Sh'mini Atzeres: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
In issue #47, we mentioned that we were given the commandment to take the
Lulav and Esrog so that we would have a reminder during Sukkos that the
happiness we feel on the holiday is to be directed towards Hashem. The Sefer
HaChinuch explains that on other holidays, we do not need such a reminder
because of the various commandments associated with the day. One example is
by Passover, because we have the commandments to eat Matzo and Maror, no
further commandment is needed to assure that the focus of our happiness on
the day is directed towards Hashem. The Sefer HaChinuch adds that by the
holiday of Shmini Atzeres (which is the eigth day of Sukkos), although we
have no special commandment on the day, we do not need anything to focus our
happiness on Hashem.
Why is this the case?
In Vayikra 23:36, the Torah tells us "...on the eight day, you will have a
holy day...it is a day of detention ("Atzeres")...." The Sefer HaChinuch
writes that the Sages have told us that in reality, Shmini Atzeres is not the
eighth day of Sukkos, but rather a separate holiday, which occurs at the end
of the Sukkos holiday. What was the reason why Hashem commanded us to observe
this day as a holiday? The Sefer HaChinuch explains that Sukkos is the last
holiday of the Jewish calendar (if we consider the month of Nissan as the
beginning of the year, and Pesach the first holiday). By giving us this
holiday of Shmini Atzeres, its as if Hashem was telling us "Please, stay with
me one more day, as it is difficult for me to part with you." Hashem, out of
his great love for the nation of Israel, finds it hard to "leave" his
children at the end of the holidays. Therefore, He added on one more day, so
we, the nation of Israel, can spend one more day with Hashem before our
Now that we understand the spirit behind Shmini Atzeres, we can also
understand why we need no added commandment to assure that our joy stays
properly focused. As the whole essence of the holiday is that we are
spending a little more time with Hashem before we "leave" (as we will not be
"returning" until Pesach), our mind will be focused on Hashem throughout the
holiday. No added reminder is necessary, as there is nothing to distract us
from remembering our close binds to Hashem on this day.
Check out all of the posts on Elul and Rosh HaShana. Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/ to access the YomTov Page.
Then click on the icon for the holiday of your choice.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.