if I’m not here, who is here?

Sunday, 4 October, 2015 - 5:26 am

Dear Friends,

Hillel Hazaken (the Elder, who lived about 100 years before the destruction of the Second Temple), the head of the Sanhedrin and one of the greatest Torah sages of all generations, used to dance in the Beit Hamikdash at the Simchat Beit Hashoe’va, the nightly celebrations held during Succot.

It says in the tractate of Succah (53a) that “It was said about Hillel Hazaken, that when he was rejoicing in the Simchat Beit Hasho’eva he would say, ‘If I’m here, everything’s here! And if I’m not here, who is here?’”

In other words, if I come to the Temple to rejoice, then holiness and the Divine Presence are here. And if I’m not here, it is as if there is nothing in the Temple; for what is the Temple worth without the Jew?

The Ba’alei Hatosafot (sages who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries) explain that Hillel was referring not only to himself, but to the entire Jewish People. When all the Jews are here, everything’s here. In other words, they are the ones that, by coming to the Beit Hamikdash, provide it with its content and meaning.

The Beit Knesset is like the Beit Mikdash in that sense. What is a Beit Knesset without a Jew? For if I’m here, everything’s here. And if I’m not here, who is here?

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch voiced a similar idea about the Hakafot of Simchat Torah:

The Torah wants to go around the Bimah, but since it has no legs, the Jew becomes its legs. And if the Jew is not here, how will the Torah dance?


Friends, tonight,  tomorrow and the next day we will be celebrating Simchat Torah.

Come dance and rejoice, because Hashem is waiting for us. The Torah trusts that we will come. The Shul needs us – for if I’m not here, who is here?


Chag Same’ach,


Zalmen Wishedski

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