New Release – A Time to Laugh, A Time to Listen Vol. III

All those A Time to Laugh, A Time to Listen fans out there, take note! The third book in your favorite series has just been released!

Following the much-loved style of his previous two books,A Time to Laugh, A Time to Listen Volumes 1 and 2, author Rabbi Yehoshua Kurland has once again written a book of essays on various aspects of Jewish life, each beginning with a great joke and then leading into a thought-provoking article brimming with Torah-true hashkafah and life lessons.

In true Rabbi Kurland fashion, A Time to Laugh, A Time to Listen Volume 3 will make you laugh, learn…and come away inspired.

Click here to purchase online.

Enjoy a sample l’kavod Sukkos:

Sukkos – No More Questions

A man walked into a lawyer’s office and inquired about the lawyer’s rates.

 “One hundred dollars for three questions,” replied the lawyer.

 “Isn’t that awfully steep?” asked the man.

 “Yes,” the lawyer replied, “and what was your third question?”

Too many questions can be quite costly. Some people spend a lifetime searching, with their queries never answered. Others aren’t really interested in answers, as the absence of resolutions can serve as a solid rationalization for complacency and stagnation, and camouflage the need for change and reassessment.

Unsettled by past bitter experience that left many questions unanswered, a person could allow himself to drown in his acrimony endlessly, rather than resolve the issue and go on. Psychologists’ couches are filled with those who let things linger too long until some life crisis caused them to erupt and explode. Some of this could have been avoided by nipping things in the bud before they festered. Notwithstanding the severity of these difficulties and disappointments, it is nonetheless sad when one permits this to interfere in his development and in the actualization of his great potential.  Resolutions to problems do exist, as do answers to questions, but one must be willing to accept these explanations if he is to go on to build toward the future.

In the world of ruchniyus, one’s inability to surge forward in his service of G-d is often based upon a despondency that is a result of his uncertainty about his relationship with Hashem. When there are questions and confusion, it is impossible to be content.  In the absence of the joy of life, one’s ability to ascend in his service of Hashem is severely limited.  True simchah is a product of a clear understanding of one’s relationship with Hashem, and as long as that relationship is clouded with unresolved interference, he cannot thrive spiritually. When one’s sins occlude the security of that bond, it severely handicaps any attempt to joyously serve his Creator. On the other hand, when clarity reigns, and one is confident in his love for Hashem and Hashem’s love for him, he finds an inner peace that allows his chelek Eloka mima’al – his G-dly portion within to soar, and escape its incarceration.

The question is asked (Nesivos Shalom cheilek 2, pg. 195) as to why the festival of Sukkos is singled out as “Z’man Simchaseinu – the time of our rejoicing” when all mitzvos are to be done with simchah since that is the ultimate level in mitzvah performance (Rav Chaim Vital in the hakdamah to the Shaar Hamitzvos). Some suggest that Sukkos is unique, for in addition to the standard requirement for the simchah shel mitzvah, there is a special mitzvah to rejoice throughout the festival of Sukkos, as the pasuk instructs: “U’semachtem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem shivas yamim — You shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for seven days.” (Vayikra 23:41) However, others reply that indeed every one of the Shalosh Regalim – the three festivals, has a unique mitzvah of simchah as it says: “Vehayisa ach samei’ach — And you shall be altogether joyful.” (Devarim 16:15) Our question returns: Why, then, does the Yom Tov of Sukkos enjoy this special distinction?

The Nesivos Shalom explains that the instruction to rejoice on Sukkos is not simply a directive, but in fact a declaration of a truism; namely, the propitious opportunity presented to each and every Jew at this critical point of the new year. Following a momentous Elul, an uplifting Rosh Hashanah, and a purifying and cleansing Yom Kippur that crested with an unequivocal declaration of “Hashem Hu HaElokim,” the Torah proclaims an existent fact: –“Pay close attention, my precious children, you now have the potential to be b’simchah. That time has come, for I have helped you remove all of the haziness and enabled you to answer all of the questions. The doubts have been resolved, the sins atoned, the mutuality of the love relationship reestablished, and the joy of your life rejuvenated.”

Z’man Simchaseinu,” is manifest of the auspiciousness of the moment, and not simply an instruction of obligation. Not only are we commanded to make the attempt to rejoice, but we are in the position to. It is indeed Z’man Simchaseinu!

And in celebration of this opportunity, Hashem, in His endless graciousness, has granted amnesty of sorts in excluding the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos from the cheshbon avonos – the accounting of one’s sins. That cheshbon begins on the first day of Sukkos as indicated in the pasuk: “Ul’kachtem lachem bayom harishon — You shall take to you on the first day.” (Vayikra 23:40) The Medrash Tanchuma comments that the word “rishon” (first), alludes to this pardon.  “Rishon hu lachem l’cheshbon avonos — It is the first day to be counted in the calculation of one’s sins.”  Having been granted another reprieve, we find our body and soul enwrapped in the mitzvos of sukkah and lulav. These are mitzvos that clearly symbolize that our body is totally subservient and humbled to the Borei Olam. Through the act of dwelling in the sukkah, we are able to immerse our entire body in the mitzvah as we enter the tzila d’miheiminusah, the Divine protection of Hashem.

Similarly, through the mitzvah of the four species (arbaah minim – lulav, esrog, hadasim, and arovos) we take these representatives of the entire function of the human body (the komas haadam), namely the spine (lulav), the heart (esrog), the eyes (hadasim), and the lips (arovos), and surround our body completely with them, as we wave them in six directions in recognition of our subordination to our Creator, who is the Mikomo Shel Olam (He fills the world). With the removal of all physicality before Hashem, we are one with Him, confident and trusting in that relationship.

We are finally b’simchah, for all of our questions have been answered, and we have experienced yashrus haleiv, a heart that is upright and integral with Hashem. We have tasted the sweetness of the pasuk,  “Ohr zaruah latzaddik ul’yishrei leiv simchah — Light is sown for the righteous, and for the upright of heart, gladness.” (Tehillim 97:11) All of our questions have been answered with one statement: that Hashem is the G-d of the heavens and the earth “Ein od —There is none other.”

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