Parshas Emor.




In this Parsha we learn about all holidays of the Torah: Pesach, Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos and Shmini Atzeres[1]. Even though it’s impossible to discuss these holidays in detail, what is their general structure?




In general the six holidays mentioned above can be divided in two groups. Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos with Shmini Atzeres are called “regalim”. On these holidays, the Jewish people had to come to the Temple and bring certain Korbonos. Rosh Hashanah with Yom Kippur form a separate group of the “Yomim Noraim” (Days of Owe and Judgment). We will first discuss the regalim, and then the general rectifications achieved by all the holidays.


The GR”A writes[2], that the four holidays in the first group, just like the other “fours” correspond to the four letters if the Main Divine Name[3] in the opposite order.


Letter of the Name:



Shmini Atzeres








In general, the Name of Hashem consists of two halves that are somewhat symmetric. So too, these holidays are split into two groups: Pesach with Shavuos and Sukkos with Shmini Atzeres. Each group has two holidays – the first of seven days and the second of just one day. Thus Pesach has seven days, followed by Shavuos that is one day[4]. Similarly Sukkos is a seven day holiday, while Shmini Atzeres is one day. Thus the holidays that correspond to the letter “hei” are both seven days. Note another similarity: the two seven day holidays have additional mitzvos. On Pesach, we are eating matzah and on Sukkos we are sitting in the Sukkah and picking up the four plants[5]. Shavous and Shmini Atzeres don’t have any additional mitzvos.


Now, Pesach and Shavous are related in a sense that Shavous is always fifty days after Pesach. Indeed, there is a special mitzvah to count the days between the two holidays. Thus Shavuos does not fall on a particular day of the month of Sivan, but only depends on when Pesach was. It is known that the days between Pesach and Shavuos are a period of preparation. On Pesach our nation left Egypt and it took us 50 days to prepare to receive the Torah on Shavous. We are compared to a woman who is counting the “clean” days after her period, before she is ready to immerse in the mikva and stand under the chuppah. Shmini Atzeres on the other hand follows Sukkos immediately[6].


Now we can try to draw the general picture of all holidays. Note that half of the year starting with spring and ending with fall is the time of activity and can be compared to the daytime, when most mitzvos are performed[7]. This is why all the Biblical[8] holidays are during this period. Just as the day can have two natural beginnings – the sundown and the sunrise, so too the months of Nisan and Tishrey are two beginnings (both are called Rosh Hashanah[9] – literally “the head of the year”).


Pesach starts the “big day” and is equivalent to sunrise. Shavuos follows not long afterwards. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos finish the “big day”. Just as at the end of the daytime we must summarize our activity[10], so too at the end of the year we account for what we did throughout the year. However, Hashem did not want to end the year with judgment days and gave us the holiday of Sukkos with Shmini Atzeres – time of greatest happiness that ends with the Simchas Torah[11].


May we deserve to serve Hashem in righteousness during the holidays that He gave us and be worthy of the final redemption speedily in our days.


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[1] Shmini Azteres is not just the last day of Sukkos but a separate holiday, see Talmud, Rosh Hashanah, 4b. See also Mishna Berura 668:2 regarding the person who accidentally said “Sukkos” in his prayers on Shmini Azteres.


[2] In Aderes Eliyahu on this week’s Parsha, see also Beer Yitzchak there.


[3] See our words to Parshiyos Vayerah, Bo, Truma, Tzav and Shmini.


[4] Of course all holidays are celebrated outside the land of Israel for an extra day as a Rabbinical decree.


[5] The four plants also correspond to the four letters of the Divine Name.

[6] This difference can be appreciated by those who have some background in Kaballah. As we mentioned in Parshas Pekudey the main rectification is to connect the last letter of the Divine Name which is the root of the Jewish souls, with the previous letters. It thus takes 49 days to purify ourselves and sanctify us and then only we can become “Hashem’s marriage partner”. On the other hand, the first two letters of the Name (representing Chochma and Binah) are always connected and so there is no interval between the last two holidays.


[7] See Mishna, Megilla 2:5, GR”A on Pesach Agadah starting with words “Ma Nishtana Halayla Hazeh”.


[8] The two later Rabbinical holidays are Chanukka and Purim. Chanukka is in the middle of the winter and its’ mitzvah of lighting the candles applies at night time. Indeed this holiday is supposed to “disperse” the darkness of Greek worldview that was antagonistic to the Torah. Purim falls one month before Pesach. It can be considered at the time of the dawn compared to Pesach which is like the sunrise. Indeed our sages compare Ester to a morning star (see Talmud, Yoma 29a).


[9] See Mishna Rosh Hashanah 1:1.


[10] Many have a custom to recite confessions before going to sleep.


[11] The GR”A in the second Perek of Sifra Detzniusa reveals deep secrets regarding the exact spiritual rectifications happening in the ten days of repentance, then in the following four days and at last throughout the days of Sukkos finalizing on Shmini Atzeres. See also Ramban, Vayikra (23:36) and Devarim (16:8).