This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 22 No. 49
Yitel bas Aba a”h
with love from her family
Succos - Huts or Clouds
Remembering the 'Succos' in the Desert
"In order that your generations should know that I settled the B'nei Yis-rael in Succos when I took them out of the Land of Egypt; I am Hashem your G-d" (23:43).
The Ramban concurs with Rashi, that the Succos to which the Pasuk is referring here are the Clouds of Glory, which accompanied and pro-tected them during the forty years that they wandered in the desert. Be-cause, he explains, as opposed to the huts to which other opinions main-tain it refers, that would constitute a remarkable miracle for us to re-member year by year.
Moreover, adds the K'li Yakar, if it would be referring to the wooden huts, then the Torah ought to have written, not "I settled the B'nei Yisrael in Succos", but 'the B'nei Yisrael dwelt in Succos'.
The Rashbam, however, interprets the "Succos" in the Pasuk to the huts that the people built themselves in the winter (incidentally, the two interpretations of "Succos" are subject to a Machlokes Tana'im in Suc-cah). And he compares the Mitzvah to the Pesukim in Parshas Eikev (8:2-18), where the Torah bids us remember the miracles that G-d wrought on our behalf in the desert . And it goes on to explain that this is in order that, when we come to Eretz Yisrael, and eat, drink and suc-ceed in all our endeavours, there is a real danger that it will go to our heads and that we will forget Hashem, the source of our success in this world, and declare that "My strength and the might of my hands that made for me all this wealth". And it is by constantly recalling the mira-cles that we witnessed for forty years that we will acknowledge the extent to which our successes lie in G-d's Hands, and that we remain eternally grateful to Him for all the goodness that He bestows upon us.
Likewise here, the Rashbam explains, when, at the end of the summer we gather a bountiful harvest of corn wine and oil into our homes, the Torah bids us recall the period in the desert, when we lived in flimsy huts and did not have homes of our own. This will encourage us to acknowledge that all that we now own is the result of Divine benevolence and to give thanks to our Benefactor.
And it is for the same reason, he explains, that Chag ha'Succos takes place at the end of the summer, when we have brought the corn, wine and oil into our homes and are about to enjoy the fruits of our labour (as we explained). Because that is when the reminder is most beneficial.
Succos in the Autumn?
"I settled the B'nei Yisrael in Succos when I took them out of the Land of Egypt" (Ibid.).
Considering that Yisrael left Egypt in the spring, asks the Ramban, why does Torah advocate the Mitzvah of Succah in the autumn?
And he ascribes it to one of two reasons, depending on the definition of "Succos", which we discussed in the previous Pearl.
If it refers to the miraculous Clouds of Glory, then G-d issued us the Mitzvah of Pesach to remind us of the miracle of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim in the spring (when it took place), and the Mitzvah of Succah in the autumn, is to remind us of the ongoing forty-year miracle of 'Succos'.
Whereas if it refers to the huts, then the reminder takes place in the autumn, at the beginning of winter, as that would have been the time that they built the huts, to protect themselves from the cold.
Refer also to the final paragraph of the previous Pearl, where we cited a third answer in the name of the Rashbam.
Finally, we have the well-known answer of the G'ro: Based on his opin-ion, that the Succos comprised the Clouds of Glory, the G'ro explains that, although the Clouds joined Yisrael when they left Egypt, the Medrash relates that they departed when Yisrael worshipped the Golden Calf, and that they only came back to stay when Yisrael began building the Mishkan. And when was that?
Moshe commanded Yisrael to donate the materials on the eleventh of Tishri (the day after he descended Har Sinai with the Luchos); Yisrael be-gan to donate the very next day (the twelfth) and continued to donate for another two days (the thirteenth and the fourteenth of Tishri). It therefore transpires that the construction actually began on the fifteenth of Tishri (they had not yet been instructed to observe Yom-Tov). And that is when the Clouds of Glory returned!
The Miracle of the Huts
Earlier, we cited the Ramban, who stresses the aspect of the miracle that surrounded the Clouds of Glory, whilst playing down that of the huts.
Bearing in mind the circumstances in which our ancestors travelled, however, a few million people travelling in the desert, there is no way that one can explain the fact that they found sufficient wood to build even a fraction of the huts needed to accommodate so many people. And per-haps the Torah writes that G-d settled them in Succos, because it would have been impossible to manage it without Divine assistance.
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(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)
… Le'ma'an Amitoch'
The seventh of the thirteen Attributes of Hashem is 'Emes'.
To explain this, the B'nei Yisaschar cites one of the explanations of the Pasuk (in Birchas Kohanim) "Hashem will lift His Face to you" in that He will favour Yisrael even when they are unworthy of His kindness. Having issued this promise, the Midah of Emes now obligates Him to favour Yisrael at all times, whether they are worthy or not.
And that is what we mean when we cry out to Him 'Hosha'ano le'ma'an amitach!'
Moreover, he says, this expresses the very essence of the Mitzvah of 'Aravah', bearing in mind that a). the Aravah has no taste and no smell, and b). that it is a Minhag Nevi'im. It is an indication, he explains, that even when Yisrael have no Torah and no Mitzvos, they are under His Divine protection, as promised to them by the prophets.
… Le'ma'an B'risoch'
In similar vein, the author refers to the first covenant that G-d made with mankind, that of the rainbow, when G-d promised that He would save the world from annihilation, whether they are worthy or not. So we turn to Him and beseech Him to redeem us from Galus, in the same way, based on the covenants that He made with us, above all, the B'ris bein ha'Besarim that He established in Lech'Lcho with Avraham Avinu - irrespective of the fact that we are undeserving of His salvation.
… Le'ma'an Godloch ve'Sif'artoch
The three Midos - Gedulah, Gevurah & Tiferes (that we cite every day in Davening) are equivalent to the Midos of the three Avos - Chesed (Avraham), Din (Yitzchak) and Emes/Tiferes (Ya'akov) respectively. The first and the third of these Midos denote Chesed and Rachamim, so that G-d's Midas ha'Din is kept in check.
With this introduction, the B'nei Yisaschar explains 'Hosha'ana, lema'an godloch ve'sifartach' - Save us, we entreat Hashem, with the Midas of Gedulah and Tiferes, which outnumber Midas ha'Din, according to the Halachah, which demands that one follows the majority.
… Golah ve'Suroh … Domsoh le'Tamar
'Tamar' here, the B'nei Yisaschar explains, hints at the daughter-in-law of Yehudah, who was denied re-entry into Yehudah's house (after her two husbands died). Yet she did all that was within her power to cleave to the Tzadik and to raise the Kingdom of Yisrael from him.
And that is what we mean when we say 'Save us,who are 'exiled and rejected', yet, like Tamar, we are so keen to reconnect to the Shechinah and to raise the Kingdom of Heaven.
… Domsoh le'Tamar … ha'Haruoh Olecho
And in the same vein, he says, we mention the praiseworthiness of Yisrael, when we say that like Tamar, who was willing to die rather than shame Yehudah, we are willing to sacrifice our lives rather than deny G-d's greatness, even by changing the colour of our shoelaces, if that is an issue that affects religion.
… Yechidah le'Yachdoch
'Save us, who are united, to declare Your Oneness.'
The B'nei Yisaschar explains this based on his interpretation of the word 'Atzeres' (See later 'Simchas Torah') that on Shemini Atzeres all the powers unite and rejoice together. We mention the praise of Yisrael - the underlying theme of this (third) Hakafah, in that they unify Hashem's Name as one united group.
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The Gemara in Ta'anis (2b) learns Nisuch ha'Mayiim, the ceremony of pouring water on the Mizbe'ach on Succos, from the extra letters - the 'Mem' of "ve'NiskeiheM", the 'Yud' in "u'nesochEho" and the 'Mem' in "ke'MishpotoM", written on the second, sixth and seventh days respectively.
The first hint occurs on the second day, because that is when the Nisuch ha'Mayim commences.
Rabeinu Bachye however, connects the three above-mentioned days to the creation. When G-d created the world, he explains, He divided the water (above the heaven and below the Heaven) on the second day (See following Pearl); and He created man, for whose benefit He created water on the sixth (See also Bereishis, 2:5 and Rashi, there).
And He completed the hint on the seventh day, the day on which He terminated the Creation.
One Hour of Torah & Mitzvos
The Medrash describes how, when G-d divided the water, the lower water complained bitterly that it was destined to dwell in this material world, whilst its sister merited dwelling in the upper realms,
And it was only when Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu promised it that it would provide salt for the Korbanos and water for the Nisuach ha'Mayim, that it acquiesced.
It can perhaps be compared to the two cows that were selected to go, one on the Mizbe'ach that Eliyahu had built on Har ha'Carmel, the other, on the Mizbe'ach of the prophets of Ba'al.
There too, Chazal tell us, the latter cow complained of its fate to be sacrificed to Ba'al, to the point that it refused to go - until Eliyahu assured it that G-d's Name would be sanctified by it (when the prophets of Ba'al's prayers would go unanswered) no less than its counterpart, when his (Eliyahu's) prayers would be answered.
We learn from here that it is not the location that counts but Avodas Hashem that one performs and the degree of the Kidush Hashem that one creates in this world.
Hence the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos that 'One hour of Torah and Mitzvos in this world outweigh an entire lifetime in the World to Come".
Clearly , in the big picture, the significance lies, not in the location, but in the Torah and Mitzvos that one fulfils, and in the extent to which one's actions result in the sanctification of Hashem's Name, wherever a person finds himself.
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