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The Root of All Anxiety—and All Joy

You Are Never Alone

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

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  • October 13, 2019
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  • 14 Tishrei 5780
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Class Summary:

The Talmud states (Sukkah 51b): The Sages taught: One who did not see the joy of the Drawing of the Water, never saw joy in his life. One who did not see Jerusalem in its glory, never saw a beautiful city. One who did not see the Holy Temple in its full stature, never saw a magnificent structure.

The questions are numerous. First, what is the meaning of these three statements? Can’t one see joy even if they never saw the celebration around the drawing of the water on Sukkos? Can’t someone see a beautiful city, or a magnificent structure, without seeing Jerusalem and the Beis Hamikdash in their full glory?

Second, how were the sages so sure of this? Did they not think it possible to experience a profound joy not relevant to the drawing of the water? What was so unique about the joy preceding the drawing of the water that convinced the sages that there was no joy compared to it, and even more, if you did not see it, you never saw joy in your entire life?!

Third, the sages are obviously trying to convey the awesomeness of these three experiences. So why not say it in the positive: The greatest joy in the world was the joy of drawing the water; the most beautiful city and structure in the world were Jerusalem and the Temple. Why convey the message in the negative?

Fourth, why make people who were not present to see these three things feel bad? The Talmud recorded this saying of the sages a few hundred years after the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, and the drawing and pouring of the water on the Temple altar ceased. What’s the point of telling all those learning the Talmud that they would never be able to see joy or experience beauty in their lives?

Fifth, the order is also problematic. He begins with the joy of the drawing of the water, which was poured on the altar in the Holy Temple. Then he moves on to the beauty of Jerusalem, then back to the splendor of the Holy Temple. The order should have been either 1) Jerusalem, 2) the Temple, 3) and the drawing of the water which was one of the services inside the Temple. Or conversely: 1) The drawing of the water inside the Temple, 2) then the beauty of the entire structure of the Temple, and then 3) the entire city of Jerusalem?

All these questions were addressed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe during his historic Sukkos farbrengens (gatherings), in the years 5716, 1717, and 5719—1955, 1956, and 1958.1 In 1956, the Rebbe addressed the first stanza; the following year—in 1957, the Rebbe addressed the second stanza; and two years later, in 1958—the third and last stanza.

Today, we will address the first stanza: “One who did not see the joy of the water-drawing celebrations, has not seen joy in his life.” (In the second sermon, we will address the second and third stanza).

What is the root of all anxiety and all joy? Why did Jonah receive his prophecy by Simchas Beis Hashoava? What did the Rebbe tell Rabbi Adin Even Yisroel when he said that he came to America “alone?”

The Root of All Anxiety—and All Joy

Summary:

The Talmud states (Sukkah 51b): The Sages taught: One who did not see the joy of the Drawing of the Water, never saw joy in his life. One who did not see Jerusalem in its glory, never saw a beautiful city. One who did not see the Holy Temple in its full stature, never saw a magnificent structure.

The questions are numerous. First, what is the meaning of these three statements? Can’t one see joy even if they never saw the celebration around the drawing of the water on Sukkos? Can’t someone see a beautiful city, or a magnificent structure, without seeing Jerusalem and the Beis Hamikdash in their full glory?

Second, how were the sages so sure of this? Did they not think it possible to experience a profound joy not relevant to the drawing of the water? What was so unique about the joy preceding the drawing of the water that convinced the sages that there was no joy compared to it, and even more, if you did not see it, you never saw joy in your entire life?!

Third, the sages are obviously trying to convey the awesomeness of these three experiences. So why not say it in the positive: The greatest joy in the world was the joy of drawing the water; the most beautiful city and structure in the world were Jerusalem and the Temple. Why convey the message in the negative?

Fourth, why make people who were not present to see these three things feel bad? The Talmud recorded this saying of the sages a few hundred years after the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, and the drawing and pouring of the water on the Temple altar ceased. What’s the point of telling all those learning the Talmud that they would never be able to see joy or experience beauty in their lives?

Fifth, the order is also problematic. He begins with the joy of the drawing of the water, which was poured on the altar in the Holy Temple. Then he moves on to the beauty of Jerusalem, then back to the splendor of the Holy Temple. The order should have been either 1) Jerusalem, 2) the Temple, 3) and the drawing of the water which was one of the services inside the Temple. Or conversely: 1) The drawing of the water inside the Temple, 2) then the beauty of the entire structure of the Temple, and then 3) the entire city of Jerusalem?

All these questions were addressed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe during his historic Sukkos farbrengens (gatherings), in the years 5716, 1717, and 5719—1955, 1956, and 1958.[1] In 1956, the Rebbe addressed the first stanza; the following year—in 1957, the Rebbe addressed the second stanza; and two years later, in 1958—the third and last stanza.

Today, we will address the first stanza: “One who did not see the joy of the water-drawing celebrations, has not seen joy in his life.” (In the second sermon, we will address the second and third stanza).

What is the root of all anxiety and all joy? Why did Jonah receive his prophecy by Simchas Beis Hashoava? What did the Rebbe tell Rabbi Adin Even Yisroel when he said that he came to America “alone?”
A Cheap Widow

A very cheap widow goes to a newspaper industry to write a eulogy for her late husband.

"Alright," says the newspaper guy. "I'm sorry for your loss. It'll be one dollar per word."

The widow clutches her heart in shock, then says, "Fine. 'Husband died'."

"Sorry, ma'am, but the eulogy has to be a minimum of five words."

The woman sighs in exasperation and replies, "Fine. 'Husband died. Volvo for sale'."

A Bus of Politicians

A busload of politicians was driving down a country road, when suddenly the bus ran off the road and crashed into an old farmer's barn. The old farmer got off his tractor and went to investigate. Soon he dug a hole and buried the politicians. A few days later, the local sheriff came out, saw the crashed bus and asked the old farmer where all the politicians had gone.

The old farmer told him he had buried them.

The sheriff asked the old farmer, "Lordy, were they ALL dead?"

The old farmer said, "Well, some of them said they weren't, but you know how them crooked politicians lie."

If you Never Saw…

סוכה נא, ב: תנו רבנן, מי שלא ראה שמחת בית השואבה לא ראה שמחה מימיו, מי שלא ראה ירושלים בתפארתה לא ראה כרך נחמד מעולם, מי שלא ראה בהמ"ק בבנינו לא ראה בנין מפואר מעולם...

The Talmud states (Sukkah 51b):

The Sages taught: One who did not see the joy of the Drawing of the Water, never saw joy in his life. One who did not see Jerusalem in its glory, never saw a beautiful city. One who did not see the Holy Temple in its full stature, never saw a magnificent structure.

The meaning of this is as follows:

When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem (and before that when the Jews had the Mishkan, the Tabernacle), the “Pouring of the Water” (Nisuch HaMayim) was an important feature of the festival of Sukkot.

Throughout the year, the daily offerings in the Temple were accompanied by the pouring of wine on the Altar; during the seven days of Sukkos, water was poured in addition to the wine. The drawing of water for this purpose was preceded by all-night celebrations in the Temple courtyard, with music-playing Levites, torch-juggling sages, huge oil-burning lamps that illuminated the entire city and hundreds of thousands of Jews dancing away all night. The singing and dancing went on until daybreak, when a procession would make its way to the Shiloach Spring which flowed in a valley below the Temple. They would draw water from the spring, bring it up to the Temple and pour it on the Altar.

For all the days of the water drawing,” recalled Rabbi Joshua ben Chanania, “our eyes saw no sleep,”[2] for the nights of Sukkot were devoted to the singing, dancing and celebrating in preparation to “draw water with joy.”

Thus, the Talmud declares: “One who did not see the joy of the water-drawing celebrations, has not seen joy in his life.”

Then, it continues: “One who did not see Jerusalem in its glory, never saw a beautiful city. One who did not see the Holy Temple in its full stature, never saw a magnificent structure.”

Five Questions

The questions are numerous.

(Note: Based on your audience, you can of course skip some of the questions. Also, we included here some questions that will only be addressed in the second Sukkos sermon.)

First, what is the meaning of these three statements? Can’t one see joy even if they never saw the celebration around the drawing of the water on Sukkos? Can’t someone see a beautiful city, or a magnificent structure, without seeing Jerusalem and the Beis Hamikdash in their full glory?

Second, how were the sages so sure of this? Did they not think it possible to experience a profound joy not relevant to the drawing of the water? What was so unique about the joy preceding the drawing of the water that convinced the sages that there was no joy compared to it, and even more, if you did not see it, you never saw joy in your entire life?!

Third, the sages are obviously trying to convey the awesomeness of these three experiences. So why not say it in the positive: The greatest joy in the world was the joy of drawing the water; the most beautiful city and structure in the world were Jerusalem and the Temple. Why convey the message in the negative?

Fourth, why make people who were not present to see these three things feel bad? The Talmud recorded this saying of the sages a few hundred years after the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, and the drawing and pouring of the water on the Temple altar ceased. What’s the point of telling all those learning the Talmud that they would never be able to see joy or experience beauty in their lives?

[One may say, it was just a quip by the sages to describe the intense joy and profound beauty. Like someone might say, “If you weren’t at the weeding, you never saw a wedding.” Yet. The observations of the sages are extremely profound and nuanced. Especially if they were record in the Talmud—it is part of the Torah’s roadmap for life.]

Fifth, the order is also problematic. He begins with the joy of the drawing of the water, which was poured on the altar in the Holy Temple. Then he moves on to the beauty of Jerusalem, then back to the splendor of the Holy Temple. The order should have been either 1) Jerusalem, 2) the Temple, 3) and the drawing of the water which was one of the services inside the Temple. Or conversely: 1) The drawing of the water inside the Temple, 2) then the beauty of the entire structure of the Temple, and then 3) the entire city of Jerusalem?

(This last question will only be answered in the second Sukkos sermon.)

All these questions were addressed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe during his historic Sukkos farbrengens (gatherings), in the years 5716, 1717, and 5719—1955, 1956, and 1958.[3] In 1956, the Rebbe addressed the first stanza; the following year, 1957, the Rebbe addressed the second stanza; and two years later, in 1958—the third and last stanza.

Today, we will address the first stanza: “One who did not see the joy of the water-drawing celebrations, has not seen joy in his life.” (In the second sermon, we will address the second and third stanza).

The Split of the Waters

The entire ceremony around the drawing of the water seems strange. What was so joyous about pouring water on the Altar? Why the unbridled joy that accompanied this ritual, to the point that if I did not see this celebration, I never saw happiness in my life?

In fact, wine is far more “exciting” than water, and far more associated with joy and celebration. Yet for the daily pouring of the wine there was no special joy; for the pouring of the water, on Sukkos, the dancing went on all night?

The Midrash reveals[4] that this special celebration was ordained from the very origin of creation. The Torah tells us in the opening of Genesis that when G-d created the world, all was water.[5] “The Divine spirit hovered over the waters.”

Then, on the second day of creation, G-d created a division between the heavenly waters above the firmament (sky), and the earthly waters below, the bodies of water on our planet, gathered in oceans, rivers, springs, and lakes. The Midrash records that following the division of the waters, the earthly waters began weeping, "We, too, crave to be close to G-d."[6]

To comfort them, G-d made a covenant that the water below would be poured on the Temple Altar every Sukkos.[7]

But what is all this supposed to mean? Since when do waters weep? And if they were so sad, why didn’t G-d just cancel the division? And how were the waters comforted by being promised that they would ascend on the Altar during Sukkos.

There is a profound symbolism here.

A Nervous Nation

Just days before Sukkos, a new study emerged.[8]

Anxiety has always been an uncomfortable fact of life. Even the calmest of individuals experience the occasional nervous moment. But according to a new survey of 2,000 Americans, a shocking one in five respondents say they feel anxious so often that they believe they are dealing with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.

Yes, this is a nervous nation.

What are Americans’ biggest anxiety triggers? Work was listed as the number one source of anxiety among respondents, with just under half listing it as their most frequent trigger. That’s followed by social events or going out (47%), financial worries (45%), and romantic relationship issues (40%). Social media is contributing significantly to this rise in anxious Americans as well, with 35% of respondents listing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as major sources of their day-to-day anxiety.

When asked why social media is stressing them out so much, respondents said the pressure to be “perfect” is often too much to handle, as well as the belief that they need to portray themselves as successful and funny online. Furthermore, 72% of respondents say that comparing their lives to other people on social media makes them feel inadequate and unsuccessful.

The Origin of All Anxiety

But Judaism asks us to go one step deeper and wonder what is the root of all anxiety? Sure, my work stresses me out. My finances. My marriage, or my boy friend or girlfriend, or social events, or whatever the particular cause of your anxiety is at that time. Your anxious about a meeting; your anxious because how the conversation with your mother went; your anxious because you need to find a new apartment; your anxious because your anxious… But what’s the root of it all?

It’s the source of all anxiety—that Simchas Beis Hashovah is attempting to address. The pouring of the water on the Altar was no plain ritual; it went to the core of human anxiousness, trauma, stress, and sadness. It tried to help us see things in a different way, and hence enjoy life in a new way. Which is why you can’t really experience happiness in life if you have not seen and internalized the message behind the joy of the pouring of the water in the Holy Temple.

Loneliness

What is the root of all anxiety, in its deepest core? Of course, it manifests itself in millions of different ways and comes out in numerous different instances and situations. But if we can trace it all back to its core of cores, to its deepest origin, to the ultimate source of angst, what would we discover? If we can be given an x-ray, not only of our minds, but also of our souls, where would we locate the origin of anxiety?

The answer presented by the Rebbe at that Sukkos “farbrengen” of 1955 (5716) was this: It’s because I feel lonely; I feel that I am alone in the world.

Think about all your anxiety, and ask yourself what is behind it? Go deeper and yet deeper, and deeper yet; peel away all the outer layers of the “onion” called anxiety—and at the core of the onion you will probably find that there is a fear of a profound solitariness.

Your spouse just hung up the phone, and you feel anxious. Why? Sure, because she just scolded you. But why are you afraid of being scolded by your spouse? Go deeper and deeper, and you will find that the core of the fear is: Loneliness. I feel like I am alone in the world. I am unloved.

I may not feel the loneliness; I may feel only my secondary emotions—anger, frustration, irritation. But at the core of it, there is a feeling of loneliness.

You are freaking out about something that may happen to you, in terms of work, health, money, relationships. What’s behind all the fear? Go deeper and deeper, and you will discover, at least inmost of the cases, that deep down I am anxious because I feel like I will remain alone; I will lose that which grants me security, and give me a place of dignity in our world.

That, psychologists tell us, is what trauma does to a person and why it can be so damaging: You feel disconnected, alone, forlorn, and abandoned. You can’t trust anybody or anything.

And where does this loneliness stem from?

The Division

When G-d created the cosmos, His unity and presence were complete in the world. That’s why in the beginning of existence, everything was water: The only thing that G-d had created outside himself was the reflection of His presence, as is the natural property of water. The entire significance of creation at that point was that it was a reflection of the Divine truth.

But then, on Monday, a division happened. There are higher waters and lower waters. There are the “waters,” the higher realities which reflect the Divine reality; but there are also lower waters which reflect physical matter.

At that moment was created the split that defines all of existence—the split between your spiritual core, and your outer, physical and chemical being. I am not sure anymore who I am. I’m I just my own person, trying to satisfy my ego, and survive in a tough and cruel world, or I’m I a mirror of infinity, I am G-d’s light in this world? The split allowed me to feel alone in this world—detached, isolated, and lonely.

Mountain of Dust or Vision of G-d?

The split created also a crisis of identity. Who I’m I? I’m I just a simple beast, trying to fulfill my cravings, or I’m I an idealistic person, seeking truth and oneness with G-d? I’m I just a gluttonous insecure beast or I’m I fragment of the ultimate truth? What do I really need to be happy?

I pursue all types of pleasures, hoping they will grant me happiness. Why? Because I am under the impression that I am just a mechanical being. And if I can generate pleasure in my brain, I will be a happy person. But it never works. Ask any addict and he or she will tell you.

You are feeling this void and emptiness in your life. You try to fill it with all types of distractions, from buying cars, to drinking alcohol, to going on vacations. All exciting, but to no avail. You are still feeling this nagging inner emptiness.

The void remains, because the source of anxiety is coming from my separation from my “higher waters.” No material pursuit in the world can fill that void.

All the issues I bring in up therapy about my inner conflicts and causes of anxiety, are all rooted in the division of day two of creation—the split between the higher waters and the lower waters. Between my vision of my self as the light of G-d, or my vision of myself trying to survive in an inhospitable and cruel world.

The Promise

The lower waters wept. They felt detached, and forlorn. Don’t we all weep for the same reason. I am empty. I am alone. And I am empty.

G-d promised them that on each Sukkos, the Jewish people will observe the ritual of pouring these lower waters flowing in the springs in the earth over the Altar, symbolizing the unification of the lower waters with their Heavenly source. And this mitzvah invited the greatest joy in life. Because it is this unification, that holds the secret to the root of all anxiety—and the root of all joy.

On Sukkos we discover the truth: The division is not real. You are never alone. You are Divine.

The entire division is only here to allow you to reveal your oneness; to allow you to reunite the waters through your courage, conviction and labor. There are no “two waters” in Judaism. You are never ever alone. G-d is with you, and in you, at every single moment. You are the light of G-d in this world. Your heartbeat is, in essence, a mirror of the Divine heartbeat. G-d and you are completely one, every moment, every nanosecond, every breath.

This is not an exaggeration. It is the raw and real truth. In the words of King David in Psalms 139:

Where shall I go from Your spirit, and where shall I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend to the heavens, there You are, and if I make my bed in the abyss, behold, You are there.

Alone?!

One of the greatest Jewish scholars living today is Jerusalem’s Rabbi Adin Even Yisroel (Steinsaltz), who authored some 70 books, and translated the entire Talmud into Hebrew and English.

I saw a video clip of a visit he paid to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the early 90s. After speaking about his new books, the Rebbe asks: How is your wife? Is she fine?

Rabbi Adin says: Yes, she is fine. Thank G-d. but I am here [in the US] alone.

The Rebbe pauses, reflects for a moment, and then lifting up his hands says to this Israeli sage:

“What do you mean you are ‘alone?!’ You are not alone; you are with G-d.”[9]

I wondered what was the Rebbe saying to him? The Rebbe asked him how is wife was, so he said that he came to America alone, meaning without his wife. Could the Rebbe not leave it at that?!

No! Because it is the essence of Judaism—and the root of all joy in life. Even if your wife did not accompany you on your trip, never say you are alone. You are not alone. There is no such a thing as “alone,” outside of your own perception. You are never alone. You may feel you are alone, but that is only so that you take your lower, lonely waters, and choose to see them as not alone.

The drawing of the water also teaches you that there is only ONE WAY you can fill the void in your psyche: by uniting your two waters, by aligning your physical self with your spiritual self, because you are not a brute mechanical being, you are G-d’s light in this world. Material indulgence will never ever solve my existential loneliness. The void will endure, because the lower waters are never really separated from the higher waters. The separation is only there for me to reveal their innate oneness. Unity inner peace of mind can only be achieved if we establish the supremacy of our spiritual identities.[10]

 The Secret to Joy

This is the meaning of the Talmudic observation: If I did not “see” and internalize the message of the drawing of the water on Sukkos, I never saw joy in my life. This is a timeless message. For me and you to experience true joy in our lives it is only if we can take to heart the message of the Sukkos drawing of the water: You are never separated, you are never alone, you are never lost, you are never detached, you are never forsaken, you are never ever on your own. You ate always embraced by the Divine, holding your hand, guiding you, nurturing you, and believing in you. The only reason there is a sense and perception of detachment is so that you would bring back to the lower waters to the higher waters, that you should choose to see the constant unity and oneness.

And then, at every moment of your life, you will be able to discover joy, meaning and purpose. Knowing that you are never alone, that G-d is ALWAYS walking with you, shining through you, and empowering you to express His light in the world, you can walk with a sense of confidence, joy and inner celebration.  

Edith Eger Therapy

93-year-old Edith Eva Eger, who survived Auschwitz, and is a practicing therapist today in Lo Jola, California, described in her book “The Choice” her therapy work.

Two patients enter her office. The first women is crying her heart out: her son is dying from hemophilia.

The second woman comes in and is crying over the fact that her new Cadillac came in a different shade of color than she had anticipated.

Edith Eger maintains that both women are suffering from some form of trauma. The woman crying over her dying son, is in touch with what’s really bothering her. The woman crying over the color of her Cadillac, is really crying about her lifeless marriage, and her having given up all of her dreams to be with her wealthy husband. And is learning that that money is not making her happy, regardless of how many cars she buys.

So Edith Eger tells her patients:

“When you go to the bathroom in the morning you can look in the mirror and say, ‘It’s going to be another crappy day.’ Or, you can say, ‘I’m going to honor myself, treasure myself, cherish myself and I can make a difference today.’ Practicing love and kindness can be as simple as making eye contact when you go to the grocery store.”

“Suffering is universal,” Edith says. “Victimhood is optional.” We’ll all inevitably face some kind of affliction, calamity or abuse. We often have little or no control over these outside circumstances. But, she says, “Victimhood comes from the inside. We become victims not because of what happens to us, but when we choose to hold on to our victimization.” We develop, she says, a “victim’s mind”—thinking and actions that are rigid, blaming, pessimistic, stuck in the past and unforgiving.

Sadly, there is no one on this planet who has not experienced some form of trauma. Some tragically, genuine suffering of abuse, neglect or even a literal Holocaust, and some lesser disappointments. But we all have our individual losses.

“We don’t have a choice about our victimization,” Eger says to us, “but we do have a choice about our victimhood.” Do we want to be defined by our traumas, or by our recovery.

How can one really achieve this? Only when you can completely let go of your perception of self as alone and lonely in this world.

Jonah

With this, the Lubavithcer Rebbe explained another fascinating story. On Yom Kippur we read the story of Jonah and the whale. G-d sent Jonah to warn Ninveh to repent, if not the entire city will be destroyed. He decides to run away from G-d. He is swallowed by a fish, then he’s spit out and he fulfills his mission. How did Jonah become a prophet?

The Jerusalem Talmud says: It was on Sukkos, during the dancing before the drawing of the water. Jonah was one of the many Jews who came to the Holy Temple for Sukkos, and he participated in the dancing all night prior to the water drawing. That’s when Divine inspiration was conferred upon him.

תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת סוכה פרק  :א"ר יהושע בן לוי למה נקרא שמה בית שואבה שמשם שואבים רוח הקודש על שם (ישעיהו יב) ושאבתם מים בששון ממעיני הישועה… יונה בן אמיתי מעולי רגלים היה ונכנס לשמחת בית השואבה ושרת עליו רוח הקודש ללמדך שאין רוח הקדש שורה אלא על לב שמח מ"ט (מלכים ב ג) והיה כנגן המנגן ותהי עליו רוח אלהים.

But what might be the connection? Why from all the people did he experience the gift of prophecy at that occasion?

There is a profound message here. Jonah’s story and prophecy taught us two truths: 1. You can’t run from G-d. You can always return to G-d. Even a corrupt city like Ninveh can return to G-d.

Thus, his entire prophecy commenced during the drawing of the water. For these two messages are at the core of this mitzvah: You are never ever separated from G-d. Even if you think you are running from G-d, you can’t, because you are Divine, you are part of G-d; you are always linked with G-d. Even if you try very hard, you can never separate your physicality from your spirituality—you are not a brute being, you are the light of the Divine. Your lower water is never really distinct from your higher water; it too must ascend on G-d’s altar.

And even if you feel your whole life was one of alienation, it does not matter. You can always return, like Ninveh. Because it is your ultimate truth and core.

The Story Saved My Life

There was a Jewish child who has witnessed and endured unthinkable suffering at the hands of the Nazis in seven different death camps. At the age of ten, he came to Auschwitz with his father, who perished there on the very day of liberation. The young boy spoke twice with the monster Dr. Joseph Mengeleh, each time surviving him miraculously.

At the age of 11, he was sent on the Death March from Poland to Germany, as the Russians were invading. The march continued for seven days, in which he and the other Jews were not allowed to eat only the muddy snow on the earth. At some point he was unable to march any longer. His leg was so badly injured and he was in so much pain, he thought of stepping out of the line and getting shot, since he felt death was inevitable. He spoke to an 8 year old boy from his town in Czechoslovakia who supported him so he could walk. But his energy was deleting.

And then he suddenly remembered the warm and bright Shabbos table at his home before the war, where his father often repeated a story of the Baal Shem Tov.

A man left home and went to visit the holy Baal Shem Tov in another city. Suddenly, the man’s wife started to go into labor. He was called for by the midwife to return home immediately, and the only way home was through dark and dangerous woods, which were filled with thieves at night. The Baal Shem Tov told the man to go home.

The man protested. “How can I trek through that forest alone?”

“A Jew never walks alone.” “A Yid Geit Keinmal Nisht Alein,” said the Baal Shem Tov.

As the boy was on the death march, he began telling himself “A Jew never walks alone.” “A Yid Geit Keinmal Nisht Alein.” He felt a new vitality, and he survived.

This young boy’s name is Rabbi Nissan Mangel, and the siddur many of you are holding in your hands is his translation. What saved him? The conviction that we never walk alone; that G-d is with us. And indeed, this young boy has brought the gift of prayer, of a connection with G-d, to countless Jews, including those of us sitting here and enjoying the Chabad English prayer book!

Trust

We all go through struggles sometimes. Sometimes you don’t think you’re going to make it through. But when you feel all alone, remember G-d is always right there with you.

Think of G-d as a parent embracing their child in a dark room. A child’s imagination conjures up all kinds of troubles that lurk in the dark, but the parent holds the child close and speaks words of comfort to their little one.

We may feel like we’re in a dark room. We can’t see the future and we perceive only trouble is going to come. But G-d speaks to us softly and reminds us that He is always here with us, holding us close. So you don’t have to be afraid of your future because with G-d it’s always bright.

A Woman on the Bus

Rabbi Fischel Schachter told the story of a woman, a Holocaust survivor, who settled in America after the war and was married for twelve years without having children. One day she was sitting in a doctor's office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, and the doctor, going over her charts, said to her, "Madame, please listen to me. I am saying this for your own benefit - give up. Medically speaking, there is nothing we can do so you can have children. When hair will grow from my palm, that is when you will have a child."

The woman left and boarded the Madison Ave. bus. During the ride, she contemplated her life. She recalled the horrors she experienced as a young girl in Poland, when the family had a trap door beneath the dining room table and they would go and hide under the floor when the Nazis approached. She volunteered to be the one to close the door, put the carpet over it and then hide on top of a piece of furniture. She would sit there, all curled up, and listen in terror as the Nazis searched the house, smashing furniture as they went from room to room. Time and time again, the family was saved. But finally, the Nazis noticed a soft spot on the floor, and they discovered the trap door. This young girl watched as the Nazis dragged her family away. She was the only one who survived the war.

Once she got to America, she desperately wanted to begin a family. And now, after twelve long years, her hopes were shattered.

 She said to herself, "I have no reason to get off this bus." And so she stayed on the bus, sitting there the rest of the day. Finally, the driver informed her that he was driving the bus to the garage for the night, and she needed to disembark.

"I have nothing to live for," she muttered.

"Listen, lady," the driver said, "I've had a hard day. I don't know what your problem is, but you're not going to solve it by staying on this bus."

She got off the bus and said, "Master of the world, You were with me all along. You saved my life countless times. You brought me here. You let me start my life over, and so it is in Your hands. I have no right to give up. The bus driver is absolutely right - You didn't save my life for me to live on the Madison Avenue bus. Please tell me what to do. I won't give up. I will continue serving You no matter what."

A year later, she had a child.

That child grew up, got married, and has his own grandchildren. By the time this woman passed away, she had enough great-grandchildren to make that doctor's hair stand up dozens of times.

Rabbi Fischel Schachter added that he heard this story firsthand from the woman herself, whom he knew quite well. She was his mother. He today has 14 children and many many grandchildren, G-d bless them.

 

[1] Published in Yiddish in Sichos Kodesh; in Hebrew—in Toras Menachem.

[2] Sukkah 53a

[3] Published in Yiddish in Sichos Kodesh; in Hebrew—in Toras Menachem.

[4] Midrash—quoted in Rashi, Ramban, and Rabanu Bechaye to Vayikra 2:13. Tikkunei Zohar Tikkun 5, p. 19b. Cf. Midrash Aseres Hadibros 1. Tehilim Yahel Or p. 334.

[5] See Midrash Rabah Bereishis section 5. Likkutei Sichos vol. 30 Parshas Noach.

[6] This is the expression used in Tikkunei Zohar ibid.

[7]  He also promised that salt, which comes from the sea, would be placed on every single offering. See Toras Menachem Sichas Simchas Beis Hashoavah 5716, why we don’t celebrate when we pour salt on an offering.

[10] This idea from Sukkos 5716, is also discussed in the Rebbe’s letter written to the conference on Jewish Mysticism in England, published in the book “To Touch the Divine.”

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    Sukkos 5780

    Rabbi YY Jacobson
    • October 13, 2019
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    • 14 Tishrei 5780
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    Class Summary:

    The Talmud states (Sukkah 51b): The Sages taught: One who did not see the joy of the Drawing of the Water, never saw joy in his life. One who did not see Jerusalem in its glory, never saw a beautiful city. One who did not see the Holy Temple in its full stature, never saw a magnificent structure.

    The questions are numerous. First, what is the meaning of these three statements? Can’t one see joy even if they never saw the celebration around the drawing of the water on Sukkos? Can’t someone see a beautiful city, or a magnificent structure, without seeing Jerusalem and the Beis Hamikdash in their full glory?

    Second, how were the sages so sure of this? Did they not think it possible to experience a profound joy not relevant to the drawing of the water? What was so unique about the joy preceding the drawing of the water that convinced the sages that there was no joy compared to it, and even more, if you did not see it, you never saw joy in your entire life?!

    Third, the sages are obviously trying to convey the awesomeness of these three experiences. So why not say it in the positive: The greatest joy in the world was the joy of drawing the water; the most beautiful city and structure in the world were Jerusalem and the Temple. Why convey the message in the negative?

    Fourth, why make people who were not present to see these three things feel bad? The Talmud recorded this saying of the sages a few hundred years after the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, and the drawing and pouring of the water on the Temple altar ceased. What’s the point of telling all those learning the Talmud that they would never be able to see joy or experience beauty in their lives?

    Fifth, the order is also problematic. He begins with the joy of the drawing of the water, which was poured on the altar in the Holy Temple. Then he moves on to the beauty of Jerusalem, then back to the splendor of the Holy Temple. The order should have been either 1) Jerusalem, 2) the Temple, 3) and the drawing of the water which was one of the services inside the Temple. Or conversely: 1) The drawing of the water inside the Temple, 2) then the beauty of the entire structure of the Temple, and then 3) the entire city of Jerusalem?

    All these questions were addressed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe during his historic Sukkos farbrengens (gatherings), in the years 5716, 1717, and 5719—1955, 1956, and 1958.1 In 1956, the Rebbe addressed the first stanza; the following year—in 1957, the Rebbe addressed the second stanza; and two years later, in 1958—the third and last stanza.

    Today, we will address the first stanza: “One who did not see the joy of the water-drawing celebrations, has not seen joy in his life.” (In the second sermon, we will address the second and third stanza).

    What is the root of all anxiety and all joy? Why did Jonah receive his prophecy by Simchas Beis Hashoava? What did the Rebbe tell Rabbi Adin Even Yisroel when he said that he came to America “alone?”

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