Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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"Speak to the B'nei Yisrael saying, on the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the festival of Succos, seven days for Hashem" (23:34).


The question is asked why we sit in the Succah on Succos, and not on Pesach, when Yisrael first built huts (or were surrounded by the Clouds of Glory) after they left Egypt?


The popular explanation given by the commentaries is that Pesach occurs in the spring. Consequently, moving out into a Succah would convey the impression that we are merely taking advantage of the weather, rather than performing the Mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah. So the Torah postponed the Mitzvah until the beginning of the autumn, when one would normally move from one's summer-hut back into the house. When we then move out into the Succah, it is clear to all and sundry that we are doing that because G-d told us to. G-d for His part, picked the date that on the one hand, would leave no doubt as to why we are moving into the Succah, whilst, on the other, early enough to avoid the rain, which is due to arrive immediately after we have moved back into the house (Yalkut Yitzchak, quoting the Eitz Chayim).

And he adds that making the illogical move from the house into the Succah, just as everybody else is moving back into the house to avoid the nip in the air serves to strengthens our Emunah, as we recall the chasadim that G-d performed with our ancestors by providing them with His Divine protection from nature's elements, and from our enemies, as the Torah writes in Emor (23:42/43) "And you shall dwell in 'huts' for seven days in order that your generations shall know how I settled you in 'huts' ".

It is precisely because the objective of the Mitzvah is to reminisce over the G-d's Chasadim that, not only must one be able to see the S'chach (which means protection), but that one should also be able to see the stars in the Heaven, to remind us that, just as He guarded and protected us in the desert, so too, does he guard and protect us today.

Moreover, moving from the house into the Succah is a practical demonstration of our belief in that Divine protection. The Zohar refers to a Succah as 'Tzilah di'Mehemnusa' ('the shade of faith'). Because when in the Succah, we have substituted the protection of our homes for that of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu, and He will never betray those who trust in Him - as we say at the end of 'u'vo le'Tziyon go'el' 'Blessed be the man who trusts in Hashem, then Hashem will become His fortress'.


Bearing in mind the above, it is hardly surprising that the Gematriyah of 'Succah' is equivalent to the two Names of Hashem 'Havayah' and 'Adnus'. These, in turn represent the Midah of Ya'akov Avinu, Rachamim, a combination of the Chesed of Avraham and the G'vurah of Yitzchak. Neither is it surprising that of the three Avos, it is Ya'akov about whom the Torah writes that "he built Succos". (Bereishis, Vayishlach 33:17)


A second answer to the question with which we began is that of the G'ro, based on the opinion that the Succos referred to by the Torah are the Clouds of Glory that accompanied Yisrael in the desert. Those Clouds may have initially arrived on Pesach as they left Egypt, he explains. But as soon as they worshipped the Golden Calf, they departed, returning only when they began building the Mishkan - to bring the Shechinah back into their midst. And when was that? The day after Moshe descended with the second Luchos - on the eleventh of Tishri, he immediately instructed the people to donate the materials for the Mishkan. This they began doing on the twelfth, and as the Pasuk testifies the donations continued for two more mornings (the thirteenth and the fourteenth). It therefore transpires that they began the actual construction on the fifteenth of Tishri - Succos, and that is when the Clouds of Glory came to stay. That explains why we sit in the Succah on Succos, says the G'ro and not on Pesach.

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Vol. 23   No. 55

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Rabbi Moshe Sher Moshe Yona ben Yaakov z"l
by his family

Parshas Ve'Zos ha'Brachah

How Fortunate is Yisrael!
(Based on the Chafetz Chayim)

"Fortunate are you Yisrael! Who is like you, a people delivered by Hashem, the shield of your assistance, the sword of your pride; your foes will deceive you but you will trample on their high altars" (33:29).


The Chofetz Chayim explains how an army locked in battle, weary and fatigued by the ravages of war, might became despondent, and perhaps even afraid of defeat, as bullets and bombs rain down upon them. The officers will shout words of encouragement, reminding them that they are for the honour of king and country. 'Be strong and courageous', they will cry out, 'for when you have vanquished the enemy, the king will reward you generously for risking your lives in his honour!'

Yet, at the same time, the officers and the men all know in their hearts that these very same words are being said in the enemy camp, perhaps even more vociferously, and who is to know, perhaps even more effectively, than theirs. For when two armies are engaged in deadly combat, who is to say who will emerge the victor, and who the vanquished?


But this is not the case with the Jewish army. When they fight for their King, they know that they are fighting on behalf of the King of Kings, Master of the Universe, to whom the Pasuk in the Shirah describes as "The Master of War!" The futility of engaging Him in battle was proven early on in history at the Tower of Bavel and again in Egypt and at the Yam-Suf.

And so it is with His people Yisrael, whose salvation is synonymous with the salvation of G-d Himself. For when they win, G-d's Kavod is boosted and when they lose, His Name is desecrated. To understand the close bond between the two one has but to glance at the long list of Yisrael's victories, more often than not, against seemingly impossible odds - Moshe against Sichon and Og, Yehoshua against the thirty-one kings, Shaul against Amalek, Shimshon against the P'lishtim, the Maccabim against the Greeks - the list is endless.

And the proof is even more convincing when one considers that, in the majority of the above cases, Yisrael returned from the battle-field without losing a man.

As Chazal say, to attack Yisrael is akin to attacking G-d Himself, and so, provided Yisrael have not done something to evoke G-d's anger, He will protect their honour just as He protects His own.


Yes indeed, how fortunate we are regarding our strong connection with the Invincible King, inasmuch as when we take up His cause, we become invincible too. It can be compared to an electric gadget which adopts the power of the socket into which it is plugged.


Commenting on the phrase "the shield of your assistance", the Chafetz Chayim adds that, even though the time for our ultimate salvation is not yet ripe, G-d will protect us from annihilation. As Rebbi Yehoshua retorted to the Emperor Hadrian, when he remarked 'How great is the lamb that is surrounded by seventy wolves!' - 'How great is the Shepherd that rescues them!'

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Simchas Torah

The Sotton's Accusations Discredited

The Sotton prosecutes Klal Yisroel. says the Medrash. accusing them of not completing the Torah. And then. he claims, when they do finish it, they don't take the trouble to begin it again. To counter his accusation, we complete the Torah on Simchas Torah - and then we go on immediately, to resume with the reading of ?Bereishis. And that is why Simchas Torah is called by that name. Because on Yom Kippur, the Sotton had ?nothing to say; it is the one day in the year that he can do nothing but sing Klal Yisroel's praises - and now his one remaining trump-card has disintegrated. He has tried to weaken the connection between us and our beloved ?Torah but has failed - we are jubilant, and we demonstrate our jubilation by rejoicing together with the Torah.

At first, the Sotton's arguments do not seem to make much sense. What is so important about completing the ?Torah, particularly in view of the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos (end of 2nd chapter): "The work is not yours to finish". ?As long as we are making progress, it does not appear to be such a terrible thing if we don't finish it. And besides, what is so significant if we don't start again? Surely, the tremendous achievement of completing the Torah is?sufficient to earn us great rewards?

When the Mishnah says that the work need not be completed, it is referring to someone who is incapable of ?completing the entire Torah, as if to say, he nevertheless receives reward for the amount he did succeed in ?completing (like Moshe Rabeinu. who is praised for setting aside three cities of refuge, although he knew that he ?could not complete the entire six cities, and that the first three were in fact ineffective without the remaining ?three). It also refers to someone who finds the task of learning the entire Shas overwhelming, and is therefore ?reluctant to begin. The Mishnah therefore, aims at encouraging him to begin nevertheless - no matter if he is?unable to conclude, as we have explained. For how often it occurs that one does unexpectedlv manage to ?complete a seemingly impossible task, through diligence, effort and much Divine Inspiration, which comes only?if one actually makes a start and gets on with the job.

To complete the Torah and not to start afresh comprises two, perhaps three, distinct disadvantages. Firstly, Torah-study is intrinsically a mitzvah per se. How can one possibly finish that? - even assuming that one has ?finished it all. The mitzvah to learn Torah continues. Then there is the aspect of revision, without which one is ?bound to forget, as one's knowledge recedes into the distant past. And this is particularly true of ?Torah-knowledge which, incorporated into one's daily activities, clashes severely with them, as the purely ?physical activities cannot integrate with the spiritual and will dispel them.

But most of all, Torah is unique, says the Beis Ha'Levi. Which other book can be studied and enjoyed, not ?only by the 5-year old, the 20-year old and the man who has turned 70, but even the same 5-year old can, after ?reading it when he was 5, go on to study it when he is 20 and enjoy it even more when he is 70? That is an ?experience which no other book In the world can offer. It is only possible with the book written by G-d Himself, a ?book which is the code to life, and the inspiration to life, guiding the human-being from the moment he enters ?this world till the moment he leaves it. It is only possible with the book which, because it is written by G-d Himself and because it is the source of life - in this world, and a key to the life in the next - is written to be ?understood at diverse levels of understanding - basically being divided into four levels - basic, hints, homiletics ?and esoteric - but each of these being divided again into numerous levels of interpretation. On account of that ?diversity, each time one studies Torah afresh, one can find new ideas and fresh levels of understanding of which one had been hitherto totally unaware. It is in effect, a breathtaking experience.

The Sotton is aware of all this. He knows only too well that his very existence is threatened by continued and profound Torah-learning, so he hopes to find a flaw precisely in that area. But his aspirations can never ?materialise. Torah will always flourish in Klal Yisroel - we will finish the Torah and we will start it again, ?because it is our life and the length of our days. Ultimately, that is what will bring about the Sotton's downfall.

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