Shmini Atzeret; The Extra Which is Greater Than the Primary

This guest Drash is by Rachamim Bitton of Jerusalem's Nahar Shalom Yeshiva located in the Nachlaot neighborhood.


The final Holy day following Sukot is Shmini Ateret, which means “On the Eighth is a Communion”.

בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי עֲצֶרֶת תִּהְיֶה לָכֶם כָּל מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ:

The eighth day shall be a time of restriction for you; you shall not perform any mundane work.


עצרת תהיה לכם: עצורים בעשיית מלאכה. דבר אחר עצרת עצרו מלצאת, מלמד שטעון לינה. ומדרשו באגדה לפי שכל ימות הרגל הקריבו כנגד שבעים אומות וכשבאין ללכת, אמר להם המקום בבקשה מכם עשו לי סעודה קטנה כדי שאהנה מכם:

A time of restriction for you: עֲצֶרֶת, restricted from working (Chagigah 18a). Another interpretation: Restrain yourselves from leaving. This teaches that they were required to remain [in Jerusalem] overnight (Sifrei Pinchas 55). This [word עֲצֶרֶת] is expounded in the Aggadah : (Sukkah 55b) [as follows]: For throughout the days of the festival they brought offerings symbolizing the seventy nations, and when they came to leave, the Omnipresent said to them, “Please make Me a small feast, so that I can have some pleasure from you [alone].”

The restriction and holding back implied in the word “Atzeret” represents intimacy and togetherness. It is a holding back from going on in our lives ordinarily. It is a restriction from anything on the outside so that we may experience a complete connection with Hashem on the inside.

There is an explanation given in the Medrash that compares Sukot to a wonderful banquet that a loving King made for his beloved children. They spent seven days by their loving Father’s side. At the end of these days, before they went back to live wherever they lived in different parts of the world, involved in their everyday lives, their Father asks them to stay one more day.

It was so hard for this loving father that they would return to their daily lives and possibly forget each other that He asks them to stay one more day where they come closest, to a great level of connection and expression of love, so that no matter where they go to afterwards when they return home, they will always feel that love.

It is a day of integrating that love of these holy days of Sukot so that we feel it the rest of the year, and our whole lives after that.

We merited so many tremendous lights of connection and inspiration through the Sukah and the many Mitzvot throughout these holy days that Hashem wants us to now feel that light of connection on the inside, within our hearts. He wants us to have that love and inspiration become part of us, as an embryo growing within the mother. This connection and love will become part of us and grow within us, growing our connection at the same time until our next level of connection and inspiration is revealed from within us and expressed. This next level will be similar to a born child who is born into the world, from the inside to the outside, where it continues to grow in a more revealed way.

Our Rabbis teach us in the Medrash that Shmini Atzeret is a holy day onto itself,
“רגל בפני עצמו”.

The “Bet Avraham” explains that this alludes to the type of meditation, contemplation, and introspection that we must do on this holy day.

This is a ‘Regel’, a holiday in which everyone of us must look at themselves to see how much they would like to integrate, and which ways they would like to integrate the connection and the light of these holy days for the whole year.

Finaly, we must know that this day is not just an extra day added to the holy days of sukot, as we may understand from the medrash we mentioned earlier. There is a great difference between what is “תוספת”, and what is “נותר”. The latter, ‘Notar’, implies extra and unneeded.

The word “תוספת” implies an addition that comes about from the main and original. It is as needed as the original but is added on from the power and importance of the original.

It takes some focussed thinking to feel the difference between them. Something that is extra and unneeded is similar to eating for pleasure when there we have already eaten more than we need to, and that extra is not even properly digested because it is so unneeded and extra. Rebbe Nachman explains that all the powers of evil thrive from this type of extra. Whenever there is extra with no practical significance and application, extra that is not connected to the original and main intended purpose, it is the source of suffering.

The extra of Hashem is not extra at all. It is added from the same level of the original, and has its same significance, if not more.

Our Rabbi teach us in the Medrash that the additions that Hashem adds are greater than the original.
תוספתו מרובה על העיקר

This is the opposite of the other type of extra where the addition is less important than the original.

Having a meal, for example, and eating enough for living healthily is the original level of importance, while any added food from that point on would be less important to the person. This is an example of מותרות.

The addition of Shmini Atzeret is of this type of addition. It is and added day to the festivities with our father the king which has more significance and importance that the previous seven days.

Hashem doesn’t want for us to only connect to Him on the holidays. Hashem’s intention in all of these days is that that we integrate and connect to this level of connection for the whole year.

This is the ‘avodah’ of Shmini Atzeret.

This is why we rejoice with the Torah with Simchat Torah on this holy day.
It is because through our devotion to the Torah study we integrate all of the connection and light of these holy days into every part of our year and lives.

May we merit through this Holy Day of Shmini Atzeret properly connecting to this tremendous added level of intimacy with Hashem, the level of addition which is greater than the original seven days, the level of relationship which is constant and permeates every part of our lives throughout every day and the whole year, a level of connection through devotion to pleasant and real Torah study.

May we merit through this to a year full of connection, healing, rectification, and elevation until the coming of Mashiach with final redemption speedily in our days Amen!

Chag Sameach!


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