OCTOBER 10-19, 2003 15-23 TISHREI 5764
"You shall dwell in the succah for seven days" (Vayikra 23:42)
It is always a pleasure to anticipate the holiday of Succot. We leave the High Holidays on a spiritual "high" only to reach greater levels of happiness as we build and decorate our succah. It is recorded in the Talmud (Succah 11b) that there are two opinions as to what the succah represents. Rabbi Eliezer says that the Jewish people were enclosed and protected by Heavenly clouds as they traveled through the desert after leaving Egypt. These clouds protected them from possible enemies, and also provided a perfect 'climate control.' Rabbi Eliezer says the succah represents these special clouds. Rabbi Akiba holds that the Jews in the desert actually lived in little booths that protected them from the sun. According to Rabbi Akiba, our booths represent these booths in the desert.
Rabbi Isaac Sher contemplates these two reasons and says that his first thought was that the idea of the special clouds seemed more important than the idea of the simple booths. After all, these were special clouds that Hashem sent from Heaven, and are much more important than little huts made of wood. However, with further reflection, it seems that the wooden booths are the greater ones. The clouds were sent by Hashem to the nation as a whole. They deserved the clouds by virtue of being His chosen nation, and every individual benefited from being part of that group. The nation deserved it because they followed Hashem in the desert - men, women, children and babies - without food and water. But this doesn't show Hashem's love for each and every family. But the booths were erected by each household. Where did they find the wood, the tools, the bamboo, etc.? Obviously we must conclude that each family experienced Hashem's intervention to provide a succah for them. This showed Hashem's love for each small family in the desert. These succot that Hashem helped them build protected them from the sun, dangerous creatures and more. They felt the love of a father for His children.
When we enter the succah, we should remember the clouds which showed Hashem's love for the Israelites as a nation. We should also remember the booths which showed Hashem's love for each individual, as Hashem does until today.
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
"You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruits of a beautiful tree [etrog], the branches of date palms [lulab], twigs of myrtle [hadassim] and brook willows [arabot]" (Vayikra 23:40)
When the Torah gives us the misvah of the four species on Succot, it says, "Ulekachtem lachem and you shall take for yourselves." Since it says "Ulekachtem - and you shall take," the halachah is that one must take them into his hand. If one has before him the four species but does not take them in his hand, he does not fulfill the misvah. For this reason the berachah recited is "al netilat lulab - the taking of the lulab," and not "al misvat lulab," to emphasize that the misvah is fulfilled only when they are taken in the hand. Why does the Torah insist that they be taken in one's hand? Why is looking at the four species insufficient?
According to the Midrash Rabbah (30:14), the four species represent different parts of the human body. The etrog resembles a heart, the lulab represents the spine, the hadas has small leaves which are like eyes, and the arabah resembles the lips.
With the misvah of "Ulekachtem - you shall take," the Torah is conveying a message of great importance: that these four major body parts must be taken in hand, that is, be under man's control.
The heart sometimes lusts for dangerous things. Man must learn to control the desires of his heart. At all times there must also be mo'ach shalit al haleb - the brain ruling over the desires of the heart.
According to halachah, the lulab must be firm and upright. It should not be loose, curved or bending to all sides. The spine provides major support for the body and the spinal cord controls it. A weak spine can, G-d forbid, cause a person to be paralyzed or of bent stature. Taking the lulab in hand means that a Jew must be firm in his convictions, walk upright, and be proud of the fact that he is a member of the Jewish people and Torah observant. He must never bend or compromise in Torah observance.
The hadas leaves, resembling eyes, must grow upright on their stems. This teaches us that a Jew must always look up to G-d in Heaven with optimism and not look down on other people. The message implied by the halachah requiring that the hadas be taken in the hand is that one must learn to control his eyes and also to be happy with one's lot, and not look enviously on other people's good fortune.
The leaves of the arabah must be smooth and not have sharp, serrated edges. The misvah of taking it into the hands emphasizes the importance of controlling one's lips. In particular, one should be careful not to make biting remarks; rather, one should speak words of Torah and speak well of a fellow Jew.
The halachah that the four species must be held in one's hand teaches us that it is imperative that man be in control of himself, and his ideals and ideas. (Vedibarta Bam)
The Gemara (Shabbat 31a) relates that a gentile came to the great Sage Hillel asking to be converted on the condition that he teach him the entire Torah while he stood "al regel ahat - on one foot." Hillel responded, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the entire Torah, the rest is but elaboration."
Why did the gentile make such a strange condition?
In Torah, the holidays are called "regalim" because of the misvah of making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by foot. The Gemara (Succah 47a) says about Shemini Aseret that it is "regel bifnei asmo - a separate holiday," independent of Succot.
The gentile, before deciding to convert, studied Torah and was quite familiar with our holidays and traditions. After comprehending the beauty of Torah, he decided to convert. One thing, however, bothered him: what is the significance of the "regel - holiday" of Shemini Aseret? He knew the reason for celebrating Pesah, Shabuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succot, but saw no rationale for Shemini Aseret.
Consequently, he said to Hillel metaphorically, "I am prepared to convert, but first you must clear up an enigma bothering me. Teach me all there is to know about 'regel ahat,' the holiday of Shemini Aseret, which I am trying to 'stand on,' i.e. understand, but for which the Torah does not give any reason."
Hillel replied that Shemini Aseret was given to the Jews because Hashem said, "Kasheh alai peridatchem." Simply explained, this means that Hashem is distressed by the leave-taking between Him and the Jewish people after Succot. However, precisely explained, the word "peridatchem" means "your separation. This can be understood as a reference to dissension between Jews themselves which is avoided by not doing unto others what you would not like to be done unto you. Hashem is saying, "Your separation [among yourselves] is difficult unto me. I cannot bear to witness strife and animosity between you. Therefore, celebrate this one more day in unity, and may it evoke a spirit of unity within you for the entire year." Thus, the essence of this "regel - holiday" is to foster unity and ahabat Yisrael among the Jewish people. (Vedibarta Bam)
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