חג שמח From Bangkok!

Friday, 14 October, 2022 - 4:32 pm

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

This is the special time of the year – the festival of Sukkot - when the Torah instructs us to be joyful and happy.

To be precise, the Torah mentions the mitzvah of having joy on Sukkot three times.

The ways we fulfil this instruction is firstly by doing things that make us happy. Like eating fine food and drinking wine. Buying new clothing and jewelry. Or, in the case of children, by giving them extra treats and sweets.

This is the place to give a shout out about the grand Simchat Torah celebration on this coming Monday night. There will be treats, sweets, fine food and plentiful ‘l’chayim’ and most importantly, joyous camaraderie with fellow Jews.

As humans, the best way for us to be truly and thoroughly joyous is by understanding the reasons behind the joy.

The simple reason for this joy is based on the agricultural cycle of the year. At the time of Passover (beginning of spring) the produce is still in the process of growing. Nothing to rejoice about yet, as it is not yet certain that the yield will be successful. Seven weeks later at the time of Shavuot it is being harvested. Still, this is not the time to sit back and rejoice as the crops need to be dried in the fields and only them brought to the storage holders. During the subsequent summer months, the grain is gathered and placed into the granaries for storage.

Only at Sukkot time, once the summer has passed and the produce is safe and sound in the storage bins,  just before the rains of the winter, can one truly rejoice and give thanks to G-d for his bounty.

Living in Thailand, I am familiar with the way the gem industry works.

There are various stages one must pass through before being sure that one has turned a profit. First you must buy the stone at a favorable price otherwise you won’t be able to sell it for a profit. Then you need to find a buyer who agrees to your sale price.

However, even once it’s sold, the industry standard is to pay with a check dated ninety days later. Only once the check has cleared the bank do you know that your profit has been made.

It is only, then that you can rejoice and be sure of your profit.

The Chag of Sukkot is equivalent to the check being cleared and your profit is safely in your account in the bank.

Now, that is something to be joyous about.

But there is something much deeper going on as well.

The festival of Sukkot comes after the forgiveness of Yom Kippur.

When you have a relationship with someone, and everything is going well, you are happy. But there is always a nagging thought in the back of your mind. How long can the ‘good times’ last in this relationship? What will happen if I mess up and say something out of line. Or even worse, what would happen if I did something offensive to my partner.

If you hit an actual snag in the relationship and your partner is angry at you, it is very painful.

However, if you are able to smooth out the differences between the two of you and work things out, this leads to a feeling of true joy and happiness.

If you have ever been in a fight with a loved one and then you managed to make peace, you will know exactly what I mean. There is a deep joy and relief when you realize that you can overcome hiccups in your relationship and recreate the original love.

Yom Kippur is the day that the Almighty forgives us.

Notwithstanding the fact that we have violated our relationship with Hashem, Hashem has forgiven us and restored His love to us.

Sukkot follow four days after that.

It is the celebration of the resumption of our loving relationship with Hashem even after we had become distanced from Him through our errant behavior.

The culmination of that joy, the climax of the celebration of our deep existential relationship with Hashem, is on Simchas Torah.

This is the case every year. Sukkot and Simchat Torah are one of the happiest days in our calendars.

This year is not a regular year.

It is the year of Hakhel. The year of gathering.

Every seven years, after the shemitah year, the King gathered the entire Jewish people and read from the Torah. This deeply inspiring assembly impacted all those who were there, to draw nearer to G-d and be more dedicated to fulfilling His mitzvahs.

This year, on Simchas Torah when we come together and unite in the rejoicing with the Torah we are also reenacting the Hakhel ritual of the Torah being read by the king and the community recommitting to the absolute adherence to the Torah that they undertook at the foot of the mountain of Sinai.

You ask what does his have to do with you?

The king had an obligation to gather the people and inspire them. But I am not a king, you rightfully point out?

But perhaps you are more of a ‘king’ than you realize.

Do you have a group of people or are you a participant in any activity in which you are the leader?

If you are a parent, you are a ruler of sorts to your child.

If you are a teacher, you reign over your classroom.

If you hire workers you are a boss to your employees.

I think you get my point. Every person has an area in which he or she is a leader of sorts. You may not immediately associate being the head of your family, the director of your company or the teacher of your classroom with the word ‘king’ but there is no question that in the eyes of your subordinates your word carries weight far greater than that of a mere peer.

Let me use the example of a parent to his child. In a parent child relationship, the parent is like a king and the child is his or her subject. The effect of the words and beliefs of the parent make an indelible impression on the child.

A while back, I met a young man who was telling me that while he was not very observant, he certainly did believe in G-d. He told me that he believed in G-d because his father had told him that he believed in G-d.

His father had also shared that he had not always believed in G-d himself until he had a miraculous incident.

He had undertaken to say Kadish for his father and one summer Sunday afternoon realized that he was not going to make it back from the beach in Long Island before sunset to his usual congregation for the afternoon service. In desperation, he pulled off the highway and turned into a gas station to as for directions to the nearest Synagogue. As he turned into the Synagogue just as the sun was setting, he met someone outside who was looking for a tenth man for the afternoon service.

‘That Divine Providence allowed me to truly believe in G-d’ he said to his son. The son has now incorporated that same belief into his own set of values. Today, as a grown man, successful in his field, he believes in G-d because his father had told him so when he was little.

For sure, he has studied and deepened his knowledge and understanding of belief in G-d but unquestionably the most important roots were planted by his father many years ago.

Our children look up to us as role models or at very least as ‘big bosses’ and are extremely impressionable and dependent on our guidance which then becomes their default position. And it works that way with morality as well. In all areas, we have huge influence on our children.

Hakhel empowers us to use our ‘kingship’ positions to inspire our ‘subjects’ to be more connected to G-d and to continue to move forward in the right direction.

So while we may not have a rebuilt temple yet, and we may not have an actual Jewish king, we do have a mission to make our own environments into a place that G-d resides – a mini Temple.

And we are all rulers and ‘kings’ of sorts within our own environments.

This means that we can reenact this ‘Hakhel’ gathering idea in our own way with our own circle of people with whom we have contact and upon whom we bear some influence.

The agenda? Just like the Hakhel of yore. To gather Jews together – enjoy each other’s company, maybe even eat or socialize – but always bearing in mind the end goal of this gathering is about generating more awareness and sensitivity to G-d and His commandments, thus generating a superior moral environment in our families, in our communities and in the entire world.

You may be thinking, I’m not a rabbi or a community leader. Why are you asking me to gather fellow Jews and inspire more connection to G-d and our heritage?

Well, you don’t have to be a rabbi or ‘official’ to do this kind of work, on the contrary, if you look like ‘one of the guys’ your invitation to get together at a Jewish event, may meet with even more success.

The Rebbe taught that during the year of Hakhel there are extraordinary opportunities for getting Jews together. In other words, there are G-dly cosmic energies that enable achievements in the field of gathering Jews together that in other years may not be so easily accessible to us. To read more about this wonderful year click here.

My suggestion to you is, try it! You will see that it will work. Think of a way to get your circle of friends together, keep in mind the overarching goal of heightened spirituality and morality that this gathering should engender, and you will see inspiring results.

Feel free to reach out to me if I can be of assistance in advising regarding your gatherings or even addressing your gathering.

May this year be the year that we merit to have the ‘ingathering of exiles’ the greatest Jewish gathering of all times, Amen.

With blessings of Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom and may you and your loved ones be provided with everything good and sweet in this new year.

Chag Sameach!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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