Last Day of Yom Tov; Endings A question can be asked; what is the relationship between the last day of a given yom tov and the preceeding 7 (or 8) days? And to make the question broader, we know that the start of a series of events (eg a yom yov) sets up its direction (hakol holech achar harosh; see dvar torah on parshas tzav). What is the goal / purpose of the end point in a given series of events? Let us start with the most famous last day of yom tov; shmini atzeres. On the one hand, the gemorra (rosh hashana, sukka,) calls it a ‘yom tov bifnei atzmo’ ie a yom tov in it’s own right; seemingly disconnected to the other days of yom tov. However, on the other hand this is the day to make up any korbanos that were missed over sukkos. So what is the relationship between the last day and the previous days of yom tov? The gemorro (sukka) tells the reason for shmini atzeres; (in a mashal) HaShem tells Bnei Yisrael the words ‘kashe alay preidatchem’ ie you have been with Me for 7 days (of sukkos) and ‘your separation is hard for Me’- hence the extra day of yom tov known as shmini atzeres. Now this need understanding; if the problem is that separating from HaShem is hard for Him, what difference does it make to add an extra day - it will still be hard (maybe even harder) to separate; what does this achieve? Thus, a possible explanation is that ‘kashe alay preidatchem’ does not refer to the separation between us and HaShem, but rather the separation between us and yom tov; ie if we quickly run away from the previous days of sukkos, there is a danger of forgetting the messages of the sukka, 4 minim, etc. so HaShem gives us an extra day to stop and internalise this; shmini atzeres. Thus, the word atzeres has connotations of stopping and ingathering. This concept of the end being a revision of the whole is deepened in two places in gemorro shabbes (55a and 104a). 55a tells us that ‘chosamo shel hakodosh baruch hu emes’ ie HaShem signs His name as Emes. Now, this obviously requires explanation; HaShem has no contracts to sign, and as such how is a signature relevant to Him? Let’s try and explain this…the chasima (signiture) is always the end part - the signature is the last part of a document after all the wording and clauses etc have been finalised. Now the word emes is made up of 3 letters; aleph, mem, and taf. These are the first, the middle, and the last letters of the aleph beis respectively, and also signify the past, present, and future as a consequence - also included in one of the names of HaShem (yuk-keh-vav-keh. Thus, in Torah Hebrew if one wants to express a doubt (ie ‘if something might occur’) one uses the word ’im’ which is comprised of Aleph (= past) and Mem (= present) without the Taf of future as if to say ‘I am not sure of the future here.’ This also shows us that the end part - a chasima (signature) is supposed to encompass/reflect/review the content of the whole. But there is a deeper level too; the gemorro shabbes 104a compares the Hebrew words emes (truth) and sheker (falsehood) and notes that the 3 letters in each word are physically different. Each Hebrew word is written between two lines; the Shin, Kuf, and Reish of sheker do not stand firmly on the base/bottom line, and are thus unstable and easy to push over, whilst the 3 letters of emes are all firmly based on that bottom line, and as such are not easy to knock over.

The gemorro observes from this that emes will stand, whilst sheker will necessitate more and more lies to cover holes in the original lie, and will ultimately collapse entirely. But it is possible to elaborate upon this; the two lines within which Hebrew words are written represent Heaven and earth. [As an example, each letter and number represent a concept or idea. 10,

for example, signifies kedusha (holiness) - hence 10 commandments, 10 for a minyan, yom kippur on the 10th, etc. Kedusha is by nature non-physical; hence the Yud being the 10th letter - the letter which takes up the least amount of space.

Now the yud is the only letter which does not touch the bottom line, because kedushah is naturally closer to shamayim than earth; our task is to bring it back down to earth (more of that to come!).] Now the 3 letters of emes all touch both the top and bottom line; ie connect shamayim and aretz and thus ‘they stand’ whilst the letters of sheker are not all firmly rooted upon both lines.

This expands the above point about endings; emes is the example of an end point because it connects shamayim and aretz ie the end of something is to look back, reflect, and take something in to live that inspiration in a real and genuine way - to take the kedusha from Heaven and firmly root it on earth. Finally, this is also evident in the splitting of the sea after yetzias mitzrayim.

This was the culmination of the 10 plagues; it is counted in the hagada as part of the 10 plagues, and was the point when Bnei Yisrael deepened their emunah in HaShem past that of the 10 plagues (shemos 14;31), and the first communal prophecy too.

We lain this on the last days of yom tov too. There is a very interesting line that Bnei Yisrael said in the shirah after they crossed the yam suf; 'ze keli veanveihu' - "this is my God and I will glorify Him." (shemos 15;2) The Targum translates this as 'this is my God and I will build Him a mikdash.' Why was it at this point in time that Bnei Yisrael were talking about building a beis hamikdash??

The answer is given based on a Ramban in Mishlei. He says that in order to keep inspiration alive one must make a kli (physical vessel) for it before it flows away, ie to personally take on something practical to do.

Thus, bnei yisrael knew they were experiencing massive miracles and inspiration, but they wanted to make sure that they made it all part of them by making a physical vessel; a project to put their inspiration into - to build a mikdash. Here too we see the idea of the endpoint of an event being used as a means to reflect, deepen, and physically live the inspiration gleaned from the past event. Just to end with a story which demonstrates the point rather well.

Rav Chanoch Teller, ‘the maggid’ was taken by car to give a talk in an Israeli high school. In order to get there he had to drive through the school playground; not an easy task during lunch- break. Children being children, they remained oblivious to the car’s horn and the driver was not having a greatly successful time at getting through the crowd effectively.

The driver, annoyed by now at the teenage car-less traffic jam, honked the horn again and again, to get the kids to move out the way.

One of the children turned around to the driver and shouted ’nu shamamu kvar’ (‘enough, we’ve [heard the horn] already’), and the driver’s response should be a lesson to us all.

He responded ’ze lo maspik lishmo’a, tzrichim lazuz’ -

it is not enough to hear, one must move too. Have a great yom tov. (taken from R’ Ezriel, R’ Shapira, and others)

Add comment

Have something to say?
Please make your comment below!
All comments are reviewed prior to publication. Absolutely NO loshon hara or anything derogatory or hurtful to anyone will be permitted on the website.


Security code
Refresh