Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meirצילום: אייל בן יעיש

*Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (

1. This coming Shabbat of Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of Sukkot) does not include reading of this week’s Torah portion. Instead, we read from parashat Ki Tisa in which "the festival of the harvest," meaning Sukkot, is mentioned. There are many who keep the custom of reading Kohelet, the book of Ecclesiastes, as well.

2. This Shabbat still finds us in the Sukkah and eating our meals there. However, we do not hold the four species and shake the lulav on Shabbat. Incidentally, Shabbat observance and dwelling in the Sukkah are two mitzvot in which our entire bodies take part. (The third is living in Eretz Yisrael).They are not mitzvot confined to the hands, as when lighting Shabbat or holiday candles, nor to the arms and head, as when putting on tefillin. We enter Shabbat as we enter the Sukkah, completely enveloped by each.

3. And here is something to think about. Each day of Sukkot, it is customary to invite into our Sukkah one of the ushpizin (supernal guests) — Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, or David. When we examine the life stories of these fathers of the nation, we see that they never ceased to encounter persecution and crises. And yet, despite their struggles and wanderings, each one of them built an exemplary life for himself. Avraham Avinu did not wait for his troubles to end, but established the Jewish faith despite the tumultuous events that surrounded him. King David, despite all the wars he had to fight, wrote the book of Psalms.

They did not postpone everything until "after the crisis." They understood that life is happening now within the maelstrom. More than this, perhaps it was precisely because of the challenges they faced that they were able to grow and flourish to such a remarkable extent.

We can learn from the ushpizin about our own lives and the potential that lies within adversity.and pain as we mourn those lost to us this week.

The following is In the memory of fallen soldiers Noa and Ido, in the hope of rebuilding David's fallen sukkah*

The morning Ido Baruch was murdered by terrorists, I had planned on writing something about the joy of Sukkot, about the four species and the sukkah, but the family of Noa Lazar who was killed in Shuafat in East Jerusalem several days ago is in mourning, and today Ido Baruch who was killed in Shomron yesterday will be laid to rest. Perhaps we can find some solace and some strength in the following words we recite after eating in the Sukkah.

On the holiday of Sukkot there are special additions to Birkat Hamazon or grace after meals. Among the Sephardim, it is customary to add: *"May the Merciful One bring us abundance and purity from the seven supernal and holy guests (ushpizin), may their merits provide us with armor and shield us."* In other words, we mention the seven ushpizin, the outstanding figures of the nation -- Avraham, YItzchak, Ya'akov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and David -- and ask that in living by their values we should merit safeguarding and protection. We are not just mentioning their names, but aspiring to follow in their path.

And here is an addition to the Birkat Hamazon that is added by Sephardim and Ashkenzim alike: *"May the Merciful One raise up for us the fallen sukkah of David."*

A house is usually solid and stable, but should it collapse, it is difficult to put it back up again. A sukkah, on the other hand, is somewhat flimsy, but much easier to put back up again each time that it comes down. The small nation of Israel, in comparison to its enemies, is like a sukkah. For thousands of years, we have witnessed the collapse of empires, as evil as they were apparently indestructible, while we ourselves have fallen again and again, but gotten back up each time. And so we have managed to survive and thrive and finally return to our homeland as we hope to soon rebuild David's fallen sukkah, the Holy Temple.

In the memory and in the merit of Noa and Ido. May we continue to rise up each time we fall and to prevail over every challenge that comes our way.

And may we continue along the bridge described by Rabbi Nachman.

Some of the words most often quoted in reference to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov are not what he actually said. This week,, 212 years ago, Rebbe Nachman passed away. His influence has been vast and is felt among a great many more people than those who identify as Breslov hasidim.

Lots of people quote Rebbe Nachman's words: "It's a great mitzvah to always be happy" and "There is no despair whatsoever in this world." These are fundamental principles in his outlook on life. It's an outlook full of joy and hope. We hear this sentiment in the words of a famous song written by Rebbe Nachman himself: "The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is to have no fear at all."

However, the original text of this song is slightly different: *"Know that a person needs to cross a very, very narrow bridge, but the guiding principle and the main thing is not to make himself afraid at all."* In other words, people have a tendency to be anxious for no reason, to imagine negative outcomes, to subject themselves to fearful illusions disconnected from reality.

It's okay to be afraid, and there are truly frightening things in the world, and painful ones, but. Rebbe Nachman calls upon us to move forward and cross the bridge.