Saturday, September 22, 2018

Erev Z’man Simchaseinu


Erev Z’man Simchaseinu  

14 Tishrei 5779/September 23, 2018


Every person is divinely endowed with certain strengths and capabilities. At the same time, every person is not endowed with certain other strengths and capabilities.

One of the capabilities that I was absolutely not endowed with is being handy.

After a few years of marriage, my in-laws gifted us with their old canvas succah. It was simple enough to assemble. An uncomplicated metal frame needed to be screwed together, and then draped and strapped with a massive canvas. 

Uncomplicated that is, if you have any idea what you are doing. As mentioned, I don’t. It took me an extraordinarily long time to put it together, including putting the wrong poles in the wrong place, and putting the canvas on backwards. It was also quite flimsy and would move around our driveway. But it worked, and we appreciated it and enjoyed it.

On one occasion, we arrived home on Chol Hamoed to find the entire succah on its side in our backyard, with the blown off schach on the driveway. It was then we knew that we had to invest in a more stable succah.

Baruch Hashem, we have enjoyed a sturdy wooden succah on our porch the last few years. Although not adept with construction, I am able to schlepp. So each year after schlepping up the succah boards, I hire someone to do the actual construction. My contractor is a yeshiva bochur who arrives alone and with a drill, wood, and a few screws basically puts up the entire structure by himself.

I am always intrigued by people who are handy. I am also intrigued by people who are artistic. I guess it’s because I’m so untalented in those areas. 

I should note that the bochur who builds my succah is blessed with the gift of Torah study and the ability to build. The same is true of one of my rabbeim who constructed his entire office (including painting, wiring, and insulating) by himself! Hashem grants each of us what we need.

At a recent Agudah convention, Rav Moshe Tuvia Lieff related a powerful thought from the Breslover Mashpia, Rav Motte Frank:

There is a beautiful tefila recited by women after lighting Shabbos candles each week for her children’s spiritual growth. During that tefila she prays “v’zakaynei ligadel - give me the merit to raise children and children’s children, wise and understanding, lovers of G-d, G-d fearing, people of truth, holy seed, who cling to G-d, and who light up the world with Torah and good deeds, and all the work of the service of the Creator.” (As Rabbi Lieff noted - it’s a tefila that men never knew about until Baruch Levine composed his classic song to those words.) 

Rav Frank asked, isn’t Torah our highest ideal? Why doesn’t the mother’s prayer end with her hope that her children light up the world with Torah?

He answers that the question itself is indicative of a significant shortcoming in our spiritual outlook. What about those children who don’t have the wherewithal to excel in Torah? What about those who aren’t going to be the future scholars of K’lal Yisroel? What about those members of Chaverim who come running out to change your tire at 2 a.m.? What about those who wake up early to learn the daf, work hard all day, and then rush off to meetings to help the public? Have we written those children and adults off as inferior Jews?

There is no doubt that Torah is the primary focus on our lives and that our greatest leaders are those who are immersed in Torah. But we cannot neglect those who use their G-d given talents to perform “good deeds, and all the work for the Service of their creator.” It is incumbent upon us to recognize their contribution to the Jewish people and their mesirus nefesh as well.

Hashem has given us His Torah which necessitates all talents and abilities in its performance. The Yom Tov of Succos reaches its crescendo with the celebration of Torah. (That celebration includes everyone’s learning - the scholar on his level, and the layman on his level). But along the way we celebrate the building and decorating of the succah, picking out daled minim, the setting up, cleaning up, and playing music during Simchas Bais Hashoeivah, arranging Chol Hamoed outings, and of course all the food preparation for the many Yom Tov meals.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason why it’s a holiday of such intense joy - for it includes and necessitates the contributions of every single Jew.


Freilichen Yom Tov & Chag Sameiach,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       


Post a Comment