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Containment of Shemini Atzeret

If you are like me, the classic "New Year's" resolution looks like the following . . . get inspired, commit to going to the gym this year (or the like), buy a gym membership, and then three weeks later realize . . . I have not made it to the gym one time. Yikes! What is the Torah's approach to helping make the inspiration and commitment to becoming different people on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot last?

There is a strange ending to the High Holiday Yom Yov season. This ending even comes with a strange name . . . Shemini Atzeret. Literally, the STOP of the 8th. Shemini Atzeret is its own Yom Tov Holiday immediately after the 7th day of Sukkot (in Israel Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret are the same holiday on the same day, outside the land of Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated on the 2nd day of Yom Tov). Shemini Atzeret is not Sukkot and there is no unique mitzvah attached to this day other than STOPPING from creative labor like other Yomim Tovim.

There is however an explanation given by our sages regarding the uniqueness of this day and its built into the name of the holiday. "Atzeret" mean "stop" but it can also be translated as "container". The day is set aside for us to "stop" and "reflect", "hold onto", and "contain" the inspiration we gained from the Shofar, vidui of Yom Kippur, taking of the four species, dwelling in our sukkah and so much more during this tremendous season of uplift. One more day (two in the diaspora) to "contain" what just took place, STOPPING us to help to make it last for this upcoming year.

Note: This week's Torah portion, the final one of the year, is read on Simchat Torah. Zot HaBracha can be found in Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

* Thought inspired by the writings of Rabbi Immanuel Bernstein from his book, Teshuvah.


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