שבת טעם החיים האזינו-סוכות תשע”ג
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Haazinu-Sukkos 5773
Five Questions and Answers
- Sukkos, a festival of joy, right after Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. What is the connection between the Days of Awe and the joy that we experience on Sukkos?
- It appears that going into the Sukkah is to demonstrate our frailty and vulnerability in our existence in this world. The difficulty with this explanation, however, is that the Gemara (Sukkah 11b) states that we construct Sukkos to commemorate the Clouds of Glory that HaShem ensconced us in while in the Wilderness. Given the fact that the clouds of Glory served as a protection from the elements and from our enemies, we should be required to build a permanent structure, not a flimsy hut. While it is true that the Clouds of Glory were not physical barriers but spiritual, one would think that the commemoration should be more symbolic of the protection that HaShem provided in the Wilderness.
- On Sukkos we host seven special guests, referred to as the Ushpizin. They are Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and Dovid. While the idea of Ushpizin visiting our Sukkos is as mysterious as Eliyahu the Prophet visiting our homes on Pesach night, it behooves us to understand why we need these unique visitors when we relocate our meals and sleeping quarters outdoors.
- On Chol HaMoed Sukkos we celebrate Simchas Bais Hashoeva, where we dance and sing to commemorate the spellbind festivities that our forefathers experienced in the Bais HaMikdash. One must wonder why we specifically choose this ritual to commemorate bygone days and not other practices that existed while the Bais HaMikdash standing. AN example of what one would think we would commemorate is pushing the goat off the cliff by Azazel, which was a sign that HaShem had forgiven the Jewish People from their sins. Similarly, we could commemorate the Nisuch Hamayim, the water libations that were performed every day of Sukkos. Yet, the Rambam (Hilchos Lulav 8:12-14) describes the exceptional joy that the Jewish People experienced at the Simchas Bais Hashoeva and he does not even mention the Nisuch Hamayim. Why does the Rambam not mention this important event and why do we not do anything to commemorate it?
- There is a custom to recite the blessing over the Lulav and Esrog in the Sukkah. Otherwise, there does not appear to be any association between the mitzvah of taking the Four Species and the mitzvah of Sukkah. Is there a deeper connection between these two seemingly unrelated commandments?
- There are a few reasons why we are joyous on Sukkos. The first reason is because the Torah states (Devarim 16:14), בְּחַגֶּךָ וְשָֽׂמַחְתָּ and you shall rejoice in your festival, and you shall rejoice in your festival. Another reason is offered by the Vilna Gaon, who writes that when the Jewish People sinned with Golden Calf, HaShem removed the protective Clouds of Glory from the midst. After Yom Kippur, when HaShem forgave the Jews for their grievous sin, He instructed them to build the Mishkan. The Vilna Gaon calculates that HaShem restored the Clouds of Glory on the first day of Sukkos, and for this reason we commemorate the Clouds of Glory with our Sukkos. Additionally, the reason we are joyous on Sukkos is because we have been vindicated in judgment on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 30:2) states that when the Jews raise the Lulav on Sukkos, this is a sign of their victory. Thus, according to the Vilna Gaon and according to the Medrash, we can understand why we celebrate Sukkos subsequent to the days of Awe. We will see shortly, however, a deeper connection between Sukkos and the days of Awe.
- On Sukkos we leave our homes and we enter our temporary and flimsily constructed booths. This act would appear to contradict the whole concept of joy. One would think that we would celebrate our victory in judgment by throwing a lavish party with delectable food and flowing wine. While we are obligated to eat meat and drink wine on Yom Tov, the essence of the mitzvah of Sukkah appears to be a reflection of humility and submission. In truth, however, we must understand that we enter the Sukkah for the purpose of protection, but not for physical protection. Rather, we are seeking protection from the harmful agents that wish to destroy the lofty accomplishments that we achieved during the Days of Awe. One who knows that he can seek refuge from harm will certainly experience an unparalleled joy. This, then, is another dimension of the joy that we experience on Sukkos. Specifically by taking refuge in our temporary booths we demonstrate that HaShem is our protector from all harm, even from dangers that we cannot physically perceive.
- The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 29:110 states that all sevens are holy and cherished. What better time to experience the power of seven than on Sukkos, when we rejoice for seven days? We are therefore instructed by the Kabbalists to welcome into our Sukkos these seven holy guests, as each one represents a different middah, character trait or Attribute that we can emulate.
- One of the attributes of water is that it descends from high to low places. The Torah specifically instructed us to perform Nisuch Hamayim on Sukkos, the period when we act in a humble manner by entering our flimsy booths. The joy by Simchas Bais Hashoeva was a reflection of this humility. The great Sage Hillel would declare at the festivities, “אם אני כאן הכל כאן, if I am here then all are here (Sukkah 52a). Rashi explains that the word אני alludes to the Divine Presence. Thus, Hillel was stating that despite his greatness as a Torah Scholar, he was insignificant in contrast to the Divine Presence. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Rambam omits mention of the Nisuch Hamayim ceremony. The Rambam writes (Ibid Halacha 15) that it is a matter of great service to rejoice in the performance of a mitzvah and in loving HaShem. One who is arrogant and bestows honor upon himself at a time of joy is a sinner and a fool. We can suggest that the water libations reflected the essence of water, which descends from high to low, and when one witnessed this ceremony, he was filled with humility. This was reflected in Hillel’s declaration and in the rejoicing at the Simchas Bais Hashoeva.
- The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12) states that the Four Species correspond to various Jews. The Esrog has a good taste and a good fragrance. It represents a person with both wisdom (Torah learning) and good deeds.
The Lulav (date palm) is edible, but has no smell. The Hadas (myrtle) has a good fragrance, but is inedible. It represents a person who has good deeds, but lacks wisdom. This represents the person with wisdom, but without good deeds. The Aravah (willow) has neither taste nor smell. It represents a person with neither good deeds nor Torah learning. Hashem instructs us to gather the four species together, and each specie, so to speak, atones for each other. Based on the premise that we enter into the Sukkah with humility, we can understand the association between the Four Species and the Sukkah. When every Jew can be humbled even before someone lower than himself, there is no greater reflection of humility.
Shabbos Zemiros Elucidated
מַה יְּדִידוּת מְנוּחָתֵךְ authored by Menachem over four hundred years ago
וְתַפְנוּקֵי מַעֲדַנִּים, בְּכָל שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים, and luxurious delicacies, on all three occasions. The word מַעֲדַנִּים, translated as delicacies, contains the root word עֵדֶן, Paradise. The Gemara (Brachos 57b) states that Shabbos is a semblance of the World to Come. Even the physical foods that we indulge in on Shabbos have their source in Paradise.
The Unpopular Tzaddik
Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz was a spiritual giant in his generation. At first, his greatness was mostly unknown to his contemporaries, but he had no regrets; indeed, it suited him just fine. He spent his days and nights in Torah-study, prayer and meditation. Rarely was he interrupted.
But then, the word began to spread, perhaps from fellow disciples of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, that Rabbi Pinchas was very, very special. People began to visit him on a regular basis, seeking his guidance, requesting his support, asking for his prayers and beseeching his blessing. The more he helped them, the more they came. The trickle to his door became a stream and the stream became a daily flood of personal stories and requests for help.
Rabbi Pinchas was overwhelmed. He felt he was no longer serving G-d properly, because he no longer had sufficient time to study, pray and meditate as he should. He didn’t know what to do. He needed more privacy and less distraction, but how could he turn away dozens and even hundreds of people who genuinely felt that he could help them? How could he convince them to go elsewhere, to others more willing and qualified than he?
Then he had an idea. He would pray for heavenly help in the matter. Let G-d arrange it that people not be attracted to seek him out! Let G-d make him be despicable in the eyes of his fellows!
“A tzaddik decrees and Heaven agrees,” they say. Rabbi Pinchas prayed and so it became. No longer did people visit him. Not only that, on those occasions when he went to town, he was met with averted heads and a chilly atmosphere.
Rabbi Pinchas didn’t mind at all. Indeed, he was delighted. The old pattern was restored; rarely was he interrupted.
Then the “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur passed, and there remained only four brief busy days to prepare for the Sukkot festival. In previous years, there had always been some yeshiva students or local townspeople who were only too glad to help the pious rabbi construct his sukkah-hut. But this time, not a single soul arrived. No one liked him, and no one even thought to help him.
Not being handy in these matters, the rabbi didn’t know what to do. Finally, having no choice, he was forced to hire a non-Jew to build his sukkah for him. But the hired man did not possess the tools that were needed, and Rabbi Pinchas could not get a single Jew in the neighborhood to lend him tools because they disliked him so much. In the end, his wife had to go to borrow them, and even that was difficult to accomplish due to the prevailing attitude towards her husband. With just a few hours remaining till the onset of the festival, they finally managed to complete a flimsy minimal structure.
As the sun slid between the forest branches and the Rebbetzin lit the festive candles, Rabbi Pinchas hurried off to shul. Despite his solitary ways, he always made a point to attend the congregational prayers on the holidays; besides he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to acquire a guest for the festival meal, something so integral to the essence of the holiday.
In those days in Europe, people desiring an invitation to a meal would stand in the back of the shul upon the completion of the prayers. The householders would then invite them upon their way out, happy to so easily accomplish the mitzvah of hospitality. Rabbi Pinchas, unfortunately, did not find it so simple. Even those without a place to eat and desperate for an invitation to a sukkah in which to enjoy the festival meal, turned him down without a second thought. Eventually, everyone who needed a place and everyone who wanted a guest were satisfied, except for the tzaddik, Rabbi Pinchas.
He trudged home alone, saddened and a bit shaken up at the realization that he might never have another guest, not even for the special festive meal of the First Night of Sukkos. Alas, that too was part of the price of his freedom…. It was worth it, wasn’t it?
Pausing just inside the entrance to his sukkah, Rabbi Pinchas began to chant the traditional invitation to the Ushpizin, the seven heavenly guests who visit every Jewish sukkah. Although not many are privileged to actually see these exalted visitors, Rabbi Pinchas was definitely one of the select few who had this experience on an annual basis. This year, he raised his eyes and saw the Patriarch Abraham–the first of the Ushpizin and therefore the honored guest for the first night of the festival–standing outside the door of the sukkah, keeping his distance.
Rabbi Pinchas cried out to him in anguish: “Father Abraham! Why do you not enter my sukkah? What is my sin?”
Replied the patriarch: “I am the embodiment of Chessed, serving G-d through deeds of loving-kindness. Hospitality was my specialty. I will not join a table where there are no guests.”
The crestfallen Rabbi Pinchas quickly re-ordered his priorities. He prayed that everything be restored to as it had been, and that he should find favor in the eyes of his fellows exactly as before. Again his prayer was answered. Within a short time, throngs of people were again finding their way to his door; seeking his guidance, asking his support, requesting his prayers, and beseeching his blessing. No longer could he devote all or even most of his time to his Torah-study, his prayer, and to his meditation. But thanks to his holy Sukkot guest, this was no longer seen as a problem.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Haazinu-Sukkos 5773
is sponsored in honor of the upcoming completion of Maseches Brachos in the Daf Yomi cycle by Jews worldwide. If you live in Michigan, within driving distance during the week and walking distance on Shabbos, please join us for an exciting (ask the present attendees, they say they love it!) Shiur as we begin Maseches Shabbos this Thursday morning, October 4, 2012 י”ח תשרי תשע”ג, at Maor Torah Center located in Dovid ben Nuchim 14800 Lincoln
Daf Yomi Schedule
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Sunday 8:00 AM followed by Shacharis at 9:00 AM
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Shabbos afternoon an hour before Mincha
Have a wonderful Shabbos and a joyous Yom Tov
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