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Sukkot 5776

Sukkot (Leviticus 22:26-23:44 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Sunday evening, September 27th, began Sukkot (or Sukkot in the Ashkenazi pronunciation). Next week comes Shemini Atzeret (Sunday evening, October 4th) and Simchat Torah (starting Monday evening, October 5th)! In Israel, Simchat Torah is observed concurrently with Shemini Atzeret since they celebrate only one day of Yom Tov. However, outside of Israel we celebrate two days of Yom Tov -- and they are celebrated on separate days.

Shemini Atzeret is actually a separate festival adjacent to Sukkot. Rashi, the great Biblical commentator, explains that atzeret is an expression of affection, as would be used by a father to children who are departing from him. The father would say, "Your departure is difficult for me, tarry yet another day." The Jewish people prayed and brought offerings all the days of Sukkot so that the 70 nations of the world would have rain in the coming year. The Torah and the Almighty keeps us one more day for a special holiday to make requests just for ourselves. That's Shemini Atzeret.

Simchat Torah is the celebration of completing the yearly cycle of Torah reading and beginning it again. The evening and again the next morning are filled with dance and songs rejoicing in the Torah and thanking God for our being Jewish and that the Almighty gave us the Torah! We read the last Torah portion in Deuteronomy, Vezot Habracha and then begin immediately with Bereishit, starting the book of Genesis. If you take your kids to synagogue twice a year -- one time should be Simchat Torah!

The Torah portion we read on Simchat Torah is Vezot Habracha. It begins with the blessings that Moshe gives to the Jewish people and each tribe right before he dies. Then Moshe ascends Mt. Nebo where the Almighty shows him all of the land the Jewish people are about to inherit. He dies, is buried in the valley in an unknown spot, the Jewish people mourn for 30 days. The Torah then concludes with the words, "Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Almighty had known face to face ..."

Yizkor, the memorial service for parents and relatives -- and Jews who have been killed because they were Jewish or in defending the Jewish people and Israel -- is observed Monday morning, October 5th.


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Torah Portion of the week

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot:
Exodus Ki Sisa 33:12-34:26

Moshe pleads to the Almighty to "make known to me Your ways." The Almighty commands Moshe to carve two stone tablets to replace the Tablets that Moshe destroyed bearing the 10 Commandments. Moshe carves them and ascends Mt. Sinai. The Almighty descends in a cloud and reveals to Moshe the 13 Attributes of Divine Mercy which are constantly repeated in the Yom Kippur prayers. Moshe asks the Almighty to "forgive our transgressions and make us Your Heritage". The Almighty responds that He shall seal a covenant with us. The Almighty then warns the Jewish people against idol worship (idolatry is believing that anything other than the Almighty has power). The reading ends with the Almighty commanding us to keep the Festivals -- Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.

* * *


I was on a bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Sitting next to me was a 30-year-old young man from Australia. We hadn't introduced ourselves, but were shmoozing when he shared, "I am Jewish, but come from an atheist family. Seven years ago the thought came to me that I knew nothing of my heritage, so I decided to read the Torah since it's the center piece of Jewish history.

"It quickly became apparent to me that I didn't see the relevance of what I was reading and needed a guide. So, I found this great Jewish website -"

I am biting my lip not to laugh, but I'm smiling inside and thinking "God ... You sure have a great sense of humor!" But then it gets even better!

The young man continues, "And on this website, I discovered a really magnificent email, The Shabbat Shalom Weekly. I read it avidly for years. It gave me insights into spirituality, the Torah, what life's about. It changed my life!"

Too unreal! I am thinking "Where are the cameras? This has got to be a set up from "Candid Camera" (if you don't remember it, Google it), but Allen Funt has been dead for years! In the background of my mind I am hearing the theme music from the Twilight Zone!

Then the young man finished with something that touched me deeply and really made me feel that I accomplished something in the 23 years I have been writing the Shabbat Shalom Fax.

He said, "And proof of its impact on my life -- now, 7 years later I am making Aliyah and moving to Israel. I am setting up a non-profit organization to change the world - to educate our kids to have values, good character and motivation!"

The young man stopped speaking. He tilted his head to the side, pulled back a bit and looked intently at me, contemplating. After a long pause, he broke his silence ... "You know, at the bottom of every Shabbat Shalom is a photo of the fellow who writes the email - and ... he looks a lot like you!"

I looked at him ... gave him a big smile - and a real big "thumbs up".

His eyes bugged out, his mouth dropped and he exclaimed, "It is YOU! I have to give you a hug!"

My thanks to all of my beloved readers who have given their support ( and have helped make it possible to touch so many people in far places over the world! Together we are touching lives and changing futures! May you and your family be blessed with a sweet and healthy new year!


Candle Lighting Times

October 2
(or go to

Jerusalem 5:48
Guatemala 5:33 - Hong Kong 5:52 - Honolulu 6:00
J'Burg 5:49 - London 6:18 - Los Angeles 6:18
Melbourne 6:07 - Mexico City 7:05 - Miami 6:48
New York 6:19 - Singapore 6:43 - Toronto 6:39

Quote of the Week

Happiness is joy digesting



In Memory of

Andrea Goldstein

with great love,
Dr. Harold Goldstein


In Loving Memory of

Mae L. Averbook
Chana bas Avraham

with great love
Daniel Averbook


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