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Camp Sports Dvar Torah!

Dear Parents and NCSYers,
In camp, we discussed the meaning of the word “atzeres”. One of the meanings of “atzeres” is to hold back. At the end of Sukkos, Hashem holds us back in His presence for an extra day because he loves us so much. We celebrate Simchas Torah during this time too, because it is the the physical manifestation of our special relationship with God (much like how a wedding ring is the physical representation of a special reltaionship between a husband and a wife). All of the ideas that I mentioned plus a few more can be found in the Shemini Atzeres packet that we learned in camp. You can access it by clicking here. Please take a look at it to make your Shemini Atzeres more meaningful.

This week’s special Shemini Atzeres dvar torah was written by Yakov Deutscher:

Seven is the number of the natural world. There are seven days in the week, seven years in a shemitah cycle (Sabbatical year), and seven shemitah cycles in a yovel (50 year Jubilee period). Seven, represented by the seven days of Sukkos, is the world of nature. Eight, represented by Shemini Atzeres, is that which is beyond nature (A bris milah (circumcision) is performed on the eighth day of a baby’s life and represents the Jewish people being beyond nature)

The Jewish people are beyond nature. We have survived every imaginable persecution, exile, hardship and expulsion. And still, we have achieved and thrived far beyond our numbers. As Mark Twain wrote: “All things remain mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

The secret, as we know, is the special gift that God gave to the Jewish people: The Torah. Therefore, it is no coincidence that on Shemini Atzeres we also celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle. This event is lovingly referred to as Simchas Torah, literally “Rejoicing of the Torah.”

Why are we accustomed to both finish and re-start the reading of the Torah on the same day? The Rabbis explain that it is to show that the Torah is beloved to us like a new object and not like an old rule book which a person no longer treasures. Since it is brand new to us, we all run to greet it. We sing and dance for hours, carry the Torah, and express our joy at having the opportunity to come so close to God. On the day that is beyond nature (Shemini Atzeres) the nation that is beyond nature (The Jewish people) rejoices with the very thing that makes them supernatural (The Torah).

On Shemini Atzeres, as we complete this holiday season, we offer a special prayer to God for rain. Rain represents the blessings of growth and abundance. Through all the hard work of Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Shemini Atzeres we have come a long way. Our task now is to carry that energy throughout the year. Let’s do our best to make what we experienced this month last a lifetime! (or maybe just one year)

Have a wonderful Shemini Atzeres and a joyous Simchas Torah!

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