Friday, October 09, 2020

simchas torah and chanukas ha'bayis

Mah inyan Simchas Torah to Sukkos, to Shmini Atzeres?  Shouldn't we celebrate Simchas Torah in conjunction maybe with Shavuos?  Why here, why now?

Aside from the general inyan of celebrating the completion of a mitzvah (as Rashbam writes in the sugya of T"U b'Av) there are two sources that point to a particular chiyuv to celebrate a siyum: 

1) The gemara (Shabbos 119) writes that Abayei would make a yom tov when one of the bnei yeshiva would finish a masechta.

2) The Midrash (Shir haShirim Rabbah 1:9) writes that when Hashem gave Shlomo haMelech the chochma he had asked for, Shlomo gave thanks, and from here we learn (says the Midrash) that one should make a seudah to celebrate the completion of the Torah.

(Shu"T Binyan Av points out a potential nafka minah between these sources: is a siyum a celebration of the maaseh of learning, the ameilus and yegiya in Torah, or is it a celebration of the knowledge acquired?  What if one learned a masechta but did not really understand it fully -- can one make a siyum?  Shlomo haMelech's wisdom was a gift from Hashem; he did not have to work to get it.  According to Midrash, it's the acquisition of knowledge that is being celebrated.)

The Hagahos Ashri"I at the end of Sukkah quotes this second source as the basis for the minhag of our celebration of Simchas Torah.

I would like to suggest that there is another source as well.

Ramban writes at the end of Parshas Naso that there is a mitzvah doraysa l'doros to make a chanukas ha'bayis just like the celebration done for chanukas ha'mishkan.  This is why Shlomo haMelech celebrated chanukas bayis rishon for a week and this is also what we will do when we have bayis shlishi, bi'mheira b'yameinu.

The Netziv in a number of place (Haamek Davar in P' Beh'aloscha, also the last piece in the Sheiltos) writes that the celebration of chanukas ha'bayis is not a celebration of the completion of the building itself, but rather is a celebration of the hasra'as haShechina that is the result of having a completed Mikdash to serve as a bayis l'Hashem.

"Ain lanu shi'uur rak haTorah ha'zos" we say in Slichos.  "Ain lo l'hKBH elah 4 amos shel halacha."  When there is no beis hamikdash, says the Netziv, that hashra'as ha'shechina is still with us, manifest in Torah.

Therefore, just like there is a mitzvah of chanukas ha'bayis when the mikdash is completed, so too, there is a mitzvah of celebration siyuma shel Torah.

In fact, the Netziv says a chiddush l'halacha (see Sheilta 45 for his proofs): the hallel recited on Simchas Torah is not a hallel that stems from the kedushas ha'yom, but rather is a hallel that stems from the chiyuv to celebrate siyuma shel Torah.

As we saw earlier in the chag from the Radomsker, Sukkos is intertwined with beis ha'mikdash.  The gemara in Moed Katan proves there is a din of ain m'arvin simcha b'simcha from the fact that Shlomo haMelech made the chanukas ha'bays just before Sukkos instead of waiting a week and celebrating the two together so everyone doesn't have to take two weeks of vacation : )  Shem m'Shmuel asks: why should Shlomo have delayed?  Every single day without a Mikdash is an unfathomable loss!  Surely he should have made the chanukas ha'bayis as soon as possible to gain every day possible of avodah.

It must be, he concludes, that the chanukas ha'bayis and the chag of sukkos are inherently related -- chanukas ha'mikdash naturally goes hand-in-hand with Sukkos.  He quotes that if not for cheit ha'eigel that caused chanukas hamishkan to be delayed until the month of Nissan, the month of rachamim, it would have taken place in Tisrei, the month of din, on Sukkos.  And according to some Rishonim, it is on Sukkos that we will celebrate the chanukah of the bayis shlishi.

Since Sukkos is the zman which is mesugal to celebrate chanukas ha'bayis, which means, according to Netziv, celebrating the hashraas haShechina that takes place through that chanukah, m'meila if we have no bayis to celebrate in we can do the next best thing -- we can celebrate that same hashraas haShechina as it is manifest in the 4 amos shel halacha, in the Torah itself.  M'kan she'osim seudah l'gomra shel Torah, and this is why Simchas Torah belongs on the calendar now.

"V'hayisa ach sameiach - l'rabos leil acharon shel chag."  As opposed to the chiyuv simcha of the other days which comes from isarusa dl'eila, an explicit pasuk in Torah sheb'ksav, the simcha of leil acharon comes from Torah shebaal peh, from isarusa d'litata of the nefesh yisraeli, from the Torah that is innate to the Jewish soul.  No matter what mishugas has been going on this year, lulei Torascha sha'ashuay..., there is 4 amos of Torah, 4 amos in the Jewish heart, where you can always find hashraas haShechina.  On the "leil acharon," the end of this bitter galus, we just need to find it within, to be marbeh simcha, and hopefully soon we will be able to celebrate the chanukas hamikdash b'poel.


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  2. I forgot where, but there's a chazal that the parshiyos we read used to take us 3.5 years to finish. I believe Ezra or anaheim k'h then established we finish every year.
    So how do we understand shmini ateres as nota kedushas hayom b'etzem but rather a siyum?

  3. "a celebration of the hasra'as haShechina that is the result of having a completed Mikdash"

    v'rav sh'lome bana'yich (Yeshayahu 54:13b)

    read not sh'lome but shalem (as in divrei ha'yamim II, 8:16) --

    much will be completed by your builders*/students...

    *read not bana'yich but bona'yich, berachos 64a (the >conclusion< of the masechta [siyum time])

    1. i.e. move the vav from sh'lOme (54:13b) to bana'yich (to get bOna'yich)