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Haftarah: Shemuel II 22:1-41

OCTOBER 10-11, 2008 12 TISHREI 5768


"You shall dwell in a Succah for seven days" (Vayikra 23:42)

The Succah symbolizes galut (our exile). A kosher Succah is, by its nature, a temporary dwelling. It is exposed to the cold. While we are having our meals bees may buzz around the food and the wine, and a spider may come down from the roof to visit our Succah. At night we have to bring the chairs into the house because of the possibility of rain. This temporariness of the Succah symbolizes out temporary status in our society, our feeling of not belonging. We lack a place we can really call home.

Rabbi Y. Haber comments that the fact that many Jews are multilingual is not a positive fact. It probably represents the wandering Jew, who was never afforded the luxury of getting through life with just one language. The reaction of many Jews is to assimilate. By adopting customs and mannerisms of our neighbors we think we will finally become one with them and be able to settle down. But to do this is to miss the whole point. This feeling of strangeness, of not belonging, is a positive thing which we should accept as being part of our purpose.

Why are we dispersed all over the world, and not just to one place? The Talmud (Pesahim 7b) implies that the reason is to bring some awareness to the gentiles of our Jewish values. In this way we fulfill our mission to be a "light to the nations." But we cannot do this if we assimilate. We can only fulfill this mission if we remain distinctive in dress and behavior. By doing so, the nations of the world will respect us.

A few years ago an interesting event took place in New York. Paul Reichman, a legendary philanthropist and observant Jew who lives in Toronto, flew to New York to open Battery Park. The governor rode in his limousine to the airport to pick him up. A reporter asked the governor why he should do this, since he hardly ever meets visitors at the airport. His answer was, "If Mr. Reichman can allow himself considerable financial inconvenience by closing down his operations every Sabbath (3:00 p.m. every Friday), surely I can inconvenience myself slightly to the extent of meeting him once at the airport!"

When we go out to the Succah we are coming face to face with our real status in this world at this moment in time - the being in galut. And as such it serves as a reminder for us to be a conscience to the nations by being principled Jews and examples to the world. Shabbat Shalom & Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Reuven Semah

The Midrash compares the Jews when they wave the lulab, to someone who emerges victorious from a courthouse and waves his hands up in triumph. We see from here that by passing our judgment on Kippur, we are confident of victory and therefore we wave the lulab and other species on the Succot holiday.

We should take that as a symbol that we ought to be proud of our misvot and let them be seen by others. Some of us are embarrassed by our customs and hold the lulab and the other species in an inconspicuous manner so as not to be seen with them. We see from here that this should make us hold them upright in a way that shows we are proud of our misvot. Indeed, the lulab is like the spine of a person which symbolizes the backbone of a Jew, which should be straight and tall. We must always hold ourselves straight and tall and realize that our misvot are what kept us around for all these years. They should make us proud to be a Jew and we should feel that confidence and security in these beautiful symbols. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Happy Holidays. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"A G-d of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is He." (Debarim 32:4)

One does not need to possess an astute mind in order to comprehend that Hashem is the Creator. As Harav Y. Neiman notes, simple prudent logic dictates that one believe in Hashem. The ultimate test of emunah, faith, however, is when one notices occurrences which contradict human logic and thought patterns. The challenge to accept Heavenly decrees which seem harsh and perplexing is the ultimate test of human faith. At such a time, the individual must trust in Hashem with a profound belief that man cannot possibly begin to understand his Creator. The pasuk alludes to this. Man should strive to attain the level of accepting that Hashem has no iniquity.

This unique form of faith was exhibited by many Jews just sixty years ago during the Holocaust. Rarely have men and women demonstrated so much bravery, while hopelessly facing such cruelty and bestiality. We speak here of overwhelming spiritual bravery and invincible dedication to Hashem, His Torah and misvot. The faith of the Jew confronted the destructive efforts of a diabolical enemy whose one goal was the annihilation of the Jewish people. They sought guidance in halachah and solace in Torah study. This was emunah at its most sublime and majestic moment.

Harav Neiman states that he once heard the Hazon Ish analogize perplexing events to a master tailor who takes shears and cuts up a beautiful piece of material. One can be assured that this is part of the process of creating a beautiful garment. Only a fool begins to question the tailor's motives in cutting up the raw material. The same principle applies to the conduct of Hashem. The truth is that we do not begin to understand His actions. We do not grasp why He makes these "incisions" in the best and most lovely part of His people. We must realize, however, that we are merely flesh and blood with a limited level of understanding. The fact that we do not comprehend Hashem's actions should in no way diminish our belief in Him.

The aged Rebbe of Yarislav once said that he merited living to a ripe old age because he never questioned Hashem. Rather, he accepted everything lovingly. He remarked that he feared that if he would seek an answer, Hashem would say to him, "If you don't understand, just come up to Heaven and I will explain everything to you." Since he was not quite ready to entertain such an idea, he never asked questions. May we merit to achieve the devotion inherent in this profound degree of faith in Hashem. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Because you trespassed against Me in the midst of B'nei Yisrael at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh in the wilderness of Sin, because you did not sanctify Me in the midst of B'nei Yisrael." (Debarim 32:51)

Rashi explains that Hashem was blaming Moshe and Aharon for limiting the opportunity for a heightened effect of Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d's Name) when they caused water to flow from the stone. Had they spoken to the stone rather than hit it twice, Hashem's Name would have reflected a more sublime level of sanctification. B'nei Yisrael would have remarked, "If a mere stone which does not receive reward or punishment nevertheless fulfills Hashem's imperative, we should certainly fulfill His misvot." This grievance seems demanding. Although a greater miracle could have transpired had Moshe and Aharon spoken to the stone, nonetheless, a miracle did occur. We are differentiating between various degrees of Kiddush Hashem. It seems peculiar that the term "trespass," which connotes a grave transgression, should be used to describe this sin.

We may derive from this pasuk that maintenance of the status quo is, in fact, reactionary. One who is capable of attaining greater levels of erudition by applying his abilities to a greater extent but does not, is guilty of a grave sin. One who does not use his G-d-given talents to their fullest extent, one who lacks the motivation to rise to the occasion and proceed in Hashem's service, actually stagnates. In essence, such a person "trespasses" and sins. As the Talmud in Megillah 18a explains, the term "trespass" implies a change which signifies a regression from a previous loftier level of sanctity. By not reaching the higher level of sanctity, Moshe was in effect "trespassing" the wishes of Hashem. We should take note of this lesson in order to catalyze us to stretch our abilities to their fullest extent, so that we can contribute to fulfilling Hashem's objectives for each one of us, individually. (Peninim on the Torah)


The Haftarah for the first day of Succot is the prophecy of Zecharya concerning the war of Gog and Magog, which will climax with the final redemption and acknowledgement by the nations that Hashem alone is the King and that Israel is His people. This realization will be celebrated on Succot, for according to the prophecy, the surviving nations will join the Jewish people every year in celebrating the Succot festival. In his prophecy Zecharya declares, "And if the family of Egypt will not ascend and will not come…They will suffer the plague with which Hashem will afflict the nations, because they will not have ascended to celebrate the festival of Succot. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that will not ascend to celebrate the festival of Succot."

As interesting as this may sound, it is difficult to believe that at some time the nations of the world will be obligated to sit in a Succah and celebrate together with the Jews, and be punished if they don't!

During the Yom Tob of Succot, the Jew has two major misvot to perform: 1) Dwelling in a Succah for a period of seven days. 2) The taking of the four species; the etrog, the lulab, the hadasim, and the arabot.

The common significance if these two misvot is the importance of achdut - unity.

That the misvah of Succah represents unity is obvious from the fact that many families eat together in the same Succah, and from the Ushpizin - the distinguished guests who come. In fact, the Gemara (Succah 27b) says that, "All of Israel is able to sit in one Succah," which means that unlike other misvot where each one must have his own object, one can build a Succah and let everyone use it to properly fulfill the misvah of dwelling in a Succah. Thus Succah is a misvah through which Klal Yisrael become united.

According to the Midrash (30:12), the four species represent four different categories of the Jewish people. The etrog, which is edible and has an aroma, represent the saddik, who studies Torah and performs misvot. The lulab, which only has taste but no aroma, represents the one who is mostly involved in Torah study. The hadasim, which have aroma but no taste, represent the Jew who is involved in doing good deeds but does not have the capability to study Torah. The arabot, which have neither taste nor aroma, represent the Jew who unfortunately lacks both Torah and misvot. The uniting of all segments of the community emphasizes that Hashem wants us to be a nation where all are united as one;.

Possibly, Zecharya's reference to the Succah is an allegory. He does not mean that in Messianic times the gentile will be obligated to eat in the Succah together with the Jew, and be punished if he does not fulfill the misvah. He means that the gentile world will be expected to practice the lesson conveyed by the misvot of the festival of Succot. They must forsake their striving for selfish gain and replace it with a sense of responsibility and sharing of privileges with all of humanity. Hence, Zecharya's words, "They have refused to go up to celebrate the festival of Succot," can be explained to mean that they have refused to elevate themselves spiritually and realize the significant message that Succot teaches humanity.

Let us hope and pray that speedily in our times we merit the revelation of Mashiah and the rebuilding of the Succah of David which has fallen, the Bet Hamikdash, and then all of mankind will enjoy the ultimate of harmony, peace and tranquility. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And no one knows his burial place to this day" (Debarim 34:6)

The Gemara (Sotah 13b) relates, "The wicked government once sent to the governor of Beit Pe'or, 'Show us where Moshe is buried.' When they stood above, the site appeared to them to be below. When they stood below, it appeared to be above. They divided themselves into two parties; to those who were standing above it appeared below and to those who were below it appeared above."

Why was the government eager to know where Moshe was buried?

The Gemara can be interpreted as a metaphor for the relationship between the nations of the world and the Jewish people.

Moshe was the one who gave the Torah to the Jewish people, and until this very day it is referred to as Torat Moshe. It is the spiritual life-source of Klal Yisrael, and throughout the millennia, nations of the world have endeavored to "bury" Moshe - i.e. influence the Jewish people to assimilate and detach themselves from Torat Moshe.

Some have advocated that "the burying of Moshe" can be accomplished through an approach of "standing above," elevating the Jews to high positions, giving them prestige and honor, so that ultimately they will join the secular society and abandon the teachings of the Torah. When this method failed, others tried "standing below," pushing the Jews downward. They imposed harsh economic restrictions upon them, discrimination, persecution and oppression, anticipating that this would "bury Moshe" - force the Jewish people to assimilate or be physically eradicated. And there have also been advocates of combining the two approaches.

Thank G-d, all efforts have failed and no one has been able to find a way to "bury Moshe" - extinguish the light of Torah from the Jewish people. Jews and Torah are inseparable, and their attachment will be eternally vibrant. (Vedibarta Bam)

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