Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Holydays’

10
Oct

The Security of The Succah

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Spiritual Growth

The twelve-hour drive from Toronto for our annual Succot visit with my grandparents left me bruised, battered, and drained by all the fights my sister began with me. (I, of course, never started a fight.) We arrived in 1968, post riots Baltimore. Although I did not see burned out cars on my grandparents’ block, things were obviously different. There were no children playing on the street. There were bars on the windows of all the homes.

My first direct experience with the new realities was when I wanted to cross the gravel path that separated my grandparents’ backyard from the Yeshiva grounds. My grandmother warned that it wasn’t safe to walk alone. I was determined to show that I was not scared and I ran out of the house.

A group of teenagers stopped me on the path, but, thank God, just at that moment my giant cousin Sheftel, (now Rav Sheftel Neuberger, the Menahel of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel) was walking toward us and the kids ran. I made it to the Yeshiva.

Unfortunately, I had to eventually return to the house. I waited for my grandfather so I could walk home with him, although I wondered what my, in my mind, ancient, and nearly blind, grandfather could possibly do to protect me. There was nothing to fear. The neighborhood kids were in awe of the great Rabbi and wouldn’t dare come near us.

The man, who had always been a super-hero of Torah and righteousness, now became as great as Superman in my mind. So, despite the new dangers, I didn’t hesitate to sleep in the Succah; my grandfather’s presence would protect me.

Perhaps my grandmother was slightly upset that I had ignored her warnings about the path. She didn’t want her husband to sleep in the Succah because he had a cold. I guess even super-heroes must obey their wives. I would have to sleep alone in the Succah.

Don’t believe the comic books: Super powers are not automatically passed down to the next generation. I knew that, as I was not a Tzaddik – please see “Why I’m Not A Tzaddik” for the explanation – and would not be safe without my grandfather at my side.

My sister, the one determined that I would never be a Tzaddik, commented in her sweetest voice (which was not very sweet at all, if you ask me): “So you feel safer with Zaidy than you do with Hashem. I told you that you would never be a Tzaddik.” I had to sleep in the Succah, placing all my trust in God. I was hoping that my dear, beloved grandmother, who was so concerned for my safety, would prohibit me from sleeping alone, and that I, the future Tzaddik, would have to obey as I (almost) always did. No way! She looked at me with a strange smile and offered to gather the blankets and pillows I needed for my big Mitzvah.

It was a wonderful experience. I walked into the Succah and felt completely safe. I actually felt safer in the Succah than I did in the house! Perhaps there really was hope that I could become a Tzaddik. I slept like a baby, caught a cold, and was forced to sleep inside the rest of Succot.

I still feel safe in my succah. My home in Saratoga Springs bordered on the training track for the harness horses, a very unsafe place. The racetrack workers intimidated even the local police. No matter, because I felt perfectly safe in my Succah, although I did wake up with ice in my beard. My Succah on West End Ave. in New York City was behind my building. It was pre-Guliani and unsafe, and many people considered me crazy for sleeping outside, but, again, I felt perfectly safe and secure.

The roof is incompletely covered with S’chach, there are open spaces through which we can see the stars. The Succah provides both light and shade. It reflects the fluctuations in our relationship with God. There are times we “see” God’s Presence with clarity, and there are times when we experience God as hidden. We can sense God’s protection some of the time, and at others we feel more vulnerable. People often feel that a relationship that fluctuates is unstable and insecure. Yet, for me, the place I feel most safe is in the Succah, the very place that reflects the highs and lows in my relationship with God. After Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I know that despite the times when I experience God as hidden, that I will once again find the light. Yes, there are times when I feel vulnerable, but I know that the protection will return. It is a relationship with ups and downs as every relationship. It is a relationship in which I can feel secure. Perhaps that is why there is no place where I feel as safe as when I am in my Succah.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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26
Aug

Psalm 27: Going Places

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Prayer

I took the same steps as every day, but this morning when I stepped into what is Van Cortland Park every other morning, I found myself in the Twilight Zone, I somehow had ended up in Central America. OK, I was exhausted and may have taken one or two wrong turns on my way, but how did I get to Central America?

Large groups were gathered around each playing field and picnic area. Each group was from a different country. I could tell by the flags and tee-shirts: Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras were all represented. I was in a different world.

Having been to all those countries on business trips, I tried to recall each place. All I could remember was my hotel room and the Gemara – Tractate of the Talmud – that I was studying on each trip. I traveled on business so I went from airport to hotel to office and back to the hotel. The trips were opportunities to learn without distraction.

I guess you could say that I had not visited each of those countries as much as I was able to create my own space in each place.

“One thing I asked of God, that shall I seek: Would that I dwell in the House of God all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of God and to contemplate in His Sanctuary.” (Psalm 27:4)

We do not only pray for the opportunity to be with God in His Sanctuary in Jerusalem, we also celebrate that we have the ability to create a sense of His Holy Place wherever we are.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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12
Aug

Tu B’Av: Changing

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel taught: “Israel had no days as festive as the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur. (Ta’anit 26b) This was the day that the tribe of Benjamin was permitted to marry into the congregation of Israel.

After the incident of the Concubine of Givah (Judges 19-20) the Jews swore not to give their daughters in marriage to the few surviving members of the tribe of Benjamin. The next generation was released from this oath on the 15th of Av.

The only biblical reference to the 15th of Av being celebrated as a holiday is in the context of the above story: “They said, Behold, there is a yearly holiday unto God at Shiloh.” (Judges 21:19) The people referred to this day as a “Holiday unto God”, an unusual expression.

In fact, we only find that description of a festival in one other place: The sin of the Golden Calf. “Aaron saw and built an altar before him. Aaron called out and said, ‘A Holiday unto God tomorrow!” (Exodus 32:5)

Aron expected Moses to return with the Luchot – Tablets – from Mt. Sinai the next day before the people would have an opportunity to worship before the Golden Calf. He truly anticipated the next day – the 17th of Tammuz – to be a “Holiday Unto God”. The people would celebrate God’s gift of the Luchot.

The projected Holiday unto God became a dark and terrible day of tragedy. The people worshipped their idol, the Luchot were shattered and many died. The day of rejoicing became a day of mourning.

Israel had to wait until Yom Kippur – the other day on which the maidens would dance – to celebrate the Second Luchot.

Aaron’s “Holiday Unto God” was a changed day. When the people borrowed Aaron’s phrase to describe the 15th of Av they were referring to it as a day of change and transformation.

The 15th of Av is actually the seventh day of another Changed Day: Tisha B’Av – the 9th of Av. Each of the last 38 of the 40 years in the desert, the people who turned 60 would die on the 9th of Av. The 15th was the seventh and final day of mourning.

Tisha B’Av was a Changed Day during the Second Temple period, when it was a day of celebration over the reconstruction of the Temple that had been destroyed on that day. It changed back into a day of mourning when the Second Temple was destroyed. We expect the 9th of Av to change yet again when the Thrid Temple will be built. The 15th will not be the final day of mourning, but the seventh and final day of a great festival.

The 15th of Av is a celebration of the possibilities of change. We have begun the Seven Weeks’s of Consolation – a period of change and transformation, when we rejoice in our ability to change our ways, our attributes, and our relationships. This process of change begins on the 15th of Av.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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8
Aug

Lamentations: Kinah 6 – Line 1

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer, Spiritual Growth

“Everything came to a standstill”. “Shavat” – This is based on Lamentation 5:15: “Gone –Shavat – is the joy of our hearts, our dancing has turned into mourning”. The Ibn Ezra explains that the “joy of our hearts” refers to the Offerings brought in the Temple, as in Ezekiel 24:25: “And you, Son of Man, behold, on the day that I take their stronghold from them, the joy of their glory, the darling of their eyes, and the exaltation of their soul, their sons and their daughters.”

The imagery of this prophecy begins with the death of Ezekiel’s wife: (Ezekiel 24:15-27)

One moment Ezekiel’s wife is there and the next moment she is gone. The ‘darling of his eyes” was taken away in an instant. His life was shattered. “Won’t you tell us what these acts that you are doing mean for us?” (Ezekiel 24:19) People did not understand Ezekiel’s response to such a tragedy. They could only understand that the prophet was sending a message to them.

Our lives can change in a moment. Our world can stop. There is nothing we can do but watch. We all remember exactly what we were doing and where we were at the moment we heard of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center on 9-11. Time seemed to stop at that moment. Ezekiel was telling his people that they were functioning in Babylon with the assumption that the Temple was still standing and that sacrifices were still being offered. They still relied on that protection. Ezekiel was warning them that their world would change in one moment; a moment they knew, but refused to believe was coming. Nothing would be the same afterward.

Our lives can change in a single moment. The world is entirely different from one minute to the next. It can happen for good, as with the “Az”! of the Splitting of the Sea, or, it can happen in a negative way, as with the loss of the Altar and sacrifices.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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8
Aug

Eichah & Tisha B’Av Part Four (2000)

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth

There is another chapter written for someone else. Josiah was a little kid when he became king. He decided to be a good guy. He undertook a complete remodeling of the Beit Hamikdash. He removed the idols that literally filled the walls. One day they were cleaning the tiles on the Temple floor, when one of them came loose. They lift it up and lo and behold, they find a sefer Torah. Not just any sefer Torah, but the one written by Moses. At that point, it is the only Torah to be found anywhere in Israel. It would seem to be a good sign. They are all excited. And you can trace this out today in the City of David. Archeologists found the seal of one of the scribes of the king. They ran to the room of that particular scribe. They open the Torah, but immediately they see that it opens to the section of the curses. Not a good sign. Talk about mixed messages!

They don’t know what to do. They go up to Hulda. She confirms that the Temple is going to be destroyed. There is nothing Josiah can do to stop it. However, because he is a tzaddik, it won’t happen while he is alive. King Josiah hears about this and hires policemen who go to every single house to search and destroy every idol they can find. He brings everybody to Jerusalem to do Teshuva, has them reaccept the Torah, and bring the korban Pesach. He founds the first Baal Teshuva movement in history, and a massive one at that. He threatens people with death if they don’t do teshuva. He digs up the graves of idol worshippers, burns the bones of their priests, and smashes the altar to Baal that was built. He was just told that there is nothing he could do, yet he refuses to go lying down. When he died (and he died because he didn’t listen to the navi)…On one hand, you have Josiah who decides he has to do what he has to do. On the other hand there were kings who didn’t do anything even when everything was falling apart around them.

The third chapter is directed to those who just don’t want to change and are unwilling to hear that anything needs to change. You find this echoed in verse 8: Even when I cry out and plead, He has shut off my prayer. Or, in 44: You have covered Yourself with a cloud that no prayer can pass through.

That is what Jeremiah was trying to address. Stagnation means that all avenues for change have closed. And the Josiah approach is that the worst situation of all can be changed to its direct opposite.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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8
Aug

Eichah & Tisha B’Av Part Three (2000)

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth

Last year, my father died, and of course it was devastating. But then, there were positive things that came out of it. While a parent is alive, it’s much easier to feel like a kid. But when a parent dies, especially one whom one relies on very much, I and my siblings began to feel much more like adults. We started to take responsibility for things none of us wanted to do so before. It was a terrible passage, but within it, we were rising to a new level where something good could come out of it. The worst thing to do however, when coming into that kind of advantage, is to stagger.

We had this situation in Jerusalem with the First Temple; Jeremiah was going around telling everybody, “You guys are in big trouble. There’s going to be an invasion, the ten tribes will be exiled, and then the Temple itself will be destroyed. You have to change.” People knew there was instability, that there threat of war from Egypt, Babylon, Sancheriv, and the Assyrians. The people didn’t want to hear it. Rabbi ________ wrote it up in the daily newspaper, but they burnt it. So Jeremiah took Eicha and rewrote it. He added the third chapter. The third chapter was added for people who are staggering. They want to protect the status quo, even it is miserable. And because they are tense, they are not able to take advantage of passage.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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19
Jul

Conspicuous As Waves

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Spiritual Growth

Rabbi Abba bar Kahana opened his discourse with the verse, “Let out your voice, O daughter of Gallim.” (Isaiah 10:30) Isaiah said to Israel, “Rather than you should utter songs and praises before idols, sing with a joyous voice the words of Torah, sing with a joyous voice in the synagogues.” “O daughter of Gallim,” as the waves are conspicuous in the sea, so are the patriarchs in the world. (introduction to Midrash Eichah I)

How does Rabbi Abba segue from singing joyous songs to the patriarchs who are as conspicuous as the waves of the sea?

I remember how excited I was the first time I heard Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. I wanted to share it with all my friends. One commented that listening to a Canon was like watching waves. It was the same music repeatedly played but with different intensity. He found it boring! I thought he was nuts. The point was that numerous waves can share a motion but each has a different intensity and shape. Wave watching may be hypnotic, but it is also exciting when we search for their differences.

The patriarchs did not set out to be different, but to add shape and intensity to their lives. Each patriarch found his own expression of life and service of God. We do not say, “The Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” but, “The Lord of Abraham, the Lord of Isaac, the Lord of Jacob.” Each had his own relationship with God. They may have prayed the same words, practiced the same Mitzvot, and studied the same Torah, but each found his individual shape and focus in everything he did. That was the source of their joy.

It is only the individual wave that can sing with joy.

Rabbi Abba reminds us that the Three Weeks, our time for singing with joy, (See Singing Through The Three Weeks,) is the time we must focus on our individuality. We have to find our own expression of attachment to God even though we pray the same words, observe the same Mitzvot and study the same Torah as so many others.

Otherwise, we become as bored as my friend, and Judaism is never boring.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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19
Jul

Singing Through The Three Weeks

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth

Rabbi Abba bar Kahana opened his discourse with the verse, “Let out your voice, O daughter of Gallim.” (Isaiah 10:30) Isaiah said to Israel, “Rather than you should utter songs and praises before idols, sing with a joyous voice the words of Torah, sing with a joyous voice in the synagogues.” “O daughter of Gallim,” as the waves are conspicuous in the sea, so are the patriarchs in the world. (introduction to Midrash Eichah I)

I must admit that I am more familiar with the crying of Lamentations than with the joyous voice described by Isaiah and Rabbi Abba. The “hot” Jewish album of 1966 introduced the famous ‘Shmelkie’s Niggun,” which is still sung throughout the Yeshiva world. I recall that two of my sisters repeatedly listened to a song on the album that had the words, “The Navi cried, the Navi died, but his words live on.” My sisters loved the song, but I wondered aloud why they preferred the sad song over the joyous ‘Niggun.’ I have been wondering ever since. Why do we seem to prefer to cry Psalms rather than sing them with joy? Why are so many Jewish songs so maudlin? I don’t want to say anything heretical, but even ‘Oifen Pripetchik,’ seems depressing to me.

I still receive the same response that I got from my sisters more than forty years ago: “We are sad because the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed.”

Rabbi Abba rejects that answer. He insists that we end up singing sad songs and lamentations because we did not sing with a joyous voice.

I imagine that in Rabbi Abba’s yeshiva they did not spend the Three Weeks mourning and crying, but singing their learning and prayers with extra joy.

Our way does not seem to work very well. Anyone care to join me in trying Rabbi Abba’s approach?

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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6
Jun

Festival Prayers: Birchat Kohanim II

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

“So shall you bless the Children of Israel.” According to the plain meaning of the text the words mean: “in this style you are to pronounce the blessing.” We have the same expression “Koh,”  being used in Numbers 8:7 where the Torah describes the procedure for purifying the Levites.

A midrashic approach based on Midrash Tanchuma, Nasso #9:  the words, “So shall you bless,” meaning that God gave those words to the Kohanim as a gift so that they would have the power to bless Israel. Seeing that in addition to this gift God would assign them another 24 gifts from the Children of Israel, with this gift they would dispose of 25 gifts corresponding to the numerical value in the word, “Koh.”

In Sotah we are taught additionally that the word contains a number of restrictions with in it: the language in which they are to bestow the blessing must be Hebrew. It requires further that the blessing be administered while they are standing. They are to raise their hands while performing the blessing. They are to face the recipients of the blessing. The blessing must be pronounced loudly and, in the Temple, they were to pronounce the Ineffable Name while intoning the blessing. Some of these rules are based on Leviticus 9:22, “Aaron raised his hands and blessed the people.” The words, “they are to place My Name,” is the source of the Ineffable Name being invoked. The use of the expression, “My Name,” in our verse and the same expression in Deuteronomy 12:5, “to place My Name,” serve as the basis for this law. Just as in Deuteronomy, the Ineffable Name was to be invoked in the Temple, the subject matter of the verse, so here too the blessing with the Ineffable Name is used only in the Temple.

A Kabbalistic approach: The word, “Koh,” represents the 10th attribute, the one always employed by the prophets when they convey messages they have received from God to deliver to the Jewish people. The extra letter “H” is reminiscent of the last letter in the Tetragram, a letter we have several times described as the attribute of Justice in its tempered form. The Kohanim when blessing the people and directing God’s largesse in their direction are also to have in mind this same letter which is used to guide the fate of the Jewish people containing an element of the attribute of Chesed within it.

“Saying to them,” there is an extra letter “Vav,”  which stretches the word, makes it longer, to suggest to the Kohanim that they must not relate to the duty to bless the people as a burden imposed upon them by God, something they want to be done with as soon as possible, in a hurry. On the contrary, they should bless the people with all the concentration they are capable of.

Another reason for the addition of this letter is that the numerical value of the word including the digit 14 the word itself, is 248. The blessing is absorbed by all 248 limbs and organs of a person. If only one organ were left out this could be the heart upon which all other organs are so vitally dependent.

The mystical element in the number is that it corresponds to the Divine Presence which rests on the palms of the Kohanim hidden there as if it were the heart of the heavens reciting the blessing. Both celestial and terrestrial forces receive their blessings from the Part of the Heaven.

When the Kohen extends his 10 fingers toward heaven, he signals to God that he desires to sanctify himself with all the sanctities embodied in the 10 Emanations, asking for the abundance of God’s goodness to be channeled toward His creatures when Earth by means of the conduits God has available for that purpose. The word, “Et,”  in the sequence includes the Angels in this direction. The words, “Say to them,” is sort of a repetition to make certain all the disembodied Angels both above and below certain layers of the heavens are included.

Another lesson to be derived from the extra letter in the word is that the Chazzan is to call upon the Kohanim to intoned the blessing by pronouncing the word, “Kohanim,” and to pronounce each word separately before the Kohanim repeat it in chorus.

The very fact that the law deems it necessary to brief the Kohanim word for word reflects that this is the practice in the Celestial regions where the angels who act as Kohanim in the Celestial Sanctuary are following the same routine. This is the mystical dimension of the Talmudic teaching that every Kohen performing the commandment of blessing the people is himself the subject of a blessing. The Talmud means that the Kohen ministering on earth will in turn become the recipient of blessings from the Source, the essence of Mercy in the heavenly regions; this is the meaning of what God promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you.” In other words, the Kohanim down here are patterning themselves after known role models in the celestial regions. (Rabbeinu Bachya; Numbers 6:23)

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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17
Apr

Festival Prayer: Lechem Rav: Ata Vichartanu

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

“You have chosen us from all the peoples; You loved us and found favor in us; You exalted us above all the languages and You sanctified us with Your commandments. You drew us close, our Kindred, to Your service and proclaimed Your great and Holy Name upon us.”

There are seven levels of praises in this prayer: chosen, loved, found favor, exalted, sanctified us, drew us close, and, proclaimed Your great and Holy Name upon us. These seven correspond to seven holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succoth, Hanukkah, Purim, Pesach, and Shavuot.

“Chose us,” refers to Rosh Hashana, the day on which God created the world for the sake of Israel.

“You loved us,” refers to the great kindnesses we honor on Succoth.

“You found favor in us,” refers to Pesach.

“You exalted us above all the languages,” refers to Shavuot when God gave us the Torah in all 70 languages.

“You sanctified us with Your commandments,” refers to Hanukkah.

“You drew us close to Your service,” refers to Purim.

“Proclaimed Your great and Holy Name upon us,” refers to Yom Kippur when we can recite certain prayers that are usually limited to only the Ministering Angels. (Lechem Rav)

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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