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One More Day

Posted on 09/25/2013 @ 01:08 PM

What is Shemini Atzeret besides a Jewish holiday that’s nearly impossible to pronounce and nobody’s ever heard of before? I only discovered the existence of this seemingly esoteric holiday when I was in college. So what’s it about, and what can it teach us?

Here’s the verse in the Torah that discusses the holiday (Leviticus 23:36;

36. For a seven day period, you should bring a fire offering to G-d. On the eighth day, it should be a holy occasion for you, and you should bring a fire offering to G-d. It is a day of detention. You should not perform any work on it.

לו. שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תַּקְרִיבוּ אִשֶּׁה לַ-י-ה-ֹוָ-ה בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם אִשֶּׁה לַ-י-ה-ֹוָ-ה עֲצֶרֶת הִוא כָּל מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ:

The Torah asks us to celebrate for an eighth day called “Atzeret” after the seven-day Sukkot celebration. What’s an Atzeret? This word is translated by Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, a prolific and influential Jewish commentator who lived in France in the 11th century) to mean “a day of detention,” and Rashi shares with us a story to illustrate the point. A king (G-d) celebrates with his family (the Jewish people) for several days, and then it comes time for his family to go back home. Sad to see them go, the king asks them to stay for just one more day. That’s an Atzeret – it’s the “please don’t leave just yet – I want just a little bit more time together with you.”

Shemini Atzeret is about taking an extra moment with our loved ones. We’ve just spent several weeks celebrating Jewish holidays, and after this week there won’t be another Jewish holiday until Chanukah at the end of November.

Shemini Atzeret is a reminder that time is fleeting. A BBYO program/convention/summer experience, or even an entire four-year BBYO career, can seem like a blink of an eye. It is the wisdom of Shemini Atzeret that teaches us to take that extra moment to appreciate your time with the people around you before it becomes forever a cherished memory.

This Shabbat message was written by Ira J. Dounn, Director of Jewish Enrichment of the Northeast Hub, in loving memory of Rabbi Dr. Samuel Mendelowitz

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