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Parshas Haazinu / Sukkos - Vol. 11, Issue 53
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vayavo Moshe vayedabeir es kol divrei ha'shira ha'zos b'aznei ha'am hu v'Hoshea bin Nun (32:44)

Prior to sending the twelve spies to bring back a report about the land of Israel and its inhabitants, Moshe blessed Hoshea and changed his name to Yehoshua (Bamidbar 13:16). From that time onward, he is always referred to by his new name. Why in our verse does the Torah suddenly revert and once again refer to him as Hoshea?

The Chanukas HaTorah answers by noting that the Gemora in Sanhedrin (107a) teaches that when Sorah's name was changed from Sarai to Sorah, the letter yud complained that it would no longer be used in her name. It was only appeased when Hashem "paid it back" by adding it to Hoshea's name when Moshe changed it to Yehoshua. Sorah's name was changed when she was 89, one year before the birth of Yitzchok. Since she died at the age of 127 (Bereishis 23:1), the י was neglected for the final 38 years of her life.

Hoshea's name was changed to Yehoshua when the spies were sent in the second year after the Exodus from Egypt. The events of Parshas Haazinu took place at the end of the 40th year of their sojourn in the wilderness. As such, it comes out that the yud, which was added to Hoshea's name to pacify it over its removal from Sarai's name, had already been used for 38 years, which is precisely the amount of time that Sorah lived after her name was changed. At this point, the yud had received its full "compensation," as hinted to by the Torah referring to him once again as Hoshea.

Ya'aleh v'yavo

On Sukkos, as on other Yomim Tovim, we add the special ya'aleh v'yavo paragraph to our prayers. Because we say this insertion so often, it unfortunately becomes easy to speed through it by rote without properly appreciating its depth and its meaning. To prevent this from occurring, it is worth calculating the tremendous number of bakashos (requests) that are packed into this paragraph. Although it may seem like a simple question of addition, the correct calculation involves a lot of multiplication.

We begin by asking Hashem ya'aleh v'yavo v'yagiah v'yeira'eh v'yeiratzeh v'yishama v'yipakeid v'yizacheir - May there rise, come, reach, be noted, be favored, be heard, be considered, and be remembered. This is a total of eight verbs, each of which modifies each of the six nouns which follow: zichroneinu u'fikdoneinu v'zichron avoseinu v'zichron Moshiach ben Dovid avdecha v'zichron Yerushalayim ir kadsheha v'zichron kol am'cha Bais Yisroel - our memory; our consideration; the rememberance of our forefathers; the rememberance of Your servant Moshiach ben Dovid; the rememberance of Yerushalayim, the city of Your holiness; and the rememberance of Your entire nation, the House of Israel. Multiplying the eight verbs by the six nouns to which each verb applies yields 48 requests.

Continuing through the paragraph, each of these 48 petitions pertains to each of the following seven requests: li'fleita, l'tova, l'chein, ul'chesed, ul'rachamim, l'chaim, ul'shalom - for deliverance, for goodness, for grace, for kindness, for compassion, for life, and for peace. Multiplying 48 by seven yields 336 requests in the first section of this insertion. We then proceed to beseech Hashem Zachreinu Hashem Elokeinu bo l'tova, u'fakdeinu vo li'veracha, v'hoshieinu bo l'chaim - Remember us Hashem our G-d on this day for goodness, consider us on it for blessing, and save us on it for life - which is an additional three requests, bringing the total up to 339.

Finally, we ask Hashem u'bidvar yeshua v'rachamim - in the matter of salvation and compassion - He should chus v'chaneinu v'racheim aleinu v'hoshieinu - pity, be gracious with us, be compassionate with us, and save use us. Multiplying these two subjects by the four requests that we make for each of them yields an additional eight requests, which when added on to the previous count results in a grand total of 347 requests concisely packed into this paragraph that we will be saying more than 30 times throughout Sukkos, hopefully with a newfound appreciation for the tremendous depth of its content.

B'chamisha asar yom la'chodesh ha'shevi'i ha'zeh Chag HaSukkos shivas yamim l'Hashem bayom harishon Mikra Kodesh kol meleches avodah lo sa'asu (Vayikra 23:34-35)

Parshas Emor introduces us to the Yomim Tovim. The last festival listed chronologically is Sukkos, although curiously, it is not described in the same manner as all of the other holidays. Regarding each of the other Yomim Tovim, the Torah mentions its date and then states what we are commanded to do at that time, such as eat matzah on Pesach, and blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana. However, when the Torah initially discusses Sukkos, it makes no mention of how it should be celebrated, stating simply that its duration is seven days and no work should be done on the first day. The Torah then digresses to state (23:37) that this concludes the list of all of the Yomim Tovim, at which point it reverts to discussing the laws of Sukkos (23:39-43) and mentions the requirements to dwell in a sukkah and take the four species. Why is the section discussing Sukkos split up in this peculiar manner?

Rav Menachem Tzvi Taksin suggests that the Torah is hinting to us that during the time that the Jewish people were in the wilderness, they were not obligated to sit in sukkos or to take the four species on Sukkos. The Torah explains (23:43) that the purpose of dwelling in booths is in order to remember the sukkos in which Hashem placed our ancestors after He took them out of Egypt. According to this reasoning, there would be no purpose in building temporary huts to remember something that they were experiencing on a daily basis. Similarly, the command to take the four species on Sukkos is predicated on (23:39) entering the land of Israel and gathering its produce, in which case it wasn't applicable as long as the Jewish people were wandering in the wilderness and hadn't yet entered Eretz Yisroel.

Rav Taksin adds that this understanding is alluded to by the fact that the Torah initially emphasizes (23:34) that the festival of Sukkos is to be celebrated in this seventh month - but when it repeats the mitzvos of dwelling in the sukkah and taking the four species (23:39), it refers to them being done in "the" seventh month. Rav Taksin explains that initially, Moshe was speaking to his contemporaries about the Yom Tov that they would observe on the 15th day of the seventh month of that year, and for that reason he mentioned only that the first day is holy, as that was the primary commemoration of Sukkos in the wilderness. He then declared that he had summarized all of the Yomim Tovim that they would be observing, at which point he added that in the future, after they entered the land of Israel, Sukkos would also be celebrated by sitting in booths and taking the four species.

When this chiddush (original Torah thought) appeared in a Torah journal in 1928, it generated quite a controversy, as several learned readers argued that it was too novel to be relied upon without the support of earlier sources. At that point, Rav Yisroel Veltz, the head of the Rabbinical court in Budapest who had authored the original article in which he quoted Rav Taksin, attempted to come to Rav Taksin's defense by citing the explanation of the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:43) that the reason for the mitzvah of taking the four species is to express our joy at coming out of the barren wilderness to the verdant land of Israel. In order to commemorate this, Hashem commanded us to take beautiful and fragrant fruits which grew in great abundance in Eretz Yisroel at that time and could easily be attained, which seems to support the claim that the mitzvah of taking the four species did not apply in the wilderness.

However, even with the apparent support of the Rambam, skeptics persisted in challenging Rav Taksin's chiddush, at which point Rav Veltz wrote to Rav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg for his opinion on the matter. Rav Waldenberg responded by citing additional sources to support Rav Taksin's position, including the Abarbanel, who writes that the reason for including aravos as one of the four species is because they were not found in Egypt, and certainly not in the wilderness, so Hashem commanded the Jews to rejoice with them when they entered Eretz Yisroel, where they grow in large quantities.

Regarding Rav Taksin's claim that the mitzvah of dwelling in sukkos also did not apply in the wilderness, Rav Waldenberg cited the Mabit, who writes (Beis Elokim Shaar HaYesodos 37) that although the Jewish people observed Pesach and Shavuos in the wilderness, they were unable to celebrate Sukkos because they were surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, and they were unable to fulfill their obligations by sitting in a sukkah which rested underneath another sukkah (Sukkah 1:2). He adds that this is alluded to by the Torah's emphasis (23:43) that we should sit in booths so that future generations should remember that Hashem placed our ancestors in sukkos when they left Egypt, which implies that the obligation was not incumbent immediately, but only upon future generations.

BaSukkos teishvu shivas yamim kol ha'ezrach b'Yisroel yeishvu ba'Sukkos l'ma'an yeidu doroseichem ki baSukkos hoshavti es B'nei Yisroel b'hotzi'i osam me'Eretz Mitzrayim (23:-42-43)

The Torah commands us in Parshas Emor to dwell in sukkahs for seven days beginning on the 15th day of Tishrei. The Torah adds that the reason for this mitzvah is so that we will know that Hashem caused the Jewish people to dwell in booths when He took them out of Egypt. At first glance this information seems to merely be providing us with the rationale behind the mitzvah.

However, the Bach maintains (Orach Chaim 625) that although in general a person who performs a mitzvah without mentally concentrating on the mitzvah he is doing and the reason for it still fulfills his obligation, in a case such as sukkah where the Torah specifically writes that the mitzvah must be performed for a certain purpose, this reason becomes an integral part of the mitzvah, and a person who dwells in a sukkah without thinking about the underlying reason for doing so does not fulfill his obligation. While it is important to be cognizant of this legal opinion, it nevertheless begs the question: Why is the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah different than other mitzvos, regarding which the rationales need not be focused on to fulfill one's basic obligation to perform the mitzvah?

According to one opinion in the Gemora (Sukkah 11b), we are commanded to dwell in sukkahs in order to remember the miracle of the Clouds of Glory that surrounded and protected the Jewish people during their travels through the wilderness. In light of the fact that this miracle began immediately after the Exodus from Egypt, a number of commentators question why the Yom Tov commemorating the miracle takes place in Tishrei and not in Nissan, when the miracle began?

The Tur (Orach Chaim 425) answers that the month of Nissan is in the spring, when people naturally go outdoors to enjoy the warm weather after a long, cold winter. As such, if the festival of Sukkos was celebrated in Nissan, leaving our homes to go to temporary outdoor dwellings would not demonstrate that we are doing so for the sake of the mitzvah, since at that time of year we would go outdoors regardless. Therefore, the Torah instead commanded us to observe Sukkos in Tishrei, when the weather begins to cool off and our natural inclination is to go indoors to stay warm, as at that time our decision to dwell in the sukkah clearly reveals our intention to perform a mitzvah.

Nevertheless, the Meged Yosef points out that even in Tishrei, the actions that we are required to do in the sukkah - eating and sleeping - are not inherently associated with the performance of mitzvos, as people eat and sleep every day even when it is not for the sake of a mitzvah. The commentators explain that one of the central themes of Sukkos is to elevate the physical world by using it for spiritual purposes. Therefore, the Torah specifically insists that at the time that we are dwelling in the sukkah, we must consciously focus on the mitzvah we are performing and the reason behind it, in order to imbue our otherwise mundane actions with sanctity as we transform them into holy acts that connect us to Hashem.

Al ha'sela hach va'yeitzu mayim b'tzidko chon cheshras mayim (Tefillas Geshem)

The Gemora in Sukkah (53a) recounts that at the Simchas Bais HaShoeivah celebration in the Temple on Sukkos, the pious Torah scholars rejoiced and sang a song praising the fact that even in their old age, they continued in the pious ways of their youth. The baalei teshuvah (sinners who have repented) who were present sang a different song, expressing their gratitude that in their old age they had atoned for the wayward choices they made when they were younger. Rav Yisroel Reisman points out that it is extremely unusual to find a song specifically associated with baalei teshuvah, and he explains that this is part of a unique emphasis that Sukkos places on the theme of repenting from sin.

One opinion in the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 15:7) maintains that the forbidden fruit from which Adam ate in the Garden of Eden was an esrog. If so, how are we able to use an esrog as one of the four species on Sukkos (Vayikra 23:42), when there is a Talmudic principle (Rosh Hashana 26a) that אין קטגור נעשה סניגור - an object that was used for a sin may not be used in to perform a mitzvah?

In the introduction to his sefer Shu"t Bais Ephraim, Rav Ephraim Zalman Margolios explains that the esrog teaches us the tremendous power of repentance. Because Adam did teshuvah for his sin, the very object that he used for his transgression was transformed into a mitzvah that brings great joy. This illustrates the idea expressed by the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 7:6) that before a sinner repents, he is disgusting to Hashem, but after he does teshuvah, he once again becomes beloved.

In the prayer for rain recited by the chazzan during his repetition of the Mussaf prayers on Shemini Atzeres, each stanza invokes the water-related merits of one of our righteous forefathers. In the stanza referring to Moshe, we mention the fact that when the Jewish people were thirsty, he struck the rock and caused water to come forth, and we pray that in the merit of his righteousness, Hashem should bless our water supply. Since Moshe was punished for his actions and was not allowed to enter the land of Israel as a result, why do we invoke an episode that is considered more of a sin than a merit? Rabbi Reisman suggests that because Sukkos comes just after we have done teshuvah and been forgiven for our sins on Yom Kippur, therefore it is a time when we do not need to fear prior misdeeds and specifically invoke them, as our teshuvah transforms them into merits.

In Parshas Vayeira, three angels came to Avrohom on Pesach to inform him that he would have a child. Upon hearing the blessing of the angels that she would merit to give birth to a child, Sorah laughed in wondrous disbelief and questioned how she and her elderly husband could possibly conceive a child (Bereishis 18:10-12). Hashem responded by questioning Avrohom regarding Sorah's lack of belief in His ability to perform miracles, and reaffirmed that by the following holiday she would have a son (18:13-14).

The Gemora in Rosh Hashana (11a) notes that if the episode with the angels occurred on Pesach, it would be impossible for Sorah to conceive and give birth to a child before Shavuos, which is only seven weeks later. The Gemora explains that Hashem did not come together with the angels, but rather came back later on Sukkos to inform Avrohom that by the next holiday - Pesach, which was seven months away, since that year was a leap year - Sorah would have a son. Why did Hashem wait until Sukkos to approach Avrohom instead of coming together with the angels to inform him immediately?

The Chasam Sofer explains that Hashem did not want to speak lashon hara by telling Avrohom that Sorah's emunah (faith) was lacking, and she had laughed upon hearing the angels' promise. However, after Sorah did teshuvah for this on Yom Kippur, her sin was converted into a merit, and therefore on Sukkos Hashem was finally able to discuss it with Avrohom.

We also find the theme of teshuvah and Sukkos in the Vilna Gaon's explanation that Sukkos is celebrated in Tishrei and not in Nissan, when the Clouds of Glory initially surrounded the Jewish people after the Exodus from Egypt, because those clouds were taken away at the time of the sin of the golden calf. Rather, we are commemorating the clouds that returned on the 15th day of Tishrei after Hashem forgave the Jewish people, which remained to surround and protect them for the duration of their sojourn in the wilderness.

The Vilna Gaon writes that the Jewish people were forgiven on the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur), and on the 11th Moshe commanded them regarding the building of the Mishkan. They brought their contributions for the Mishkan for two days (Shemos 36:3), the 12th and the 13th, and on the 14th Moshe realized that the donations were sufficient and announced that no more should be brought (36:6). On the following day, the 15th of Tishrei, the work began on the building of the Mishkan and on that day, the Clouds of Glory returned to the Jewish camp, which we celebrate and remember on Sukkos.

As we enter Sukkos fresh off the spiritual high of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, our closeness to Hashem should continue as we rejoice and celebrate the uplifting feeling of being baalei teshuvah whose repentance was accepted.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Torah instructs us (32:7) to ask our fathers and grandfathers for advice. Does this advice also apply to somebody whose father or grandfather isn't a Torah scholar? (Lulei Soras'cha)

2) Hashem told Moshe (32:49-50) to ascend the mountain and die there just as his brother Aharon died. Rashi explains that Moshe coveted the way in which Aharon had died. Aharon merited seeing his son Elozar wearing the garments of the Kohen Gadol and preparing to succeed him, and Hashem promised Moshe that he would die a parallel death. In what way did Moshe enjoy a similar death, as Rashi writes (Bamidbar 27:16) that his request for his children to succeed him was denied and he was succeeded instead by Yehoshua? (Kol Dodi)

3) The Gemora in Shabbos (151b) rules that it is forbidden to sleep alone in a house. Does this prohibition also apply to sleeping alone in a sukkah? (Rokeach Hilchos Sukkah 219, Maaseh Rav 221, Shu"t Doveiv Meishorim 1:79, Daas Torah Orach Chaim 639:1, Orchos Rabbeinu Vol. 2 pg. 224, Piskei Teshuvos 639:5, Ma'adanei Asher Parshas Emor 5770)

4) If a person doesn't recite the invitation to the seven ushpizin (guests) to join him in the sukkah, do they still come? (Yesod V'Shoresh HaAvodah 11:13, Kaf HaChaim 639:8, Shalmei Moed 28)

5) In what case would one not be required to bring out another Sefer Torah after an invalidating mistake was found in the Sefer Torah which is being read, even if the error was located in the first three verses of the reading? (China V'Chisda Kesuvos 7)

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