May 26, 2024
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Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres: A ‘Rainy Day’ Relationship With Hashem

A good friend of mine started his own company recently. He told me his biggest challenge is getting his prospective clients to really understand the beneficial nature of his service. It is highly complex and needs a deep understanding of company operations to appreciate what he brings to the table.

Not long ago, he called the manager of a very large company to introduce himself. My friend told his prospect about other companies he worked with and how he initially started his firm. “Now I would like to hear about your company,” he said to the manager. “This must be your lucky day,” the manager said. “Two weeks ago, I was in a particular department. I took over management of the company just now from someone who got fired, and honestly, I don’t know why I got the job since I don’t have any experience managing a whole company. But in my old position, I worked a lot with the service you’re selling. I fully understand what you’re offering and how valuable it is. Now that I’m the manager here, I think I may be able to convince the company to hire you. Let’s meet and perhaps we can do business.” This contact resulted in a large new client for my friend.

Hashem sometimes provides us with a livelihood in unusual ways. Sukkos is the Yom Tov that enlightens us on Hashem’s process of providing livelihood, for the income we receive during the year is dependent on the judgment we receive during Sukkos. The Mishna states that on Sukkos we begin to be judged on rain, which is the symbol for earning a livelihood, since rain is what makes everything grow.

In the Beis Hamikdash, during the seven days of Sukkos, a total of 70 bull offerings were sacrificed on behalf of the 70 nations of the world, as well as various sacrifices on behalf of klal Yisrael. In addition, there were water libations performed on Sukkos. These various sacrifices and services in the Beis Hamikdash on Sukkos were designed to present klal Yisrael and the nations of the world in a positive light, to merit the proper amount of rain during the upcoming rainy season. This would cause the crops to grow and man would have plenty of food and income.

On Shemini Atzeres we recite tefillas geshem, asking for rain, as it is the beginning of the rainy season in Eretz Yisrael. However, no offerings were brought on behalf of the other nations and only a few sacrifices were offered on behalf of the Jewish nation. Shemini Atzeres appears on the calendar as the last day of Sukkos, but really it’s an independent Yom Tov. In Israel they don’t sit in the sukkah nor shake lulav and esrog. Rashi quotes the Gemara that on Shemini Atzeres Hashem is telling us that He wants to stay close to us a little longer because He loves us so much. The Almighty wants to celebrate with us alone, not with others. But how does spending more time together help the parting process? Doesn’t it make it even harder to separate later?

The Shem Mishmuel explains that the sacrifices offered on behalf of the other nations and on behalf of the Jewish nation are very different. They are both given to merit a good livelihood, but diverge after that. In a business transaction a deal is made between buyer and seller and the two part ways. In a marriage, on the other hand, in exchange for a ring or money from the groom, the bride and groom enter into a binding lifelong relationship.

Hashem provides sustenance for the entire world. When the other nations request rain from Hashem, it’s like a business transaction: They pray to receive the rain and part ways, with no interest in deepening a connection. For klal Yisrael, the request for rain is like a marriage transaction, where the main focus is about the relationship. On Sukkos, Hashem accepts our prayers for a good livelihood and then says to klal Yisrael, “Please stay with me an extra day and ask for rain as a symbol of our long-lasting relationship.” Continuing the Yom Tov an extra day deepens the relationship, besides inducing Hashem to give us a livelihood throughout the year.

In the story above, the manager was placed in his position in the company so my friend could make the deal. Hashem wanted my friend and the manager to recognize this unusual occurrence.

On Sukkos we recognize that Hashem provides shelter and security. On Shemini Atzeres we daven for rain, asking that we receive a full and satisfying sustenance and fully recognize Hashem’s involvement in providing us with our livelihood. On Shemini Atzeres we get an intimate audience with our Creator, “special time” that sustains us throughout the year.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Paramus, Fair Lawn, Livingston and West Orange. He initiated and leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. He has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis medrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston, Fort Lee and a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its full offering of torah classes visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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