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Shemini Atzeret
Category: Teaching Topics

The TALMUD says that in the days of MESSIAH, all Jews will dwell together in one gigantic Sukkah. This emphasizes the good and pleasant need for us to dwell in unity; perhaps the reason we take the four spices — the Etrog, Lulav, Myrtle & Willow — bind them together and wave them in all directions.  Thus declaring that all Jews and Gentiles are a part of the same unit; pledging to discover how all these parts can work together to accomplish a HIGHER good. 


"You shall take for yourselves on the first day (of Sukkos) the fruit of the beautiful Hadar Tree (Etrog), branches of a Palm Tree (Lulav), boughs from the Myrtle Tree (Hadassim) and Willows of the brook (Aravos), and you shall rejoice before the LORD your GOD for seven days. You shall observe it as a Festival of the LORD for seven days in the year; you shall observe it in the seventh month as a law for all time, throughout the ages." [Leviticus (Vayikra) 23. 40 - 41 Tanakh, Torah] 


Shemini Atzeret (Shemini: eight; Atzeret: solemn assembly — the 8th day of Sukkot celebration) is likened to the special feast of a king for his beloved son:  For a full week the king celebrated with all his kingdom.  After this week of festivities, the king said to his son, "It is difficult for me to part with you.  Please stay another day to celebrate."  {Atzeres also means "holding back" — referring to the king who held back his son from leaving with the rest of the celebrants.} 


For the full seven days of Sukkot, seventy sacrifices were brought into the Bais ha’Mikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem) on behalf of all the nations. If the nations of the world would have known the value of the Temple for them, they would have surrounded it with fortresses in order to protect it.  GOD, the ETERNAL ONE, set aside an eighth day of celebration on which only one holiday sacrifice was offered, this one on behalf of the Jewish nation, and it became a day of unique celebration between CREATOR GOD and HIS chosen people. 


Simchat Beit ha'Sheavah ("Happiness of the House of the Water-Drawing") is one of the many practices during this festival.  Each night throughout the holiday, tens of thousands of spectators would gather outside the Temple walls while the most pious members of the community would dance and sing before GOD asking for HIS blessing of rain in its right time. Water and wine are poured out from different golden pitchers so they mingle together as they fall onto the ground; thus signifying prayer for abundant rain necessary for the growth of crops.  In times of old, during the Sukkot holiday, water from the Pool of Siloam in the City of David was drawn and carried to the Holy Temple.  The Temple celebration during Sukkot was highlighted by the Ceremony of Water-Drawing for the holyday offerings.  This ceremony was unique in that all year the libations on the Altar were performed with wine, but on Sukkot, plain water was used.  Yet it was said that "whoever has not seen the joy at the place of the water-drawing has never seen true joy in his life!"  [Sukkah 51]  The joy expressed in this ceremony was the joy of the simple and pure acceptance of the ALMIGHTY GOD'S will, as symbolized by clear water; contrasting to the acceptance that is based on the joy of understanding, symbolized by wine.  Spiritually, it prophesied the coming  of the LORD MESSIAH Y’SHUA and the outpouring of the HOLY SPIRIT. 


According to the TALMUD, Sukkot is the time when GOD determines the amount of rain that will fall in the coming year. The Water Libation therefore was deeply revered as an opportunity to request the life-giving waters. Though we do not have the Temple today, Jewish communities all over the world still celebrate the festival by joining together and indulging in food, drink, music and dance to thank the GLORIOUS KING of Israel for HIS precious gifts and for HIS tremendous kindness. With their unique approach to reveal extraordinary teachings extracted from the HOLY WORD. "Joyfully shall you draw water out of the Fountains of Salvation!" [Isaiah/Yeshayah 12. 3] 


Observant Jews take the "Arba Minim (taking of the Four Kinds)" of plants in his hands into the family Sukkah (booth), recites a benediction ["Baruch ata ADONAY ELOHEINU MELECH ha’olam asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat lulv – Blessed are YOU LORD our GOD, KING of the universe WHO sanctifies us with HIS mitzvoth and commanded us concerning the taking of a palm branch.], then shakes these three times in all four directions (which forms a cross) to indicate that GOD'S glory fills the whole universe.  This is done in fulfillment of the commandment, "On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees (Hebrew: p’rietz hadar — the fruit of beautiful trees), branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your GOD seven days." [Leviticus (Vayikra) 23. 40 Tanakh, Torah]  The four plants enumerated in the TORAH are the Etrog (lemon-like citron – symbolizing a world of abundance and peace for all people), Lulav (palm branch), Hadassim (myrtle) and Aravos (willows). 


In our oral tradition, it is explained that each of these Four Kinds corresponds to a different type of person, from the Etrog, which has both refreshing tastes (constant TORAH learning) and delightful fragrance (good deeds) to the Aravah (willow), which has neither of these qualities.  Despite their differences, the TORAH instructs us to take these four and bind them together, for they complement one another.  So too does the Jew — and Gentile — complement one another; and only when there is true harmony among all people can we hope for an ideal existence.  May it happen soon and in our time! 


Sha'alu (Pray) for the Shalom (Peace) of Jerusalem and all of Israel!
Redeem Israel, O ELOHIYM, out of all their troubles!
Welcome Sabbath of Shemini Atzeret!  We honor and praise the LORD Y’SHUA, the ONE WHO gives true Sabbath peace and rest and separates the sacred from the ordinary; the sacred from the mundane.  A truly wonderful Sabbath of Z'man Simchataynu (the time of our rejoicing)!
The TALMUD says that in the days of the MESSIAH, all Jews will dwell together in one gigantic Sukkah. This underscores the need for Jewish unity. Perhaps this is the reason why on Sukkot we take the four species — Etrog, Lulav, Myrtle and Willow — bind them close together, and wave them in all directions. We declare that all Jews are part of the same unit. And, we pledge to discover how all these parts can work together to accomplish our lofty goals.
 We are extremely grateful to the HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL for HIS miracles that are with us all day and for the wonders and goodness of every moment.
"Chag Sameyach!" — joy to you and yours, may this day be extraordinary and blessed as we celebrate the 8th Day of Assembly


Praying for the peace of Jerusalem, is praying for the return of our Messiah and Lord and for the Kingdom of God He is bringing when He comes.  Then God's Will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven and the world will experience true godly universal peace which is the fruit of Righteousness.  



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