If you don’t see this week’s issue by the end of the week, check which may be more up-to-date

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

 Sukkos - Vol. 4, Issue 51
Compiled by Oizer Alport


V’lakachtem lachem bayom harishon pri eitz hadar kapos temorim v’anaf eitz avos v’arvei nachal v’samachtem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem shivas yamim (Vayikra 23:40)

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach related that there was a Jew who brought his esrog to the synagogue each year and proudly showed it to the other men present. After asking how much they thought it was worth, he would smugly boast that he had actually paid only one shilling (a very small amount). When they asked him how he was able to get such a beautiful esrog for such a cheap price, he explained that most people go shopping for an esrog immediately after Yom Kippur. Because demand is high at that time, the merchants are able to raise prices to very elevated levels. Recognizing this, he delayed his shopping until the afternoon of Erev Sukkos. At that time, the sellers realized that they had no chance of selling their remaining inventory and were happy to receive any token price.

The story bothered Rav Shlomo Zalman, and he approached the man to rebuke him. He told the man that the Gemora in Beitzah (16a) records a dispute between Shammai and Hillel regarding the proper manner in which to honor Shabbos. Shammai maintained that a person should already begin preparing for Shabbos on Sunday. Whenever Shammai found a nice animal for sale, he would purchase it for Shabbos. If he subsequently found a nicer one later in the week, he would buy the new one for Shabbos and eat the first one.

The Gemora relates that Hillel had a different approach – “middah acheres haysah lo.” He trusted Hashem each day to provide him with his needs for that day. He would immediately consume anything he purchased at the beginning of the week and would wait until Friday to purchase his Shabbos needs.

Rav Shlomo Zalman questioned why Hillel didn’t conduct himself in the manner that Shammai did, which seems to be the preferable approach. Further, what is the meaning of the Gemora’s phrase “haysah lo” (he had)? He explained that the Gemora emphasizes this to teach that Hillel conducted himself with this bitachon in all areas of his life, both in mitzvah performance and in his personal affairs. If he needed to purchase a new shirt, he didn’t do so in advance. He waited until just before he needed to wear it, trusting that Hashem would provide him with it at that time.

Because this was Hillel’s style across-the-board, he was permitted to use this approach for doing mitzvos. However, a person who conducts himself differently in areas relating to his personal needs, preparing in advance to guarantee himself the best item, but waits until the last minute in spiritual matters isn’t demonstrating financial savvy but a cavalier lack of respect for Hashem’s mitzvos!


V’lakachtem lachem bayom harishon pri eitz hadar kapos temorim v’anaf eitz avos v’arvei nachal v’samachtem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem shivas yamim (Vayikra 23:40)

The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 658:2) that the four species may not be taken on Shabbos. The Mishnah Berurah explains that the Rabbis made this enactment due to a fear that a Jew may be unfamiliar with the proper way to shake the four species. To learn how to do so, he may carry them to the house of a knowledgeable Rabbi, in the process violating the prohibition against carrying in the public domain on Shabbos. Although this would indeed be a tragedy, why did our Sages see fit to deny tens of thousands of people this tremendous mitzvah simply because a few Jews may unintentionally carry them to a Rabbi to learn how to shake them?

The Medrash notes (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12) that while the esrog has both a good taste and a pleasant smell, and the lulav and hadas each have one of these good qualities, the aravah which we are commanded to take together with them has neither taste nor smell. Each of the species represents a different kind of Jew: some have both Torah and good deeds, some have one but not the other, and sadly there are Jews – like the aravah – who have neither. In a beautiful lesson in the importance of unity among the Jewish nation, Hashem says that they should all be taken together to atone for one another.

The impending arrival of Sukkos is heralded by streets full of Jews purchasing the four species. Certainly when Sukkos arrives, everybody will be excited to bring his beautiful esrog and lulav to the synagogue to perform the mitzvah with great fervor. When the normal time for the taking of the species arrives on Shabbos but none are in sight, people will become curious about the omission.

Upon asking, they will be told that it is because of the aforementioned fear of another Jew accidentally carrying them outside. The questioner will wonder which uneducated Jew we could possibly be concerned about, as anybody who grew up with a formal Jewish education will know how to shake the species and will certainly know that they may not be carried outside on Shabbos for any reason.

The answer will be that we aren’t worried that a Jew in Jerusalem or Brooklyn would do such a thing, but there are sadly many Jews in Kansas City who may inadvertently transgress. The questioner will press on, challenging why the tens of thousands of learned Jews of B’nei B’rak and Lakewood must lose out because of a few ignorant Jews in the Midwest.

From the fact that the Rabbis nevertheless made this decree, we see that they understood that there is more to mitzvos than just looking after oneself to do them properly. As much as we think Hashem will be happy if we do what we are supposed to, we forget that He doesn’t look at us as individuals but as part of the collective Jewish nation. If some of His children do His will with the greatest precision while a much larger group lags sorely behind, the overall picture from His perspective is grim.

The Sages appreciated that as much as Hashem would enjoy the taking of the four species by those who know how to do so, the pain caused by those who may accidentally transgress is so great that it outweighs the pleasure He would receive. Upon understanding this, the questioner will be left with a new appreciation of the sense of responsibility which we are required to feel toward our Jewish brethren. This new recognition will inspire him to a newfound commitment to reach out to educate and draw near those unfortunate and uneducated Midwestern Jews – of whom this author is one – in a manner which taking the four species could never have accomplished!


U’seir izim echad chatas milvad olas hatamid minchasa v’niska … u’seir chatas echad milvad olas hatamid u’minchasa v’niska (29:16, 22)

            In the section describing the additional sacrifices which are to be brought on each day of Sukkos, there is a peculiar difference in phrasing in reference to the goat which is brought each day as a Korban Chatas. Although this sacrifice is identical on each day of Sukkos – one male goat – the Torah calls it a “seir izim” in connection with the 1st, 2nd, and 4th days of Sukkos, but calls it simply “seir” when it is discussed on the 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th days of the holiday. As the Torah is precise with every word that it uses, this repeated change is hard to understand.

            The Vilna Gaon offers a brilliant explanation for this linguistic curiosity. The Gemora in Sukkah (55b) teaches that a total of 70 bulls are offered on Sukkos, corresponding to the 70 nations of the world. The Zohar HaKadosh teaches that all of the nations are spiritually associated with either Yishmael or Eisav and derive their strength from them. The Zohar further teaches that Yishmael is mystically referred to as “seir izim.” Eisav is called simply “seir,” as the Torah refers to him as “ish seir” (Bereishis 27:11).

Since the Gemora explains that the 70 bulls represent the 70 nations of the world, all of whom descend spiritually from either Yishmael or Eisav, it is appropriate to offer 35 bulls corresponding to Yishmael and 35 for Eisav. Because Yishmael was the elder of the two, we begin by offering the 13 bulls on the first day on his behalf. The Torah therefore refers to the Korban Chatas of that day as “seir izim,” which refers to Yishmael, and this is repeated with the 12 bulls sacrificed on the 2nd day.

However, if the 11 bulls offered on the 3rd day also corresponded to Yishmael, he would have 36 bulls, leaving only 34 for Eisav. To allow each to have a total of 35, the 11 bulls on the 3rd day are brought on behalf of Eisav. The Torah therefore refers to the Korban Chatas on that day as “seir.”. The 10 bulls which are brought on the 4th day may be brought for Yishmael, bringing his total to the desired 35, and the goat on that day is referred to for the last time as “seir izim.” This leaves the bulls on the three remaining days to be offered for Eisav to bring his total to 35, and they are all referred to as “seir!”


Ul’Zevulun amar s’mach Zevulun b’tzeisecha v’Yissochar b’ohalecha (Devorim 33:18)

Rashi writes that the tribe of Zevulun engaged in business and shared the profits with the tribe of Yissochar, thereby freeing them from worldly concerns so that they could engage in Torah study. The Gan Yosef explains that there are no coincidences in the Hebrew language or in the selection of a child’s name.

The outermost letters in the name “Zevulun” spell the word “zan” – to nourish and sustain. To whom did Zevulun provide this support? The Torah begins with the letter “beis” and ends with the letter “lamed.” The Gemora in Kiddushin (30a) teaches that the middle letter of the Torah is the “vov” in the word “gachon” (Vayikra 11:42). Together, these letters – “beis-vov-lamed” – constitute the middle letters in Zevulun’s name, hinting to the fact that Zevulun sustains those who are knowledgeable in the entire Torah from the beginning through the middle to the very end!


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

1)     The Tur writes (Orach Chaim 417) that each of the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals is associated with one of the Avos, with Pesach corresponding to Avrohom, Shavuos to Yitzchok, and Sukkos to Yaakov. What connections between Sukkos and Yaakov can you find? (Kuntres B’Inyanei Chag HaSukkos by Rav Chanoch Karlenstein)

2)     According to one opinion in the Gemora in Sukkah (11b), we are commanded to sit in sukkahs to remember the miracle of the Clouds of Glory which surrounded the Jews during their travels through the wilderness. Why isn’t the sukkah required to cover us on the top and bottom and in all four directions, just as the Clouds of Glory covered and protected the Jewish people in the wilderness? (Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi and Gur Aryeh Bamidbar 10:34; Pri Megadim, Machazik Beracha, and Bigdei Yesha Orach Chaim 625)

3)     The Gemora in Sukkah (2b) explains that the minimum size of a kosher sukkah is seven tefachim by seven tefachim. This is because a person’s head and the majority of his body need a space of six by six tefachim, and a table on which to eat requires an additional one tefach by one tefach. According to this reasoning, why isn’t a sukkah of seven tefachim by six tefachim also kosher, as it provides the necessary room for a person’s head, body, and table? (M’rafsin Igri)

4)     The Torah expresses (Vayikra 23:40) the obligation to take the 4 species using the phrase “v’lakachtem lachem” (and you shall take to yourselves). May we derive from here that an integral component of the mitzvah is the actual picking up of the species, such that a person who picked them up before sunrise (the earliest time when the mitzvah may be done) must put them down and pick them back up after sunrise to fulfill the mitzvah? (Bikkurei Yaakov 652, Shu”t Meishiv Davar 1, Shu”t Binyan Shlomo 48, Chazon Ish Orach Chaim 149:2, Mikraei Kodesh Sukkos 2:1-6)

5)     Why does the Torah mention the mitzvah (Vayikra 23:40) of taking the four species on Sukkos before the mitzvah (Vayikra 23:42) of dwelling in the sukkah when the latter mitzvah begins immediately on the first night of Sukkos while the four species cannot be taken until the following morning? (Ayeles HaShachar Vayikra 23:40)

6)     In order to make the blessing on taking the 4 species prior to the performance of the mitzvah, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 651:5) recommends that one should either do so before picking up the esrog or pick up the esrog upside down, reversing it and fulfilling his obligation only after reciting the blessing. It is the opinion of the Rambam (Hilchos Lulav 7:9) that the 4 species need not be picked up simultaneously, and one may fulfill his obligation to take them by picking them up separately, one after the other. According to this opinion, of what benefit is the suggestion of the Shulchan Aruch, as a person who does so has already fulfilled his obligation to take the other 3 species (since they needn’t be taken together) and his blessing at that point over the taking of the lulav is said after he has already performed that mitzvah? (Mikraei Kodesh Sukkos 3:29)

7)     The blessing recited when taking the four species is “Al netilas lulav” – on the taking of the lulav. As the Gemora in Berachos (41a) teaches the principle that whatever is written earlier in a verse has precedence for saying the blessing on it, why don’t we recite the blessing over the esrog, which is mentioned first (Vayikra 23:40) in the verse? (Maharil Hilchos Lulav, Kapos Temorim Sukkah 37b, Chochmas Shlomo Orach Chaim 651)

8)     Rashi writes (Bamidbar 29:18) that the 98 sheep which were offered as sacrifices on Sukkos (14 daily for each of the seven days) served to counteract the 98 curses which are mentioned in Parshas Ki Savo from coming to fruition. Why was this done specifically on Sukkos as opposed to one of the other Yomim Tovim? (Shem MiShmuel Sukkos 5673)

9)     Hashem gave the Torah as an inheritance to the Jewish people (33:4). The Gemora in Sanhedrin (59a) derives from here that a non-Jew who studies Torah is liable to the death penalty at the hands of Heaven, as he is stealing the Torah from us, thereby violating one of the 7 Noahide mitzvos. In what way is it possible for a non-Jew to steal the Torah, as even after his study he has taken nothing away from us, and further, the Medrash teaches that a non-Jew who studies Torah doesn’t understand what he learns, so in reality he hasn’t even taken anything? (Mishmeres Ariel)

10)  Rashi writes (33:18) that the tribe of Zevulun engaged in commerce and shared their profits with the tribe of Yissochar in order to allow them to be free to engage in the study of Torah. For enabling this Torah learning, the tribe of Zevulun receives half of the reward for the study that occurs as a result of their financial support. If one is given the choice between learning full-time through the financial support of a “Zevulun” or learning half of the day while working the rest of the time support himself, which one should he choose in light of the fact that the reward for each would seem to be the same? (Keser Rosh 64, Chiddushei HaRim Avos 2:12, Ayeles HaShachar)

11)  Rashi writes (34:8) that because Aharon was a lover and pursuer of peace, every single Jew cried and mourned over his death, but only the males cried over the death of Moshe. As the Torah is coming to eulogize Moshe and relate his praises, why does it record a fact which would seem to be less than complimentary? (Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin quoted in Me’Rosh Amana)

12)  The Shulchan Aruch rules (Yoreh Deah 242:36) that one who says to his friend, “I wouldn’t believe you even if you were as great as Moshe,” is punished with lashes. The Taz explains that this is because his statement is disrespectful toward Moshe, regarding whom the Torah testifies (34:10) that there will never be a prophet as great as Moshe. Would a person similarly receive lashes if he instead said, “I wouldn’t believe you even if you were as smart as Shlomo HaMelech (regarding whom the verse also prophesies (Melochim 1 3:12) that there never was nor will there ever be a person as wise as Shlomo)?” (Matamei Yaakov)

13)  Rashi explains (Vayikra 23:36) that the festival of Shemini Atzeres is Hashem’s way of saying that after we have spent so much time together with Him during the holiday, it is difficult for Him to separate from us and He therefore asks us to linger one more day. Why does this reasoning apply only on Sukkos and not also on Pesach? (Ayeles HaShachar)

14)  Rashi writes (Bamidbar 29:35) that this Yom Tov is called Atzeres as a reference to the restriction against doing labor. As it is forbidden to perform labor on all of the holidays, why is this name specifically appropriate for Shemini Atzeres more than for any other festival?

15)  After the hakafos on the night of Simchas Torah, it is customary to read from Parshas V’zos HaBeracha. What is the source for this practice, as this is the only day of the year on which we read the Torah at night?

 © 2009 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to


Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel