". . . that your generations may know that I caused the Children of Israel in dwell in Booths." (Vayikra 23:43)
Rashi on this verse says that the Sukkos referred to here are really the Clouds of Glory that protected the Children of Israel when they came out of Egypt. If so, asks Rabbenu Asher, known by the name of his famous Halacha compendium, the "Tur", why don't we celebrate Sukkos in Nissan (march, April) when the Children of Israel were protected from the blazing heat of the desert by the "Clouds of Glory".
The Tur himself answers, that if people go out into Sukkah booths in Nissan, when the weather is warm and dry, it will not seem very unusual. But if they go out of their homes to dwell in booths in Tishrei when the weather is beginning to become colder and damp, then it will obvious to all that he is doing so not for his own comfort, but to serve Hashem.
The Gaon of Vilna brings a fascinating answer. We know the Clouds of Glory disappeared after the sin of the Golden Calf. The verse states, "And when Moshe saw that the people were (lit. uncovered, exposed) broken loose. . ." (Exodus 32:25) The Gaon says that this mean that the clouds of glory departed , leaving Klal Yisrael shamefully exposed.
Moshe Rabbenu went back up on the mountain on the first of Elul to receive the second set of Tablets. He returned 40 days later on the the 10th of Tishrey, Yom Kippur, and Hashem said. "I have forgiven them as you have requested." (Num. 14:20)
On the 11th of Tishrei, Moshe Rabbenu instructed the people to start building the Tabernacle. For two days, the 12th and 13th, the people brought offerings for the construction of the Tabernacle, as it is written, "...and they kept on bring free-will offerings every morning." Every morning (lit. every morning, every morning), meaning for two days. (Exodus 36:3)
On the 14th of Tishrei, all the wise hearted men brought the sum total of the offerings to Moshe Rabbenu, and on the 15th they began to work on the Tabernacle itself as it is written, "And the wise hearted craftsmen began to make the Tabernacle. . .". (Exodus 36:8) On this day the Clouds of Glory reappeared, heralding a new chapter in our history. Clearly, the 15th of Tishrei is the most fitting time to celebrate the Festival of Sukkos.
The Chiddushei HaRim gives another answer in the tradition of the Polish Chassidic masters. When the Torah, in Parshas Emor describes for us the details of the Festival of Sukkos, it instructs us to dwell for seven days in Sukkah booths ". . .in order that future generations will know that I had you dwell in booths when I brought them out of Egypt". (Vayikra 23:43)
The verse implies that knowledge is one of the requirements for properly observing the festival.
For a whole year, a Jew is struggles with his Yetzer Hara, falling time after time in transgression. Since the Gemarra states that a person doesn't commit a transgression unless a (ruach shtoos) spirit of folly overtakes him (Tractate Sotah 3a), the whole year long a person is as if without knowledge. Without knowledge, one is not able to properly fulfill the mitzvah of Sukkah.
Only in the month of Tishrei, when after the atonement of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, when a person is cleansed of his transgressions, and resolved to be a Tzaddik from now on, does he have the knowledge to properly fulfill the mitzvah of Sukkah.
THE FOUR SPECIES
Esrog - Citron Lulav - Palm Branch
Hadassim - Myrtle Branches Aravos- Willow Branches
The 3rd chapter of the Talmud in Tractate Sukkah
concerns itself with the four species that the Torah instructs
is to "take" and to rejoice with on the Yom Tov
of Sukkos. R' Yehuda states (31a) "(If the leaves
of the Lulav become spread out), you must bind them on
the top with a tie."
The Esrog which has both a good taste and fragrance, represents one who possesses both Torah learning and good deeds (mitzvahs).
The Lulav which has a good taste (the dates which grow on the palm), but no fragrance, represents one possesses Torah learning but has no mitzvahs to his credit.
The Hadassim which has fragrance but not a good taste, represent one who has mitzvahs but no Torah learning.
The Aravos which have neither taste nor fragrance represent the one who lacks (eegads!) both Torah and mitzvahs.
The mitzvah of the four species is to bind them all together. All Jews have an obligation one to the other and nobody is excluded from this principal.
This is the meaning of the Gemarra later on (32b), "We don't diminish them (the number of berries that might have sprouted up on the Hadassim) on Yom Tov." This is a hint that we musn't diminish the value of any Jew by looking at what he lacks. (R' Elimelech of Lizhensk states this idea beautiful in his prayer that is printed in many prayerbooks as an introduction to the morning service. He writes, "Please place in my heart Oh G-d, to see only the good in every Jew and not their lackings.")
Therefore we bind all the species together on the Lulav as the central figure. The Lulav which must be straight and tall, represents a Tzaddik to whom every Jew needs to connect himself. The Tzaddik is that person who is one's spiritual teacher, who shows him the way and helps him to do the soul work which is his to do in the world.
The Tzaddik/Lulav, being higher than the rest of the species, draws down divine influence into the world for the benefit of his disciples. Only when all the species, i.e. Jews, are bound to their teachers, then there is the possibility of blessing. (And we indeed bless on the taking of the Lulav.)
The Gemarra (44b), concerning the beating of the willows on the ground on Hoshana Rabba, states, "Beat them on the ground, but don't make a blessing over this". This is a hint that when the willows, which have no taste and no fragrance and represent the one who possesses neither Torah nor mitzvahs, detaches from the Lulav/Tzaddik, then there is no blessing, not for the willow and not for the the lulav bundle. Unity is a prerequisite for the bestowal of blessing.
May we all be fortunate to find spiritual teachers who will be able to guide us in the path of Torah and Mitzvahs, and teach us to serve Hashem with pure joy.
FROM AWE TO AWESOME LOVE
It is brought down that the month of Elul, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are designated for doing Teshuva. A Jew is inspired and cajoled into teshuva as he comtemplates the awesomeness of the Creator and how we are obligated to Him. It is a teshuva based on fear and awe.
When Sukkos, the season of our rejoicing comes, the process of teshuva takes a new course. In this Festive time the teshuva is based on love.
In the poem "Yedid Nefesh" which is sung on Shabbos at night and at the third meal (many Chassidim also recite it everyday as a prelude to the morning prayers), we find an allusion to this idea.
The second verse says, "Glorious, resplendent One, Light of the world, my soul is lovesick for you; I beseech you, Oh G-d, pray heal it by showing it the sweetness of your splendor. At that moment it (the soul) will be strengthened and healed and will experience everlasting joy".
The Belzer Rav, R' Aharon zt"l commented, that the operative factor here is, that at the moment when one has an exalted spiritual experience, he must hold fast to the essence of it and learn from it. The result is everlasting joy. That is what is expressed here. "I beseech you, Oh G-d, pray heal it by showing it the sweetness of your splendor". This is the moment when G-d reveals Himself in a special way to a person. If he grabs hold of the moment and internalizes its essence, then, "At that moment it (the soul) will be strengthened and healed and will experience everlasting joy". If one lets it go, and relates to the moment as just another "high", then the experience is squandered.
I have heard the above idea applied to Yom Kippur. If one grabs hold of the spiritual awakening,
inspiration and resolve experienced on Yom Kippur and brings it into the following days, then he will certainly fully experience the joy of the Sukkos season. This is the transition from Teshuva with awe to Teshuva with love.
Once, on the eve of Yom Kippur, a young Torah scholar (avrech) arrived in the town of Yaroslav. It was just before the start of Kol Nidre and suddenly the young avrech appeared in the Shul. Without any words or introductions he went up to the reader's stand and began to chant the Kol Nidre prayer in frightening and hauntingly beautiful melody. Not one of the members present in the Shul could identify the stranger or explain his behavior, but since he was clearly a person of considerable spiritual stature, they allowed him to continue uninterrupted.
After the Maariv prayer the avrech chanted all of the Shirei Yichud (Songs of Unity) and then began to recite Tehillim (Psalms) all the while standing. When the members of the shul arrived back in the morning, they found the arech still standing on his feet absorbed in prayer. As soon as a minyan assembled he began with Adon Olam and continued to lead Shacharis prayer. He himself read from the Torah and chanted the Haftorah. He said Yizhkor and then began the arduous Mussaf prayer. At this point the members were suspicious if he was indeed a mortal human being or some kind of angel that had descended on this awesome day; for his voice and his stamina were other worldly. Then there were times when the avrech was silent and the congregation sang. They themselves reached such heights of exultation that they were sure that he was indeed a mortal and they were his equals. But as the Neilah prayer drew to a close, the congregation, thoroughly swept up by his singing and roaring as he stormed the gates of prayer to bring in Klal Yisrael in Teshuva, felt certain that he could indeed be only an angel.
One of those present that special Yom Kippur, was R' Yaakov Meshullam Orenstein, the author of the work Yeshuos Yaacov. It from him that we know of this whole story. R' Yaacov Meshullam decided to follow the young man after the completion of the services. He went after him to his lodgings to see if he would eat now or not. He saw how he heard the havdalah ceremony from others and then asked his host for some kvickenish (a tasty morsel) to refresh his soul since he was hungry.
They immediately brought him some cake and fruit, but he thundered, "No this is not what I need, bring me a volume of (the Talmudic) tractate Sukkah. With that he retired to his room claiming that he wanted to rest. R' Yaacov Meshullam peeked in the key hole and saw that he opened up his book and started to learn with extraordinary exuberance, not pausing for a minute. R' Yaacov Meshullam could already not stay awake himself, so he left to break his fast and to rest. In the early morning he returned to find that the avrech was still learning and about to complete the final page of the tractate. Only after that did he proffer a sheepish request for a glass of coffee and a bit of cake.
This young avrech was none other than R' Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, the Kedushas Levi. He is the same R' Levi Yitzchok whose son writes about him in the introduction to his own book Keser Torah, that ". . . he raised up thousands upon thousands of disciples . . . and ignited within them a passion for learning Torah and serving the Creator with love. His own divine service was such that even the angels above were envious of him!"Return to the Nishmas Chayim Parsha and Holiday Archives