rule this way as well. Interestingly, it is clear from that Gemara that the obligation to sleep in the Succah is actually more stringent than the obligation to eat and drink in the Succah in at least one respect. The Mishnah in Succah (25a) states that one may eat or drink outside of the Succah in a “casual” manner, that is, on an “incidental” or “irregular” basis (ara’i), meaning, in effect, that one may have a light snack outside of the Succah; the Rambam (ibid.) and the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) rule accordingly. The Shulchan Aruch then lists certain specific types of food and drinks that one may eat outside of the Succah; the

Contact us
MTA: Shemakoleinu1@gmail.com TABC: Koltorah@koltorah.org DRS: Dvarimhayotzim@gmail.com

‫ש‬ ‫מ‬ ‫ע‬ ‫ק‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ל‬ ‫ל‬ ‫י‬ ‫ב‬ ‫נ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ס‬ ‫ו‬ ‫כ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ת‬

Mishnah Berurah (ibid. No. 12,13) elaborates upon this, citing different opinions, but it is clear in any event that one may consume certain types and certain quantities of food and drinks outside of the Succah as long as this consumption can be classified as an “achilas ara’i,” a casual or irregular meal. The aforementioned Gemara in Succah (26a) states clearly, however, that it is forbidden to sleep at all, even to take a “casual” nap (“sheinas ara’i”), outside of the Succah. As for the question of why one may sometimes eat and drink outside of the Succah, but one may never sleep outside of the Succah at all, even for a short period of time, the Gemara (ibid.) offers two suggestions. One is that the Chachomim were concerned that one may end up sleeping considerably longer than he intended or expected to, as Rashi (ibid., s.v. yeradem) explains, meaning that unlike regarding eating, which one can control, when it comes to going to sleep, one may originally plan to take only a brief nap, but because sleeping is not always under a person’s own complete control, he may end up falling into a deeper or more “regular” kind of sleep (“sheinas keva”). They therefore enacted a decree against even dozing outside the Succah. The other answer is that one cannot really distinguish between a “regular” sleep and a “casual” sleep in the same way that one can distinguish between a “regular” meal and a “casual” meal, because, as Rashi (ibid., s.v. Rava) explains, sometimes a person needs only a short nap which will suffice to refresh and invigorate him, in which case this would be considered for him to be a “regular” kind of sleep. Even a “light” sleep thus has the same status as a regular sleep; it is therefore prohibited even to just doze off outside the Succah. The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. No. 11) quotes from the Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav ibid. No. 5) that perhaps just closing one’s eyes for a few moments would be allowed outside the Succah, but Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, in his Mikraei Kodesh on Succos (I:33), writes that it appears from the Ba’al HaMaor in Pesachim (26b-27a in the pagination of the Rif) and from the Tashbatz (Shu”t HaTashbatz I:100, s.v. tzarich, at the end) that even this might be prohibited, at least MideRabbanan. In view of the apparent importance of sleeping in the Succah during the holiday of Succos, one may ask why many people, especially in this part of the world, who are generally meticulous about mitzvah observance are lenient about this aspect of the mitzvah of Succah and do not sleep in the Succah at all. The Mordechai in Succah (No. 741, 24a in the pagination of the Rif) suggests that any such person who does not sleep in the Succah is presumably concerned about the cold (in those places where it is indeed generally cold on Succos) and is therefore classified in the category of either one who is ill (though not with a life threatening illness) or in the category of one who is terribly uncomfortable (“mitzta’er”) when inside the Succah. One who is in either of these two categories is exempt from the mitzvah of Succah, as explained by the Gemara (ibid.) and codified by the Rambam (ibid. No. 2) and by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 640:3,4). This suggestion to defend the practice of those who do not sleep in the Succah based on the
Page 2

cold (see also Meiri, Beis HaBechirah to Succah 26a, s.v. shomrei, at the end) is cited by the Ramo (ibid. 639:2), who then adds another reason to justify this practice, at least for married people. He explains that since, as noted above, the mitzvah of Succah requires that one live in the Succah in the same manner in which he normally lives at home, the mitzvah would call for a married man to sleep in the Succah only if he could do so together with his wife, since he normally sleeps together with her in their home. If, however, it is not practical for a man to sleep together with his wife in the Succah, because of concerns about privacy and the like, the man is exempt from sleeping in the Succah altogether, because the Succah does not then serve its function as a proper dwelling place (“dirah”) for this purpose. The Ramo (ibid.) does conclude, however, that it is certainly preferable to be stringent and sleep together with one’s wife as usual in the Succah if it is possible to insure appropriate privacy. The Machatzis HaShekel (ibid. No. 8) asserts that the source for the initial, more lenient ruling of the Ramo is a Gemara in Erchin (3a) which implies that any time that it is not possible for a man and his wife to be together in the Succah, the man is exempt from the mitzvah of Succah. The Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGra ibid., s.v. veli nireh), however, challenges this derivation, saying that this not in fact what that Gemara means to imply. The Magen Avraham (ibid. No. 8) also questions this leniency of the Ramo, but from a different perspective; he concludes instead that if a married man is unable to sleep together with his wife in the Succah, he is exempt because he is a mitzta’er, that is, he is uncomfortable going to sleep without his wife, and a mitzta’er, as explained above, is exempt from the mitzvah of Succah. The Taz (ibid. No. 9) likewise challenges the leniency of the Ramo, and posits instead that since the Mishnah and the Gemara earlier in Succah (25b) explain that someone who is involved in another mitzvah is exempt from the mitzvah of Succah, a ruling accepted by the Rambam (ibid. No. 4) and the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 640:7), a married man is exempt from sleeping in the Succah because there is a mitzvah for him to make his wife happy on Yom Tov, as part of the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov, described elsewhere by the Rambam (Hilchos Yom Tov 6:17,18) and in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 529:2). This mitzvah, the Taz explains, implies among other things that a man must spend time and just be together in the same room with his wife. If, therefore, a man wishes to fulfill this mitzvah properly, but his wife is not sleeping in the Succah because she herself is completely exempt from the mitzvah of Succah, as stated by another Mishnah in Succah (28a) and as codified by the Rambam (Hilchos Succah 6:1) and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 640:1), then he too is exempt from the mitzvah of sleeping in the Succah so that he will be able to fulfill his mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov. Rav Yaakov Ettlinger, in his Bikurei Yaakov (a commentary on the halachos of the holiday of Succos as presented in the Shulchan Aruch, printed in the back of his Aruch LaNer on Succah) writes, however (ibid. 639:18), that there is no aspect of the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov which

specifically requires a man to sleep together with his wife, and that sometimes a woman may not object in any case to her husband sleeping elsewhere, in which case the man must indeed sleep in the Succah. He thus rejects the suggestion of the Taz; he also rejects the aforementioned suggestion of the Magen Avraham, as he maintains that a man does not automatically become classified as a mitzta’er in the Succah just because he can’t be there with his wife. The Mishnah Berurah (ibid. No. 18) states similarly that if one is not truly a mitzta’er when he is apart from his wife, then he is not exempt from sleeping in the Succah. The Bikurei Yaakov therefore concludes that one who wants to be meticulous should certainly sleep in the Succah, even without his wife, especially in light of the fact that it may be safely assumed that righteous Jewish women really want their husbands to perform this mitzvah – and all mitzvos – properly. The Eishel Avraham, commenting on the concern of the Ramo (ibid. No. 2) about a man being able to be together with his wife, notes that this entire leniency does not apply to unmarried men, unless they are simply placed automatically in the category of the majority of men, who are indeed married. Perhaps with all of this in mind, the Aruch HaShulchan (ibid. No. 13) concludes that the only real basis for excusing people from sleeping in the Succah is the cold weather, which could be dangerous and which thus renders each person a mitzta’er. As noted by the Kaf HaChaim (ibid. No. 43), though, if the weather is not a problem one is required to sleep in the Succah; this would certainly seem to be true if one is not married or if one’s wife does not object to his sleeping there. It should be noted, in conclusion, that even if one does sleep in the Succah, he does not recite a berachah before going to sleep there, as pointed out by Tosafos in Berachos (11a, s.v. shekevar), because the berachah recited when eating in the Succah covers all Succah activities. Although there is some debate about the matter, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. No. 8) rules that a berachah is recited only when eating in the Succah.

The Crucial Connection
by Avi Rosalimsky 12th grade, TABC
The Tur writes (O.C. 417) that the Shalosh Regalim, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, correspond to the three Avot, Avraham, Yitchak, and Yaakov. A very fundamental question therefore arises: how does each Regel connect to its corresponding forefather, specifically Sukkot and Yaakov Avinu? In Parashat VaYishlach, as Yaakov is preparing himself for an encounter with his brother, Eisav, he finds himself making several trips transporting his family possessions over the Yabok River. As Yaakov makes his last trip, he is confronted by a Malach (explained by Chazal to be the Malach of Esav) and they wrestle throughout the night. The Gemara (Chulin 91a), quoting Rabi Elazar, mentions that the reason why Yaakov was

alone when he met the Malach was for some small jars. It then teaches that we learn from this act that Tzadikim care more about their monetary possessions than their own bodies. This Gemara seems to go against one’s typical notion that Tzadikim separate themselves from their material possessions? How can it be that Tzadikim care so much about their worldly items? Rav Chaim Vital illustrates a story that I think can shed light upon the answer to this question: There was once a poor man who was very careful in his observance of all of the Mitzvot. However, he was so poor that he did not possess a decent cup and basin with which he could wash his hands at the necessary times. One night, he dreamt that Hashem saw the extent of his destitution, his lack of washing set, and his desire to own one, and Hashem then gave him a cup and a basin. Upon arising in the morning, lying on the floor next him was the exact same basin and cup which he saw in his dream. The man understood that this was clearly a gift from God, and he treasured it greatly. Soon after, the man's fortune changed. He became wealthy, and undertook a refurbishing of his house. Upon the completion of the work, however, the man made one final inspection of the house and noticed that that washing set was missing. He ordered the workers to search through everything until it was found. The workers were successful in their search, but perplexed over the findings. They had assumed this must be a precious cup and basin, fashioned from silver or the like, and that is why the man was worried about its loss. The cup they found, however, was tin and dented, and they could not fathom why the man was so distressed about the loss. After questioning the man, they received a single response: "If God Himself had given you something, wouldn't that be the most precious item you possess?!" Rav Chaim Vital explains that it is this attitude that Yaakov Avinu and all Tzadikim share. They realize that all of their possessions were given to them by HaKadosh Baruch Hu to help them better serve Him, and they must treasure them. The Rambam writes (Hilchot Teshuva 9:1) that those who serve Hashem and perform the Mitzvot with joy and pleasure, will not only merit a life of eternity in Olam HaBa, but will also not be afflicted by illness, war, famine, etc. in this world. The Rambam explains that Hashem will not put such individuals in a situation that might prevent them from performing the Mitzvot and serving Him. Furthermore, the Rambam notes that Hashem will provide plenty, peace, richness, etc. to these individuals so that they will not have to occupy themselves so extensively in satisfying their bodily needs. They will therefore, be free to sit, learn and serve Hashem, in order to merit a perpetual life in Olam Habbah. Furthermore, the Gemara in Pesachim (68b) quotes a dispute regarding how one should spend his time on Yom Tov. Rabi Eliezer holds that one should either partake in activities that are “LaShem” (learning, davening) or activities that are primarily “Lachem” (eating, drinking, sleeping). Rabi Yehoshua holds, however, that one should have a more balanced Yom Tov
Page 3


‫ש‬ ‫מ‬ ‫ע‬ ‫ק‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ל‬ ‫ל‬ ‫י‬ ‫ב‬ ‫נ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ס‬ ‫ו‬ ‫כ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ת‬

experience by involving oneself in both types of activities. The Gemara then goes on to give three exceptions when even Rabi Eliezer agrees that one should pursue both kinds of activities. The three exceptions are: Shabbat, Purim, and Shavuot. We can understand why one cannot be devoid of physical or spiritual activities on Shabbat and Purim; each has Halachot pertaining to both spirituality and physicality. However, why can’t we say that on Shavuot one should only focus on Hashem? After all, wouldn’t learning and Davening be most appropriate on the anniversary of Kabalat HaTorah? Rav David Nachbar, a Rebbe at TABC, once explained this Gemara in the following way: If one could only learn and daven on Shavuot, commemorating the pinnacle of Avodat Hashem, then he might think that the only way to serve Hashem is through purely spiritual activities. However, this is simply not the case; it is requiem to serve him in physical ways as well. This Gemara teaches that Hashem provides a physical side to this world so that we can best serve Him. The Rambam writes (Hilchot Dei’ot 3:2) that whenever one partakes in a physical activity (such as eating, drinking, standing, sitting, marital relations, etc.), one must bear in mind that he pursues such activities so that he will remain healthy and therefore, be better equipped to serve Hashem. On the other hand, the Rambam also notes (Hilchot Dei’ot 3:1) that it is forbidden for someone to separate himself from the physicality. He goes so far to call such a person a sinner. Chag HaSukkot is a time when we leave our homes and venture outside into a Sukkah. The Sukkah should is meant to serve as a reminder that just as Hashem provided huts for Bnei Yisrael while in the Midbar, so too does He provide us with our necessities. The Torah tells us that Yaakov made "Sukkot" for his possessions; for himself, however, he built a home. The Targum Yonatan interprets this not as an actual house, but rather a Beit Midrash. Yaakov had proper priorities and valued his possessions for the right reasons. He invested his money in that which has permanence, a house of learning, while providing only a temporary shelter for his "temporary" possessions. Like Yaakov’s, our Sukkot should teach us the same lesson. We must appreciate, right after the conclusion of the Yamim Nora’im, our purpose on this earth. We must value our possessions for the same reasons Yaakov did – namely, to allow us to serve Hashem.

“chukim” (mitzvos whose reasons are concealed from us), mitzvos are generally understandable and logically fit into the structure of avodas Hashem. However, what is the significance of these species which are taken on Sukkos and where do they fit in the holiday’s theme of dwelling in sukkos? The Sefer Hachinuch develops a thesis regarding the meaning of many mitzvos, claiming that man is defined by his actions. If one is a tzaddik his entire life but is constantly exposed
to negative influences and is forced to take part in actions contrary to his belief, a conflict is created. His internal thoughts are not working coherently with his external actions. Such an existence cannot endure and, ultimately, the nature of his actions will prevail. Thoughts are weak and vulnerable. Concrete actions are what define a person’s essence. This tzaddik will ultimately become a rasha. Contrarily, one who lives as a rasha at heart but is exposed to the proper environment and performs the mitzvos, although at the time they seem to have no effect, his mind will ultimately concede to his actions and he will result in a tzaddik. This concept is applied by the Sefer Hachinuch in explanation of many mitzvos. For example, there is a mitzvah to not break a bone of the korban Pesach. The Sefer Hachinuch explains that there is no inherent significance to the bones of the korban Pesach that they cannot be broken but rather, by taking care not break a bone, one is forced to eat slowly and properly. Bnai Yisrael are Bnai Melachim and it is not fitting for them to eat like gluttons. Rather, they are to eat the korban Pesach as a king would eat his meal. When one is commanded to eat in a royal manner his mindset will follow and carry over to other aspects of his life as well, and he will become an upstanding and proper ben melech. A second example is the mitzvah of tefillin. One is commanded to place the parshiyos attesting to the oneness and uniqueness of Hashem opposite his mind and heart. Through this constant action, one’s mind is “captured” and ultimately believes in that which the tefillin represent. It is with this idea as well that he explains the phrase following each perek of maseches avos which states that Hashem desired to give merit to Bnai Yisrael and therefore granted them many mitzvos. Numerous mitzvos cause an active recognition of Hashem in all facets of life and as a result of living such a lifestyle, one’s mind will ultimately follow suit and he will become a tzaddik. With this concept, the Sefer Hachinuch explains the mitzvah of lulav as well. Regardless of the simcha of Sukkos, the early days of autumn are naturally a joyful period. One finally reaps benefit from many months of strenuous labor as he gathers his completed crops into his house and enjoys them together with his family. Therefore, at this precise time, Hashem presented Bnai Yisrael with Chag HaSukkos in order that the inevitable happiness will be directed lishem shamayim. Following in this spirit, Hashem commanded as well that one takes those crops from which he is deriving benefit and happiness and that he hold them before Hashem, directing both the benefit of his crops and the happiness that accompanies them towards Hashem. Through this action, one will come to the realization that all happiness, even the pleasure one derives from
Page 4

Z’man Simchaseinu
by Meir Finkelstein

11th grade, MTA
At first glance, the mitzvah of lulav is bizarre. The Torah commands that one takes “the fruit of a hadar tree (“pri eitz hadar” i.e. esrog), the branches of date palms (“kappos timarim” i.e. lulav), twigs of a plaited tree (“anaf eitz avos” i.e. hadassim), and brook willows (“arvei nachal” i.e. aravos)” on Chag HaSukkos (Vayikra, 23:40). Besides the known

material things, must be directed towards Hashem and are to contribute to his overall avodas Hashem. This simcha lishem shamayim requires a clearer definition. How can Hashem command how one is to direct his feelings of simcha? Is happiness something that one can choose when and how to feel? Furthermore, if one is commanded to express happiness how can it be considered genuine? One cannot simply decide to be happy. If he does not derive pleasure from avodas Hashem the lulav will not provoke happiness. How can one be commanded to direct his happiness towards Hashem? In order to answer this question, the concept of happiness must be explored and properly defined. The Rambam writes (hilchos lulav, 8:15): ‫השמחה שישמח אד בעשיית המצוה ובאהבת הקל שצוה בה עבודה גדולה היא. וכל‬ '‫המונע עצמו משמחה זו ראוי להפרע ממנו שנאמר: תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה‬ ‫אלקי בשמחה ובטוב לבב‬ The pleasure one derives from the performance of

and of the essence of our existence. Sukkos is a time of clarity when goals are fulfilled and ideals are recognized, creating z’man simchaseinu; a taste of the ultimate simcha.

Light In The Darkness
by David Beer 12th grade, DRS

"BeReishis Bara Elokim Eis HaShamayim VeEis HaAretz. VeHaAretz Hayesah Sohu VaVohu VeChoshech Al Penei Tehom. VaYomer Elokim Yehi Or VaYhi Or."
The Kli Yakar along with various Meforshim point out that it is specifically here, by the creation of light, that the Torah explicitly writes out what was before the creation. By all the other Ma’asei BeReishis he Torah only writes what Hashem did, not what existed beforehand. Only here does it say "VeHaAretz Hayesah Sohu VaVohu"; why is it different? Rashi explains that the “Tohu VaVohu” is a language of “bewilderment” and “confusion”, just like a person can be bewildered or confused. What is the source of the "VeHaAretz Hayesah Sohu VaVohu," and how does "VaYomer Elokim Yehi Or VaYhi Or" act as a response to it??? The Torah comes to immediately teach us “BeReishis Bara Elokim Eis HaShamayim VeEis HaAretz”. This is divided into two unique parts – HaShamayim and HaAretz. The Shamayim represents the heavenly spiritual aspects, which pertain to our Neshamah. In contrast, HaAretz is the Tohu VaVohu; it is the epitome of the earthly and mundane. When man immerses himself in the earthly aspects of his living, he is brought to the state of Tohu VaVohu. This causes his sense of Judaism, his power of knowing what is right, to be supplanted. We see this by Haman who conspired to confuse and destroy the Jewish People. First his goal was to confuse them and through this he would attempt to destroy them. The main objective of the Yeitzer HaRa is to confuse the thoughts of a Jew via the use of earthly inclinations in order to darken him. This is precisely what leads him to Tohu VaVohu. The worst part about it is the fact that the Jew is confused. The Kuvrin Rav writes that all the riches and splendors in this world cannot equal a Jew who, for one short hour, has a settled, peaceful mind. The higher levels of closeness with Hashem can be attained only through the clarity of a settled mind. However, the opposite of this would be Tohu VaVohu, a confused mind. Based on the implications of the wording of "VeHaAretz Hayesah Sohu VaVohu," it can be derived that all earthly matters lead one to this state of Tohu VaVohu. Whether the pursuits are Halachically permitted or prohibited, the pasuk makes no distinction and therefore all will lead to the same fateful path. Therefore, the only path that will lead to greatness is described in the following pasuk. We see from “VaYomer Elokim Yehi Or VaYhi Or” that the light of Hashem burns inside of every Jew and this is what saves him from the earthly troubles. When the light


mitzvos is a great service and anyone who deprives himself of such pleasure is worthy of punishment. The Maggid Mishna
explains this cryptic comment by defining the concept of happiness. He writes that when one recognizes that his purpose in this world is to serve Hashem and it is for this purpose that he was created, the only thing that can bring him true happiness is avodas Hashem. All others pleasures are limited and ultimately cease to exist. It is only the pleasure of d’veikus b’Hashem that will endure and that is therefore the only worthy investment to make. When one comes to this realization, he will no longer perform mitzvos out of obligation but he will fulfill them with happiness and recognition that their fulfillment will aid him in achieving his purpose in this world. The concept of happiness and closeness to Hashem go hand in hand because true and eternal happiness, which is the ultimate goal of all actions of every person, can only be achieved through connecting to the eternal God. Rav Moshe Chayim Luzzato thoroughly develops this point as well and it serves as the cornerstone for everything written in “Mesillas Yesharim”. He writes in his introduction that Hashem created the world in order that people should derive pleasure. As such, he created many things which can delude a person and he will deem them to be pleasurable. However, these things which are limited cannot possibly contain the true definition of pleasure. True and eternal pleasure can only exist within something which is eternal itself. Therefore, true pleasure can only be achieved through closeness to Hashem. The full impact of this pleasure however is not meant to be experienced in this world. This world is merely a chamber before the next, in which the purpose of creation will be fulfilled and true pleasure will be experienced. Every action of man is for the purpose of deriving pleasure. Whether he recognizes it or not his every move is in search for a life of simcha. Yet, only if he recognizes his true purpose in this world can he achieve true simcha. At a time when simcha can easily be misplaced, the lulav reminds us of true values
Page 5

‫ש‬ ‫מ‬ ‫ע‬ ‫ק‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ל‬ ‫ל‬ ‫י‬ ‫ב‬ ‫נ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ס‬ ‫ו‬ ‫כ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ת‬

of Hashem in within us, we can stand up to all the earthly aspects of the world and elevate ourselves to the service of Hashem. The Maggid of Memzritz writes, “Male'ah HaAretz Kinyanecha” – Whose creation fills the earth”. The land is filled with things that you are able to acquire. Even if one is engaged in materialistic pursuits, Hashem’s light still shines, so all thoughts must be directed to His service. The light of Hashem is a direct response to the Tohu VaVohu of the previous pasuk! When dealing with worldly things, Hashem’s light will shine through. The Zohar says the light that Hashem made the first day was only on that specific day. Hashem saw all the wicked people of the future so He decided to hide His precious light for the Tzadikim. The Zohar then further states that if not for this light shining, the world would not be able to stand for a single moment. The light that Hashem created the first day must be here for the world to stand so therefore it was hidden in seeds and dispersed throughout the world. The light was spread out all over and hidden. Why can’t the world last without having this light here at all? The answer is that all of creation was worldly in nature. The essence of the land was purely Tohu VaVohu. This is why the light had to be made; it was created in order to combat the Tohu VaVohu. Without this light, the world cannot stand. Therefore, our world is completely dependent on the rays of this light, even if it’s hidden. The Malkovicher Rav offers a unique perspective on the pasuk of “VaYomer Elokim Yehi Or VaYhi Or.” – A Jew entrenched in darkness calls out to Hashem and says - Elokim Yehi Or – Hashem, I am in darkness, shine Your light! – only then is VaYhi Or!!!!! Hashem will come and help him and shine the light on him. The light is hidden for those who will seek it out; then will Hashem answer him. The only means through which one can acquire this light is by way of the active pursuit of Hashem. The Sloniver Rav quotes a pasuk in Shemos, which mentions that Hashem appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Rashi on the spot writes "El HaAvos”. Why does Rashi have to say this – it’s obvious that those are the Avos!!! We explain there that the language of Rashi on the pasuk is a language of Ratzon – Desire. Hashem appears to those who want and seek Him. Then the Or will be visible. Without this Or, a Jew cannot live and the world cannot stand. Therefore, the route in which one must take to witness this light is only through asking Hashem and searching for Him. When a Jew asks Hashem to shine the light, VaYhi Or – There will be light! However, it seems as if Hashem felt regret since on the first day He made it for all to see, He seemingly “changed His mind” and chose to hide it. This is erroneous; the original default status of the light was only for those who desired it. The Torah originally set this as a remedy to combat the Tohu VaVohu. The purpose of the light was always reserved for those who search for it. The light wasn’t available for anyone to have without a significant push or desire to see it. Hashem never had to “regret” making it since it was initially created with the
Page 6

intention to only shine to those who seek it. The purpose of the light is to live with a Jew in order to inhibit the Tohu VaVohu that will inevitably dwell with him. With this explanation, we can now grasp the Midrash, which states that the special light is reserved for those who painstakingly labor with the Torah SheBeAl Peh. In Yeshayah it says, “The nation who walks through darkness will see a great light.” This is the essence of Torah SheBeAl Peh; it is a very arduous pursuit in which there are great pains. However, through this amazing Ameilus, comes the Or HaGadol. The efforts and devotion to Torah shown by these people will raise and purify the worldly exploits they take. As Chazal say, “ Barasi Yeitzer HaRa, Barasi Lo Torah Tavlin”. Hashem created the evil inclination, but He also created Torah as a remedy. Through the remedy of Torah, which usurps the Yeitzer HaRa, one will merit the hidden light. There are many worldly aspects, which surround us every day. Hashem created this but He made sure to prescribe the medicine to counter the disease. How does this explanation fit in with the Zohar who says that the light from the first day of creation appears on Shabbos? On Shabbos, a Jew has the power to exalt himself and bring up earthly things to holiness. The Kuvrin Rav says that the since the day of Shabbos is "Kodesh Lachem," all aspects of Shabbos become elevated to holiness. On this unique day each Jew can sanctify all that belongs to him, even the mundane, through the holy great light of Hashem. Hopefully each and every Jew will find this powerful light at one point throughout their lives. It is an arduous pursuit, but light will always come out of the darkness. Have an amazing Yom Tov!

The Universalist: Emergence of a Nation
by Dovid Schwartz 11th grade, MTA
Certainly one of the more poetic chagim, Sukkos employs many symbols and metaphors throughout its celebration. Most obviously, of course, is the Sukkah itself: the commemoration, or perhaps finalization, of the Jews’ Exodus. There is a debate as to what exactly our Sukkos that we build today correspond: Rabbi Akiva believes that the Sukkos in the wilderness were actual Sukkos - man made huts - while Rabbi Eliezer maintains the Sukkos in the wilderness were actually the Ananei HaKavod that protected klal Yisrael while traveling (Sukkos 11b). Regardless, both opine that the Sukkos correspond to some sort of structure -- perhaps the very first structure -- that housed klal Yisrael in their miraculous, euphoric, and newfound freedom. And so we see the first motif of Sukkos: nationhood. This element of religious nationalism, however, is in contrast with yet another element of Sukkos. The Gemara (Sukkos 55b) tells of the seventy offerings given on Sukkos to atone for the sins of the seventy nations of the world and a single offering brought to atone for the sins of klal Yisrael. The Gemara then

proceeds to give a mashal, as it so often does, of a king of flesh and blood. The order of service is similar to a king telling his servant to prepare him an enormous meal and subsequently telling his beloved to prepare him a meal for “the last day” (see the Maharsha ad loc. for a more thorough explanation of what this means). The King, although satisfied with the large meal, only really enjoys the smaller meal, for it was prepared by his beloved. This mashal reveals the second motif: universalism. Additionally, it reveals something slightly shocking: though it was klal Yisrael who brought the seventy korbanos, the mashol portrays it as though it was actually the umos haOlam bringing them, not klal Yisrael. It would appear from the mashal that klal Yisrael were acting as the shliach of the umos haOlam in their atonement. Sukkos, then, it would appear has two symbols: birth of nationhood, and somewhat paradoxically, birth of universalism. These concepts are echoed in the very haftorah we read on Sukkos, the pasuk reads, “This will be the transgression of Egypt and of all the nations that did not go up to celebrate the Festival of Sukkos” (Zechariah 14:19). The distinction of Egypt and the other nations hints at the birth of klal Yisrael, while the pasuk itself screams out the universalist theme of Sukkos. Two difficulties arise out of the juxtaposition of universalism and nationhood. The first and more obvious issue is the oddity to have a single holiday commemoration both the birth of a nation and the obligation of universalistic relations. I do not mean to suggest that these two elements are antithetical, though they do conflict heavily; rather I mean to point of the dissimilarity between the two. The idea that Sukkos, as a single holiday, encapsulates both elements is nearly outré. The more fundamental issue is that of the universalism itself: it seems slightly alien to Judaism in this context. Of course, Judaism is most universalist regarding the physical. As man is created bi’tzelem Elokim, it is naturally incumbent upon people to love other people. Rav Aharon Soloveitchick makes a chakirah regarding this idea in his essay Jew and Jew, Jew and Non-Jew. He posits that two types of love can exist: one that stems from “logic of the heart” and one that stems from “logic of the mind.” Love between Jews should stem between logic of the heart. This is a love that cannot be derived by purely cognitive means; rather it stems from an amalgam of cognitive and visceral emotion. Regarding non-Jews, however, Rav Aharon explains that love stems, or should stem, from logic of the mind, i.e., purely cognitively. We should be able to realize that we are all created bi’tzelem Elokim and immense respect if deserved for every human. Rav Aharon then applies these concepts to the idea of kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh (Shavuos 39a), which he explains is “something peculiar to Israel,” and does not apply to non-Jews. This then brings out the Halacha (see Rosh Hashona 29a) that Jews can be motzi each other in birchas haMitzvah even though they may already be yotzei themselves. As this is indeed peculiar to Israel and Israel alone, it would seem as though the Torah does not believe in any obligation towards the metaphysical or spiritual wellbeing of our gentile neighbors.

On Sukkos, however, we seem to also extend the concept of areivus to non-Jews -- in fact, all non-Jews. This was evident in the mashal, which portrayed klal Yisrael acting as a shliach to the umos haOlam. In addition to this, we concurrently celebrate our nationhood, the very essence of areivus. Not only are we magnifying our relations to the umos haOlam on Sukkos, we also celebrate our intra-national relations, and we seem to have equal areivus for both. This is most perplexing. Perhaps the answer can be gleaned from the “what” instead of producing a “why.” The fact that the areivusdichotomy is generated from the same chag reveals a tremendous insight into the Torah’s perspective of coexistence. As we explained above, the need to treat all human beings with compassion and love is a tenet of Torah ethic. This love increases exponentially when directed inward towards a fellow Jew. These terms reflect individualized approaches to the concept of kavod and ohaiv habrios, respectively, but they do not encapsulate the entirety of the Torah ethic of humane love. Torah axiology includes not only a love for a human, but a love for humanity. The Torah believes in a cognitive love, stemming from logic of the mind, to the human race in its entirety. The Torah believes in a cognitive love for not only individuals, but for nations. How appropriate is it then, that the very chag inaugurating our people into nationhood also celebrates love of nations. This easily explains why the love of the umos haOlam is heightened to the extent of a pro tem areivus: the very nature of the celebration of Sukkos is done through metaphor and symbolism. Just as we take the arbah minim together to commemorate the four archetypes of Jewish character unifying, we must similarly do so for the umos haOlam; we commemorate our universalism through atoning for the sins of the umos haOlam, but even to a further extent that it appears. The mashul given by the Gemara depicts the umos haOlam as giving the korban; so great is our love for humankind that we bring upon ourselves to bring the korbanos for the world. Perhaps this understanding of our relationship with the umos haOlam that the Torah mandates can explain the following pasuk: ‫סלו סלו הע דר פנו בשערי עברו עברו העמי על נס הרימו מאב סקלו‬ ‫המסילה‬ Pass through, pass through the gates, clear a way for the nation; cast up, cast up the highway, gather the stones. Lift up a banner for the nations (Isaiah 62:10). The pasuk clearly juxtaposes our nationhood, “the nation,” with the relationship we have with the umos haOlam, “the nations.” The expression of lifting up a banner is seen in another context, in a pasuk in Shemona Esrei: “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather ourselves together from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12). Clearly the banner raising in Shemona Esrei does not
Page 7


‫ש‬ ‫מ‬ ‫ע‬ ‫ק‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ל‬ ‫ל‬ ‫י‬ ‫ב‬ ‫נ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ס‬ ‫ו‬ ‫כ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ת‬

have the same connotation as the one quoted above, but they do have a similar symbolism. The banner raising in both contexts symbolize a unity: a unity between klal Yisrael and itself, the unbreakable logic of the heart, and a unity on the plane of humanity, the unity between klal Yisrael and the umos haOlam.

A Festival of Hashem
By Dani Scheinman 12th grade, DRS

different, as it celebrates Hashem’s joy in the Jews reaching the level that would allow Him to dwell among them. Thus, the Torah repeats the words "Eileh Mo'adei Hashem" to show that the days of Succos represent a second type of celebration. Accordingly, the Torah states "Ach BaChamishah Asar Yom LaChodesh HaShevi'i BeOspechem Es Tevuas HaAretz" – during the time that you are joyful in your harvest, do not make this your primary focus. Rather abandon the joy and do not celebrate it; celebrate instead the far more sublime Chag Hashem, festival of Hashem. For Succos is His personal festival,

"Eileh Mo'adei Hashem Asher Tikreu Otam Mikraei Kodesh... Ach BaChamishah Asar Yom LaChodesh HaShevi'i BeOspechem Et Tevuat HaAretz Tachogu Et Chag Hashem Shiv'at Yamim”
In his detailed analysis of Succos, the Alshich poses the following five questions: (1) Why does the Pasuk, which begins with "Eileh Mo'adei Hashem," interrupt the narrative describing the festival, after which it continues, "Ach BaChamishah Asar Yom"? Moreover, why does the Torah have to repeat the words "Eileh Mo'adei Hashem" here, when they were already stated in an earlier Pasuk? (3) What is the Pasuk attempting to teach us by using the word “Ach,” which generally implies that some Halacha previously mentioned is being limited? (4) Why is it important to mention "BeOspechem Et Tevuat HaAretz" when introducing the holiday of Succot? (5) Why does the Torah use the expression “chag Hashem,” a festival of Hashem, and not for Hashem, which is the phrase used when speaking of the other festivals? The Alshich explains that from the beginning of Creation, it was Hashem’s desire to have a resting place for his Shechina on this earth. This would have to be an environment of purity, attainable only through adherence to Torah and Mitzvot. To that end, Hashem chose Israel to be the bearers of His Torah and to create a place for Him to reside. However, the road to the fruition of Hashem’s desire had several obstacles. In Egypt, the Jews were not yet an independent nation, had no Torah, and were, in fact, entrenched in the idolatrous behavior of the Egyptians themselves. Hashem mercifully redeemed their bodies during Yetziat Mitzrayim (on Pesach), and transformed their souls fifty days later at Har Sinai (on Shavuos). On that sixth day of Sivan, the world was to have reached the “climactic goal of Creation”. Nevertheless, merely forty days later, on the 17th of Tamuz, Israel committed the sin of the Eigel, the Luchos were broken, and the Jews were threatened with extinction. It was only through Moshe’s prayers and Hashem’s mercy that they were saved, and had the Torah restored to them with the second Luchos the day after Yom Kippur. It is in this context that the Alshich illuminates the passage of the festivals. First, there is a description of the festivals of Pesach and Shavuos, which elevated both the physical and spiritual level of the nation, and which must be sanctified through the cessation of work and bringing of Korbanos. These festivals both marked historical moments that were primarily beneficial to the nation. Succos, however, is
Page 8

celebrating the realization of the goal of having a place on earth for His Shechina to reside.
Have a Chag Kasher V’Sameach!

Continued Consciousness of the Creator’s Compassion
by Benjy Koslowe 11th grade, TABC
The Yamim Nora’im have passed by, and Bnei Yisrael are now enjoying the more relaxing holiday of Sukkot, the second half of connecting with Hashem during the month of Tishrei. Sukkot, consisting of Yamim Tovim and Cholei HaMo’eid, differs very much from Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Looking at the two on a very basic level, we can see that the High Holidays are spent mostly in Shul and have spiritual means of reaching Hashem (for example, the sound of the Shofar), while Sukkot is spent mostly in the Sukkah and with more physical means of reaching Hashem (for example, stretching out our Lulavim and Etrogim). I would like to suggest that these two entities, while very different to the observant eye, are directly connected to each other on a much deeper level than simply the latter holiday being a respite from the strenuous former. During the month of Elul and the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, Jews around the world recite Selichot every weekday before Shacharit, and during multiple Tefillot on Yom Kippur. The daily Selichot would begin with “Ashrei,” and then various passages written mostly by the Ge’onim are recited. Between each of these, before the Vidui begins, the Pesukim of Hashem’s Thirteen Attributes is recited: “Hashem Hashem Keil Rachum

VeChanun Erech Apayim VeRav Chessed VeEmet Notzeir Chessed LaAlafim Nosei Avon VaFesha VeChata’ah VeNakei,”
“Hashem, Hashem is a merciful and gracious God; slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth; He keeps kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin, and acquitting” (Shemot 34:6-7). These attributes are related to Hashem’s mercy and compassion, and we recite these Pesukim many times to try and stir these emotions in Him. Interesting, as pointed out by a well-known Rabbi, Ashkenazic Jews recite the introductory paragraph of “Keil Erech Apayim Atah,” “You are a God slow to anger,” before saying the Attributes for the first time each day, while before each subsequent recitation, the paragraph of “Keil Melech Yosheiv Al

Kisei Rachamim,” “Almighty King who sits on the throne of mercy” is recited. As this Rabbi explains, before reciting Selichot each morning, we are fearful and apprehensive of how Hashem will approach our pleas, and attempt to convince Hashem that He is slow to anger, and not one to chide or punish us for our sins. After reciting a single Selichah, our attitudes change, and we introduce all subsequent recitations of the Attributes by saying straight-out that we feel that Hashem is merciful. After the Vidui (“Ashamnu, Bagadnu...”), we don’t recite the Thirteen Attributes anymore, but still conclude the Selichot with references to Hashem’s mercy. Before saying Tachanun, we recite the paragraphs of “Keil Rachum,” “Aneinu Hashem,” and “Mi SheAnah.” Interestingly, in the first, the only name of Hashem written is “Hashem” (Yud-Key-Vav-Key), God’s name connected to His attribute of mercy, while in the second, written are both this name of Hashem as well as “Elokim,” God’s name connected to judgment – the third only references Hashem with “Hu,” “He.” Perhaps, before concluding Selichot each day, we highlight with these paragraphs that while at first it might seem best to us for Hashem to only utilize mercy, we realize that His attribute of judgment is necessary as well, and then conclude by admitting that whatever attributes “He” utilizes are the same that helped save our forefathers, and we accept them as well. On Yom Kippur itself, we never recite “Keil Erech Apayim Atah” before the Thirteen Attributes, and this can signify that we fully accept that Hashem will forgive us. While this is appropriate for the day, we know that this view is a dangerous one to have – to make sure that we don’t seem to take advantage of Hashem, we conclude Yom Kippur by saying seven times, “Hashem Hu HaElokim,” “Hashem is the God,” highlighting that Hashem is wise in both his attributes of mercy and judgment. As we now enjoy Sukkot, it is very easy to feel the absence of our dirty slate, and we might forget that it is only because of Hashem’s abundant mercy that we continue to live and thrive for another year. As Hashem joins us in the last hurrahs of Chodesh Tishrei, it is important to be happy and enjoy the gifts that Hashem has given us with His mercy, and it is equally as important to keep in mind the parting words of Yom Kippur, that He is still our God and our judge. May we clutch this idea, and enter the next Yamim Nora’im with the true ability to say that we recognized all of the grand attributes of Hashem throughout the entire year.

represents a different variety of Jew, based on his level of Torah learning and performance of good deeds. Thus, the Esrog, which has both a good taste and a good smell, personifies the people in society who study Torah and do good deeds. The Lulav, which tastes good but has no smell, represents those who study Torah but lack in good deeds. The opposite is true of the Hadas, which has a wonderful smell but no taste, signifying those who perform good deeds but are lacking in the area of Torah study. Finally, the lowly Aravah, which has neither taste nor smell, symbolizes those who have neither Torah nor good deeds. The Eitz Yosef explains that the Midrash is identifying four varieties of Jews who are coming on Succos to pray for rain. In reaction to their prayers, Hashem says, “I cannot dismiss those who are deficient and have them perish from lack of rain. Let them be bound together in one unit, and each will atone for the other.” It is thus the unity of the nation that allows it to be granted Hashem’s blessings of rain. The Eitz Yosef points out that it is only three of the species tied together, while the Esrog is merely held near them. He derives from this that the exceptionally learned and pious people should not attach themselves very closely with the others, but should nevertheless maintain contact with them. The Chasam Sofer highlights the importance of the nation as a whole. He asks: Since the Daled Minim include the ignorant and the deficient in good deeds, as well as the complete Tzadikim, outstanding in all aspects of Torah, why is the Esrog, signifying the Tzadik, held in the left hand, while the bundle of the other three Minim held in the right? Surely the Esrog should be held in the right hand, which is generally considered the more prestigious one! He explains that the outstanding Tzadik is a rarity, whereas the ordinary people account for the bulk of the population. And though it is true that he has greater personal standing than they do, he is still dependent on the combined merits of the nation as a whole. Therefore, continues the Chasam Sofer, it is important that he be included with them, even though he is not actually attached as part of the bundle, for there will be times when not even his merits will suffice without those of the community. Therefore, it is the tied bundle, with those three Minim representing the nation, which is held in the right hand, and the lone Esrog in the left. Have a great Succos!


Taken from A Daily Dose of Torah

The Tzadik vs. the Nation
By: Yitzie Scheinman 10th grade, DRS
There are many interpretations of the symbolism of the Daled Minim. Vayikra Rabbah states that each one

Strengthening Our Belief in Hashem and His Beautiful Torah – Part One
by Rabbi Chaim Jachter Rebbe- TABC
It is of great importance to reinforce the foundations of our Torah beliefs and lives. We need to be able to convince
Page 9

‫ש‬ ‫מ‬ ‫ע‬ ‫ק‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ל‬ ‫ל‬ ‫י‬ ‫ב‬ ‫נ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ס‬ ‫ו‬ ‫כ‬ ‫ו‬ ‫ת‬

ourselves as well as the succeeding generations of Jews of the rational basis of our practices. Thus, I wish to share with readers of Kol Torah an extended discussion as to why I am completely convinced of the truth of Hashem and His Holy Torah. I wish to present a number of approaches that I have found exceedingly convincing. One should also consult other Rabbanim and discover other approaches should one not find my thoughts convincing. There are many portals to belief in Hashem and the divine origin of Torah. Not every approach is suitable for every individual. One should search for the Rav and approach that is the “right fit” for one’s mindset and personality. A good source of essays and presentations on this vitally important topic appear at www.simpletoremember.com. Rav Lawrence Kelemen’s “Permission to Believe” and “Permission to Receive” as well as Rav Shmuel Waldman’s book “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” are good resources as well. One methodological note - I follow the Rambam’s example from the introduction to his commentary to Pirkei Avot (called the Shemonah Perakim) and cite some ideas from outside our Tradition. The Rambam teaches us “to accept the truth whatever its source.”

live, physician or even a financial investment. Instead, one uses intuition, common sense, and experience to make sound decisions. It is entirely unreasonable to abandon intuition, common sense and experience to arrive at the most important decision of all, the belief in Hashem and His Torah. Thus, in our discussions we will be using the tools of life – intuition, common sense, and experience – and not the tools of pure theory, philosophic discourse, to arrive at a reasonable decision regarding Hashem and His Torah.

Rav Elchanan Wasserman – The Argument from Design
Rav Elchanan Wasserman (in his Kovetz Ma’amarim) argues that it is obvious that there is a God from the fact that we see order in this world. Common sense teaches that this is impossible for this to happen by itself and thus it is obvious that the world has a Creator. Regarding an exquisite painting, it is absurd to say that it was created by a long series of fortunate coincidences. It is just as absurd to say that something as intricate and accurate such as the human eye came about without a Creator. Philosophers have traditionally referred to this type of proof as the argument from design. Many earlier Jewish philosophers such as Rabbeinu Bachya espoused this argument for Hashem’s existence. Rav Elchanan takes this argument one step further arguing that it is also obvious that the Creator would provide a manual on how to function in the world He created. We may draw an analogy to a car manufacturer who provides a manual on how to operate the car he has created. So too, argues Rav Elchanan, common sense dictates that Hashem provided a manual, namely the Torah, for all human beings (both Jews and nonJews) to know how to act.

It is important to clarify that I do not seek to “prove” Hashem’s existence, because as modern philosophers have noted, this is not a productive exercise. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik in his classic essay The Lonely Man of Faith cites Soren Kierkegaard’s (a major mid-nineteenth century religious philosopher) reaction when hearing that the medieval philosopher Anselm of Canterbury engaged in prayer an entire evening beseeching God to help him formulate his celebrated Ontological Proof of God’s Existence. Kierkegaard, in turn, asked, does a bride in the embrace of her beloved bridegroom require proof of his existence? Kierkegaard argues that Anselm’s intense prayer constituted a more authentic “proof” of God than the Ontological Proof. Moreover, modern philosophers (such as Descartes and Kant) have demonstrated that one can “prove” very little, if anything. Descartes notes that one cannot prove that other people exist, as perhaps it is merely an evil demon that is painting a false image on one’s brain to fool one into thinking that others exist. Despite the inability to prove the existence of others, I nevertheless am one hundred percent convinced of the existence of others. Similarly, I am thoroughly convinced of the Truth of Hashem and His Torah. Moreover, I believe that denying the existence of God and the divine origin of the Torah is as unreasonable and irrational as denying that other people exist. As one who majored in philosophy and did extensive graduate work in Jewish philosophy, I deeply respect philosophic discourse. However, one does not use philosophic reasoning to arrive at the most important decisions in life such as choosing a spouse, career, place to
Page 10

Rambam on Ahavat Hashem
The Rambam (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:2) writes that an appreciation of nature can draw one close to Hashem and love Him (Ahavat Hashem) and stand in awe of Him (Yir’at Hashem). In our generation, we are given an even greater opportunity to draw close to Hashem due to the magnificent scientific discoveries of the last hundred years. One who contemplates the magnificence even of the tiny E. coli and certainly the intricacies of every part of the human body has the ability to profoundly enrich his Yir’at and Ahavat Hashem. Far from undermining Torah, science has the potential for a reasonable person to draw inspiration to deepen our admiration of Hashem and the magnificence of His works.

Ramban and Kuzari – Mesorah
For the Ramban (commentary to Shemot 13:16) and the Kuzari the most persuasive argument for faith in Torah is Mesorah (tradition). As the Kuzari notes, the miracles associated with great events in Jewish history, Yetziat Mitzrayim and Ma’amad Har Sinai, were witnessed by millions of people who passed this information to their descendants year after year at their Seders. This is unlike the miracles claimed by other religions that are described as having occurred before a very limited number of people. In addition,

it is important to emphasize that we are the only religion to believe in a mass revelation that has been passed down in an unbroken chain from generation to generation. Indeed, most Jews today are the biological descendents of the people who experienced the mass revelation. (For DNA evidence that Jews today constitute one nation despite their dispersion throughout the globe, see Dr. Karen Bacon, The Torah UMadda Journal 3:1-7; there have been further DNA studies demonstrating that Sephardic, Ashkenzaic and Yemenite Jews share a common Middle Eastern ancestry.) For further elaboration on this idea see Rav Lawrence Kelemen’s “Permission to Believe” and “Permission to Receive” as well as his video presentation “A Rational Approach to the Torah’s Divine Origin” which may be accessed at www.simpletoremember.org Rav Kelemen stresses that we are the only religion-people in the entire world who make claim mass revelation and are the descendents of the witnesses to these events as stated in Devarim 4:32-36, especially Pasuk 33, “Has a people ever heard the voice of God speaking.” Pasuk 32 notes, “Has there been anything like this great event or has anything like it been heard.” No one else makes a claim of mass revelation since it can be verified as a lie. Only we make this claim because only our claim is true. One might argue that Bnei Yisrael accepted the Torah because they were a docile and gullible people who accepted anything and everything that Moshe Rabbeinu told them, because of his seductive and persuasive oratory. However, this is hardly true as Bnei Yisrael regrettably were constantly bickering and disobeying Moshe Rabbeinu. Moreover, Moshe Rabbeinu was a very poor speaker. Virtually the only time we were unified was at Har Sinai (see Rashi Shemot 19:1). The reason we united at Sinai was that the authenticity of the Har Sinai experience was profoundly compelling and unquestionably persuasive. Similarly, we find in every generation that observant Jews are not passive and gullible people who are accepting of everything. Every significant Talmudic and Halachic issue is carefully examined by both great experts and laypeople who vigorously and rigorously analyze every new and old opinion. Despite these many disputes, observant Jews agree upon core values and beliefs such as the divine authorship of the Torah. The Rambam (Hilchot Mamrim 1:3) indicates that if there is no dispute regarding a particular law then this law must originate as a tradition from Sinai. Examples of such laws are the Halacha that our Tefillin must be colored black and that our Mezuzot contain only the two Parshiot of Shema and VeHaya Im Shamo’a. I surmise that most undisputed matters must be of heavenly origin; otherwise, we would be fighting rigorously about these laws in the manner we do about so many other Halachot. Incidentally, it seems that this is the reason why the Sefer HaChinuch (21) rules that women are obligated in the Mitzvah of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim (recounting the story of

our Exodus from Egypt) even though it is a positive and time bound Mitzvah from which women are normally excused (see the Minchat Chinuch’s criticism of the Chinuch’s ruling). The essence of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim is the transmittal of faith from one generation to another by recounting and authenticating the Exodus story. Women are thus certainly included in this Mitzvah. This also explains why grandparents play such an important role to in Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim (see Shemot 10:2 and the comments of the Oznayim LaTorah ad. loc.). Torah Academy of Bergen County graduate Josh Strobel uses a similar argument to explain the Ramban’s opinion (Kiddushin 34a) that women are obligated to count the Omer, despite the fact that it is a positive and time bound Mitzvah. Josh notes that Sefirat HaOmer serves as the link between the Exodus story and the Sinai revelation, the two pillars of our Emunah (see TABC’s Bikkurei Sukkah section 60).


A Culture of Brilliant Argumentativeness that Believes in Revelation
Indeed, Amos Oz (a prominent Israeli author) is cited in “Start-Up Nation” (page 51) as commenting, Judaism and Israel have always cultivated a culture of doubt and argument, an open-ended game of interpretations, counter-interpretations, reinterpretations, opposing interpretations. From the beginning of the existence of Jewish civilization, it was recognized by its argumentativeness. Mr. Oz, an avowed secularist, is correct regarding this point. Nearly every page of Gemara is filled with arguments. The intense arguments persist with great vigor throughout the period of the Rishonim and continue with the myriad of debate concerning the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch. Until this very day an excellent Shiur and Yeshiva are distinguished by intense debate and argument. The Gemara (Bava Metzia 84a) relates how Rabi Yochanan experienced severe depression because his students were not challenging him after the death of Reish Lakish. Rabi Yochanan longed for the time when Reish Lakish’s persistent questioning allowed for the refining of his Torah thoughts and approaches. One could argue that it is for this reason Hashem chose the Jewish People, the stiff-necked people, to be His witnesses (Yeshayahu 43:10). If such an argumentative and contentious people report on the veracity of the Sinai revelation despite the extensive demands it makes upon its adherents, then it certainly must be true. In addition, it is inaccurate to state that Orthodox Jews who remain steadfast in their belief in the Sinai revelation are docile and gullible personalities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today, while there is some variety within non-Orthodox approaches to Judaism, they are essentially variations on the same theme. To experience traditional Jewish argumentativeness one must encounter the dizzying array of varieties of Orthodoxy. Sephardic, Yemenite,
Page 11

Ashkenazic, Chassidic and Modern Orthodox are only a basic outline of the groups of which there exist dozens of sub-groups. Orthodox Jews vigorously debate thousands of Halachic and Hashkafic issues. The contentious nature of contemporary Orthodox Jewry becomes abundantly clear when purchasing a kosher food item that bears the certification of no less than four different kashrut agencies. Yet, what unites all of the myriad subdivisions within Orthodoxy is the belief in the Sinai revelation and the other pillars of traditional Jewish faith. In addition, the Jewish people have contributed an unparalleled proportion of Noble Prize winners. As a nation we are an extraordinarily intelligent people. No one can deny the genius of the Talmud and its commentaries. Hashem seems to have chosen a most argumentative and brilliant people to serve as His witnesses for the simple reason that if we were convinced of revelation then it must have been true. The difficulty of many of the Torah’s laws, such as Brit Milah, Shemittah and Aliyah LeRegel further clinch this point. A brilliant, argumentative and contentious nation could not have been convinced to accept the Torah (which does not always portray our behavior in the most flattering manner) as the binding command of God had they not been thoroughly convinced of its divine origins. In the coming issues (to be available at www.koltorah.org) we shall continue with more common sense reasons for why I am thoroughly convinced of the truth of Hashem and His Torah.

Dani Scheinman Avrumi Blisko Marc Eichenbaum Josh Wein David Gutenmacher Andrew Mermelstein Yitzie Scheinman Benjamin Watman Shmuli Gutenmacher Yonatan Mehlman Aaron Rubel Alex Selesny Andrew Goldstein Andrew Levine Ari Gutenmacher Ariel Sacknovitz Aryeh Helfgot Avrumi Schonbrun Benny Aivazi Chili Szlafrok David Beer David Lauer David Weitzman Donny Steinberg Eli Guttman Eli Lonner Elly Deutsch Ezra Dweck Ezra Magder Gavi Nelson Ian Hawk Jesse Steinmetz Jonathan Perlman Matanya Yehonatan Max Fruchter Michael Frolinger Moishy Rothman Moshe Lonner Shmulie Reichman Yehuda Fogel Yehuda Inslicht Yigal Saperstein Yoel Schrier Yonatan Aivazi Yoni Kadish Yosef Naiman Yoshi Block Zev Miller

MTA Publication Staff Editors in Chief: Meir Finkelstein, Yoni Schwartz Distribution Coordinator: Binyamin Pfeiffer Chief of Staff: Philip Meyer Menahel: Rabbi Michael Taubes Rabbinic Advisor: Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson

TABC Publication Staff

Editors-inEditors-in-Chief: Joel Krim, Avi Rosalimsky, Danny

Publication Editors: Alex Feldman, Reuven Herzog,
Avi Hirsch, Hillel Hochsztein, Benjy Koslowe

Business Managers: Shimon Cohen, Ariel Reiner Webmaster: Aryeh Winter Publishing Managers: Adam Haimowitz, Josh Lehman Staff: Doni Cohen, Nachum Fisch, Shmuel Garber, Yonatan Glicksman, Ari Hagler, Yanky Krinsky, Mikey Levy

Rabbinic Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter