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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Succos 5768

The Torah reading on the first day of Succos in Israel and the second day, as well, outside of Israel, is found in Leviticus 23. There the cycle of holidays is mentioned.

The holidays are described in this order: Pesach; (then is mentioned the Omer offering of the first grains of the year) then Shavuos, 50 days later; then the holidays of the month of Tishrei, Rosh Hashana; Yom Kippur and finally Succos. Then we have verses 23:37,38 "These are the appointed times of Hashem" etc.. And only after this summation we are told the laws of the 4 species (Esrog, Lulav, willow branch and myrtle branch). This verse is a summation of the holidays.


We notice that laws of Succos are split up in two places. First, before the summation (together with all the other holidays) the law of building a succah is mentioned and then later after the summation is added, as if as an after thought, the laws of the 4 species are mentioned.

Rashi does not comment on this nor do the classical commentaries Ramban & Ibn Ezra.

Can you think of an explanation for splitting up the laws of Succos?

Your Answer:


An answer was given by Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman (1843-1921) a student of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch. He points out that the mitzvos in the book of Leviticus were given to Israel but with particular attention to the Jews who were living in the wilderness. Therefore only those mitzvos that were applicable in the wilderness are mentioned. When mitzvos that are tied to the Land of Israel are mentioned (like the Omer offering) they are introduced by the phrase "When you come into the Land..."verse 23:10. This indicates that the rest of laws were applicable even before they came into the land.

Now when we come to the laws of the 4 species, which are laws which can apply only after entering the land, they are placed after the summation. Since all that was mentioned before the summation was applicable even in the wilderness. The 4 species were grown in Israel and that mitzva could not be kept in the wilderness.

In light of Rabbi Hoffman's explanation it is interesting to note that when the law of the succah is first mentioned in this chapter (verse 23:34) before the summation, no reason is given for having a succah. But when it is mentioned again (23:42) after the summation (remember - those are laws for people already living in Israel, the next generations) the reason is given as "So that your generations should know that I made the Children of Israel dwell in succos when I brought them out of the land of Egypt..."

The reason is clear. When the mitzvah of succah was given to those still wandering in the wilderness, they were already living in succos, so they certainly knew why they were in succos, they didn't have to be reminded! But only future generations - after they entered the Land of Israel, had to keep in mind the reason for sitting in the succah. So here and only here the Torah gives us the reason.

The precision of the Torah's words and its choice of phrasing is astounding; it never ceases to amaze and inspire.

Chag Somayach & Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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