Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Koznitzer Maggid on Shmini Atzeres

Hashem tells us in P' Ha'azinu, "Ya'arof ka'matar likchi," that his words of Torah should flow down to us like dew. The gemara (Ta'anis 7) based on this pasuk writes that a rainy day ("yom ha'geshamim") is as great as mattan Torah, or perhaps even greater, as the lesser event, in this case mattan Torah, is always compared to the greater event, the rain. What's the common denominator between these ideas? When Hashem opens the skies and bestows his gifts on the world, those gifts can in the form of material blessing, geshem = gashmiyus; those same gifts can come as spiritual blessing, mattan Torah.

The Koznitzer Maggid teaches that this "yom ha'geshamim," the day of rain the gemara refers to, is a hint to the day of Shmini Atzeres when we start saying mashiv ha'ruach u'morid ha'geshem. Our focus on this day is not only on the spiritual rain that we want to fall, but also on the "spiritual rain" we want to fall as well.

In reality Shmini Atzeres should be 50 days after Sukkos just as Atzeres (Shavuos) occurs 50 days after Pesach. But, says the Midrash Tanchuma, Hashem does not want us to leave our homes in the winter to make aliya la'regel, so he tacked on Shmini Atzeres right after the seven days of Sukkos. The association between Shmini Atzeres / Simchas Torah (in chutz la'aretz we seperate off Simchas Torah as an added day; in Eretz Yisrael there is only one day of Yom Yov) and Shavuos underscores the connection between this Yom Tov and the idea of mattan Torah. Hashem gave us Pesach even though we were bereft of mitzvos and zechuyos; it therefore took 7 weeks for us to earn the right to stand at Har Sinai. After a holiday of Sukkos replete with the mitzvos of sukkah, of lulav and esrog, we earn the right to Atezres in only 7 days. Sefas Emes writes that Shavuos is the holiday of Torah sheb'Ksav; Shmini Atezers is the Torah we have earned of our own accord, the holiday of Torah sheBa'al Peh.


  1. LAD, there is a more straightforward way of explaining the assymetry. (Of course, though, the explanation I thought of would appear more straightforward to me...)

    Pesach is about is'arusa dile'eila, so the 50 days prep for its atzeres starts when it does. Hashem wakes us up with Pesach, and in response we work toward Shavuos.

    Tishrei is about is'arusa dilesata, and thus entirely about the prep. Therefore its holidays are within the 50 days from the day after R"Ch Elul to Shemini Atzeres.

  2. Chazal are the ones who say it should be 50 days from Sukkos - that's not from the Koznitzer.