The Extra Simcha of Succos, Succos follows Yom Kippur

8 10 2011 presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg about the extra simcha of Succos since it follows right after Yom Kippur. Visit for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers.


We know that there is a mitzvah of simcha on all of the yom tovim. However, on Succos the mitzvah of simcha is particularly emphasized. If one looks at the p’sukim in the Torah[i], simcha is mentioned more frequently by Succos than by all of the other yom tovim. In our davening, we refer to Succos as zman simchaseinu Furthermore, we have the simchas beis ha’sho’eva, the celebration of the drawing of the water, on Succos. Chazal say that whoever did not see the rejoicing of the simchas beis hashoeva never saw rejoicing in his lifetime. What a simcha!

Why is there a special mitzvah of simcha on Succos above and beyond the other yomim tovim? There are different approaches to this question. One approach is that Succos follows Yom Kippur. One celebrates Succos with a particular closeness to Hashem because one celebrates Succos without any aveiros. Every aveirah is a barrier between us and Hashem. On Yom Kippur we remove the barriers by doing teshuvah, and now we approach Succos with this added kedushah, building on Yom Kippur. This is the great simcha of Succos[ii].

This idea of connecting Yom Kippur to Succos is hinted at in the halacha. The Rama writes (the very end of siman 624) that one is supposed to begin building his succah right after Yom Kippur. This shows the link from Yom Kippur straight into Succos. The seforim write that one is so busy between Yom Kippur and Succosbuilding the succah, acquiring the arba minim, plus the general preparations for yom tov– that one does not have time to do an aveirah. Therefore, one is able to enter into Succos with the kedushah from Yom Kippur still intact. This is one beautiful approach to the special mitzvah of simcha on Succos.

Rav Karelenstein zt”l adds[iii] an incredible vort along these lines. We know that we recite l’Dovid Hashem ori at this time of the year. Why? One p’shat[iv] is based on the midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 29,3) which explains that in the posuk “l’Dovid Hashem ori v’yishi,” “ori” refers to Rosh Hashana and “yishi” refers to Yom Kippur. The posuk which the Gemara quotes at the source for the simchas beis hashoeva is, “u’she’avtem ma’yim b’sason mi’ma’ayanei ha’yeshua,” “and you shall draw forth gladness from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12,3). The root of yeshua is the same root as yishi, my salvation. ‘Yishi refers to Yom Kippur, and ‘yeshua’ is the source of our simcha and sason. Therefore, the posuk is hinting directly that the simcha of the simchas beis hashoeva flows out of the ‘springs of Yom Kippur’. Exactly! The additional simcha of Succos, as expressed by the simchas beis hashoeva, is due to its being positioned just after Yom Kippur.

Later I found that the kernel of this idea is already hinted at in the peirush of the Da’as Zekanim (Vayikra 23,39.) He is discussing why there is a special simcha on Succos and writes, “v’gam nimchalu ha’aveinos b’Yom Kippur.” Therefore, we see that this theme, which is developed by many of the great Achronim, already has its roots in the Rishonim[v]. This is one approach to the additional simcha on Succos, above and beyond the simcha on the other yom tovim.


Chag Sameach,

B. Ginsburg

[i] Vayikra 23,40; Devarim 16,14-15

[ii] Rav Soloveitchik zt”l develops this theme in ‘Divrei Hashkafa’ p. 171-172.

Rav Nevenzahl zt”l develops this theme in ‘Sichos to Devarim’ p. 93.

Rav Karelenstein zt”l (Kuntres for Succos) quotes the Sfas Emes from the year 5638 as follows:

Succos is z’man simchaseinu, based on the posuk, “U’li’yishrei leiv simcha.” Therefore, after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when we, B’nei Yisroel, become yishrei leiv, then it becomes z’man simchaseinu.


[iii] He quotes this from his father.

[iv] This is the popularly known p’shat. It is interesting to note that the earliest sources which discuss this minhag present a different reason. The original explanation was that this perek of Tehillim contains Hashem’s name 13 times, and this is a hint to the special 13 Middos of Hashem’s rachamim.

[v] See Vayikra Rabbah 30,2 for a possible source in Chazal that the simcha of Succos is related to its following Yom Kippur.

Kol Nidrei

7 10 2011 presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg about the tefilla of Kol Nidrei which is recited at the start of Yom Kippur. Visit for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers.

Kol Nidrei is one of the most powerful tefillos of Yom Kippur. What is the significance of Kol Nidrei? On a purely halachic level, it is one form of hataras nedarim, nullification of a vow. Why does this play such a central role as we are about to enter Yom Kippur? There are different approaches in the meforshim to this question. The Rav zt”l developed the following idea[i].

The Rav explained that the central idea behind hataras nedarim is the declaration of remorse, of charata, for having made the vow.

Through the recognition that the original act was in effect a mistake, the vow is nullified retroactively. The Torah provides the authority to change his intention of vow from willful to accidental on the basis of his present understanding rather than on the basis of his state of mind at the time the vow was spoken.

We see that charata is essential to hataras nedarim.

The Rav goes on to explain that this is exactly the idea behind teshuva. The central part of teshuva is charata, we are acknowledging that the sins were done impulsively. I was not thinking when I did the aveirah. If I were thinking clearly at the time, I would not have done the aveirah. The aveirah does not reflect my present value system. This is what we are doing in the process of teshuva. So, when a Jew is hearing and reciting Kol Nidrei, he should be thinking that just like a person has the ability to have full charata to be matir neder, a person also has to have full charata for one’s aveiros and in that way to do teshuva.

This is a very powerful message. A Jew has to say to himself- How can I have possibly done that aveirah?! Hashem, I must not have been thinking clearly when I did that aveirah. Hashem, please, I am doing teshuva now. I was not thinking clearly. As the Rav writes, “The way I acted does not represent my present value system. Please accept my teshuva just like the Torah gives the authority of hataras nedarim.” Had I known then what I know now, had I been thinking then like I am thinking now, there is no way I would have even done the aveirah.

This is a beautiful p’shat. Based on this p’shat, Kol Nidrei takes on a broader, more far reaching significance. The words of Kol Nidrei focus on hataras nedarim, but the message of Kol Nidrei focuses on doing teshuva for all of one’s aveiros.

Gmar chasima tova,

B. Ginsburg


[i] This can be found in many places of the Rav’s writing. One is ‘Rabbi Soloveitchik on the Days of Awe’ page 73-74, 116-117.


Eating on Erev Yom Kippur

6 10 2011 presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg about the mitzvah of eating before the fast of Yom Kippur. Visit for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers.

There is a mitzvah d’oraisa to eat on Erev Yom Kippur. I wanted to discuss several approaches of the Rishonim and Achronim to this mitzvah. Rabbeinu Yonah in Shaarei Teshuva (Shaar Daled, 8-10) presents three reasons for this mitzvah d’oraisa of eating on Erev Yom Kippur.

The first reason is to show that we are b’simcha that the day on which our aveiros are forgiven has finally arrived. Every Jew knows it is not good to do averios and it is not good to miss out on doing mitzvos. So, we should be b’simcha when we have this wonderful opportunity to wipe the slate clean from the many mistakes we made this past year. Therefore, to express this simcha we have a seudah.

Rav Nevenzahl shl”ita[i] adds to this point. He says if a person expresses simcha when he is able to wipe the slate clean and that is his intention as he is eating his seudah, then that will lead a person to refrain from doing chataim in the future. If I am happy when I am finally free from the mistakes, then I want to get used to this simcha and it trains me to avoid chataim in the future. This angle of the Shaarei Teshuva can help prevent us from doing chataim in the future.

 A second reason which the Shaarei Teshuva explains is that it is in order to strengthen ourselves for the upcoming tzom.  Hashem wants us to have the strength to be able to fast and daven well on Yom Kippur. Rav Nevenzahl points out that Rabbeinu Yonah also mentions that we should have strength to be able to ‘think about ways of doing teshuva.’ We are supposed to really work at doing teshuva. We need to think about what we can do to avoid doing chataim in the future. We want our minds to be as clear as possible on Yom Kippur.  Rabbeinu Yonah is saying we are eating so we can fast, daven, and have the strength to really think about our lives and ways to serve Hashem better. We are eating in order to have more clarity of thought on the day of Yom Kippur itself.

A third pshat Rabbeinu Yonah brings is that we have a seudah to express the simcha of the mitzvos of Yom Kippur. A Jew is supposed to do mitzvos b’simcha. A Jew is supposed to be happy on every Yom Tov. Rabbeinu Yonah quotes the posuk “tachas asher lo avadta es Hashem Elokecha b’simcha u’vituv leivav.” We are about to have the mitzvah of Yom Kippur so we are happy. Therefore, there is a chiyuv seudah. But, we can not eat a seudah on Yom Kippur because of the ta’anis, so we have the seudah before, on Erev Yom Kippur.

Rav Nevenzahl adds several other angles as well. The first approach is based on one opinion in the medrash. There is a machlokes regarding when exactly the Akeidas Yitzchak occurred. Most opinions say it was on Rosh Hashana, but Rav Nevenzahl points out that some opinions say it happened on Yom Kippur.  The Kli Yakar (Vayikra Perek 16) quotes this opinion from Chazal and other sources as well.  Assuming the Akeidah was on Yom Kippur, the day before was Erev Yom Kippur.  Rav Nevnezahl writes that Avraham Avinu was trying to be medakdek to fulfill all the Halachos of the Korbonos for his son Yitzchak. There is a halacha quoted in the Gemara (Menachos 64) and Rambam (Hilchos Shgagos Perek 2) that one is supposed to fatten up the korban. It is considered greater Kavod to Hashem to offer a more substantial Korbon. Therefore, Avraham Avinu was feeding Yitzchak so that he should be a Korbon that is more mehudar and more beautiful in the eyes of Hashem. Therefore, as a zecher to that eating we have a mitzvah to eat today.

Also, that eating was completely l’shem shamayim. As we eat the Seudah Mafsekes, we should be focusing on our eating being l’shem shamayim like Yitzchak’s was. This is a fourth angle on the mitzvah to eat today.

A fifth idea, Rav Nevenzahl develops[ii], is as follows. Part of the teshuva process and the growth process is to try to dedicate our gashmiyus actions to be keilim for Avodas Hashem. Not only when we are learning and davening, but even when we are doing gashmiyus things, our focus should be our Avodas Hashem. So at this point, after a month of Elul, Selichos, Rosh Hashana, Aseres Yemei Teshuva, and Tzom Gedalya, b’ezras Hashem we have reached a high level. So we should use this time to train ourselves to engage in physical activities l’shem shamayim. What better way to do that than to eat on Erev Yom Kippur and to have in mind that it is a mitzvah. So, the mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur should train us that all of our gashymius activities can and should be part of our avodas Hashem. It should be a lesson that just like we are eating now totally l’shem shamayim at one of the highest levels we can reach, we should take this experience of eating as a mitzvah and let it spread to the rest of our life of Avodas Hashem.

 A sixth and final point Rav Nevenzhal writes is as follows. The mitzvah of eating Erev Yom Kippur teaches and reminds us of the great love that Hashem has for Am Yisroel. Hashem wants us to be successful in our din and helps us in everyway possible to have a good judgement. How does this mitzvah teach us this?

Because all of us would be eating anyway, even if there would not be a mitzvah, in order to be able to fast. Hashem is taking an activity we all would have done anyway, eating, and makes it a mitzvah! Hashem is literally giving us a mitzvah on a silver (dinner) platter. What a beautiful expression of Hashem’s love for Am Yisroel! All we have to do is have kavana that we are eating for a mitzvah.  As the end of our preparation for Yom Kippur is approaching, Hashem is handing us a mitzvah. We have to remember this and think about it, and we have to know Hashem loves us and wants our teshuva.

There is an additional lesson for us. Hashem loves us. Therefore, we have to know that if we take a small step forwards to do teshuva, Hashem will give us extra help to complete the process. ‘Haba letaher mesa’ayin oso’, whoever comes to purufy himself receives help from shamayim.

All of us should do our best to think about these ideas as we are eating our seudah and make it a ruchinyus activity. And with that mitzvah helping us prepare for Yom Kippur, we all should be zocheh to a g’mar chasima tova.

B. Ginsburg

[i]Sichos L’Yom Kippur 189-196

[ii]Rav Nevenzahl points out that the Chasam Sofer developed a similar idea.

Building Harmony in the Home

23 07 2010

Based on a shiur on Marriage by Rabbi Beinush Ginsburg

Building Harmony in the Home

In Sichot Mussar, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz discusses the question of why Rachel called her first son Yosef.  Rashi writes that she could now blame her son for minor infractions in the home. Rav Shmuelevitz explains that she was happy that her husband would now not get upset with her as he would assume that their son was guilty. Our Sages ask, would our great forefather Yaakov who loved Rachel dearly, get upset over such misdemeanors? The Sichos Mussar answers that Rachel valued shalom bayit so much that she was overjoyed with the birth of Yosef which would prevent even a slight sense of strife in her home.

When the angels visited Avraham to tell him about the impending birth of Yitzchak, they asked about the whereabouts of Sarah. Chazal say that they wanted Avraham to say she was in the tent in order to endear her to her husband. Rav Shmuelevitz writes that despite decades of a wonderful marriage, the angels went out of their way to ask an extraneous question in order to add to Avraham and Sarah’s shalom bayit. This proves that even if one is happily married for many years, working on one’s marriage should be top priority.

Shalom Bayit is one of the most critical factors in bringing up healthy, well adjusted children to serve Hashem. Children need a warm, happy home to thrive and grow. Rabbi Orlowek writes that the greatest single factor on how it feels to be home is how parents get along with each other. A loving, caring, home is the best defense against the outside world. If one spouse does not treat the other with respect, it undermines the chinuch in the home as the children learn to disrespect their parent.

Middot-good character traits and simchat hachayim-joy of life are the main ingredients of shalom bayit. A person should strive to be calm, flexible, forgiving, and patient. Rabbi Abraham Twerski explains that the mezuzah is placed on the door at an angle as a halachic compromise to satisfy both opinions that hold it should be placed vertically and horizontally. When one walks through the door and glances at the mezuzah, it should serve as a reminder to be flexible and compromise for the sake of Shalom Bayit.

One should keep in mind that many small disagreements start because husband and wife come from different backgrounds and upbringings. Understanding this and trying to judge favorably can significantly lower tension in the home. Rabbi Orlowek writes that disappointment is the difference between expectation and reality. Practicing the “10 second rule” will prevent you from automatically reacting negatively. This means saying, “I would like things to be like this but it is ok if things turn out differently.”

Rav Dessler writes that ahavah-love comes from the root word, “hav”-to give. Giving sends waves of love from the giver to the receiver. When you enter marriage with the focus on giving rather than receiving, your chances of succeeding are high. Rabbi Orlowek writes that one should live with the maxim, “If it matters to you it matters to me.” Doing things happily for your spouse because it matters to them will surely strengthen your marriage.

Husband and wife should put extra effort into maintaining perfect shalom bayit at the Shabbat table. This is mainly where the children see their parents interact and is what they will bring with them when they eventually marry.  The Rema writes of an intriguing custom that one should look at the Shabbat candles before beginning the Friday night Kiddush. One of the reasons for Shabbat candles is to increase Shalom Bayit in the home. In a sense, this custom is hinting to us that Shalom Bayit is connected to Shabbat and is a critical aspect in building a warm Jewish home filled with Torah and Mitzvoth.