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Weekly Chizuk


An Expression of Love

Adapted from Lev Sholom, by Rav Sholom Shwadron, v. I, p. 297

In the future Klal Yisroel will be granted their reward in the Next World. The nations will come to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and demand that they also be given an opportunity to gain their reward. It's not fair, they will claim, that the Torah was given only to Yisroel, and we didn't have a chance. Let us also perform the mitzvos of the Torah. Hakadosh Baruch Hu will agree. "I have one easy mitzvah - succah. Go and perform it." [Why is it called easy? Because it requires no expense.] They will all run to build a succah on their roofs. Hakadosh Baruch Hu will then send out a scorching hot summer sun. Each one will kick his succah down and run away. [The gemara then asks, but does Hakadosh Baruch Hu come with unreasonable claims on His Creatures? Why did he have to send out a scorching hot sun? The answer is, He wanted to show the difference between Klal Yisroel and the nations. Even Klal Yisroel sometimes experienced a very hot sun during the holiday of Succos. But did not Rava say that he who suffers from the performance of the mitzva of succah, is free from this obligation? Yes, but not to kick it down.] Then Hakadosh Baruch Hu will sit and laugh. (Avodah Zara 3a)

The nations were given a last opportunity to gain the Next World and they failed. Why? They kicked the succah down. The gemara poses the obvious question: when it's that hot you no longer have an obligation to sit in the succah! True, but look at the difference. When Klal Yisroel suffer a scorching hot Succos, they leave the succah humbly. They find it difficult to leave and feel bad upon losing the mitzvah. But the goyim kick it down and run away.

After studying this gemara we are still left perplexed. The nations were given a mitzvah and then it was taken away from them. They were put in a situation where they no longer had any obligation, and so, they weren't given a fair chance. They never got their opportunity to perform a mitzvah. Give them another mitzvah to perform and gain Olam Haba. Why did Hakadosh Baruch Hu only give them one chance, and then make it a scorching hot day?

Furthermore, they didn't really do anything wrong. They didn't do any aveira. The only claim against them was the degrading way they treated the succah when they left. There was no aveira. It was merely an expression of a subconscious attitude. Why should they lose Olam Haba for an attitude?

The answer is really simple. The claim against them had nothing to do with the performance of mitzvos or aveiros. Rather, Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted to prove to them straight in their faces that they had no claim to begin with. At the time of Matan Torah, Hakadosh Baruch Hu offered all the nations of the world the opportunity to accept the Torah. He never prevented them from performing mitzvos. It was their rotten attitude that prevented them from receiving it together with its mitzvos and Olam Haba. Mitzvos and Olam Haba represent the connection between a person and the Creator. This isn't expressed in the dry performance of mitzvos. Rather it is one's subservience and humility towards his Creator. With such a humble attitude one comes to fulfill mitzvos and abide by his Creator's commands.

When a Jew is faced with the realization that the Creator isn't interested in his mitzvos and sends down a burning hot sun to force him out of his succah, or when he is faced with temptation and violates the Torah by performing an aveira, his heart breaks inside of himself. He starts examining his soul and his actions and humbles himself even further. In that way he now merits the ability to truly perform mitzvos. The goyim are different. When they see that Hakadosh Baruch Hu isn't interested in their performing the mitzvos, they kick it down and run away. They refuse to be humiliated. They cannot humble themselves. In this way they prove that they have no relationship to the service of the Creator or the performance of His mitzvos. This is why Heaven prevents teshuvah from one who disgraces and laughs at mitzvos.

* * *

Adapted from Yalkut Lekach Tov on Succos, p. 53, citing Sipurei Chassidim

It was only a short time before the Yom Tov of Succos, and there were no esrogim in Berditchev. The Tzaddik Rebbe Levy Yitzchak together with the entire village were very anxious. The Rebbe sent out men from the village to wait by all the crossroads nearby, maybe they would meet someone who had an esrog. And indeed, they found someone on his way home for Yom Tov and he had an exceptionally beautiful esrog. The only problem was that he didn't live in Berditchev. The messengers begged him to at least come and speak to the Rebbe, and he agreed.

The Rebbe implored him to spend Yom Tov in Berditchev so the entire shtetl would be able to perform the mitzvah of lulav and esrog. The Yid refused and stated emphatically that he had to get home. How could he spend Yom Tov without his family? The Rebbe promised him wealth and children, but the man stood his ground. He was already wealthy, and he had children. He didn't need a bracha. The tzaddik added, "If you fulfill my wish, I promise you that you will be with me in my place in Olam Haba. Once the man heard that, he agreed and remained in the shtetl for Succos. The Rebbe couldn't have been happier, and so too were the Chassidim. Even this Yid was happy.

With the approach of the holiday, Rebbe Levy Yitzchak ordered everyone in Berditchev not to let this man sit in their succos. They were all astonished by this, but no one had the audacity to ask the tzaddik for an explanation. Everyone complied. The first night of Yom Tov arrived, and after Maariv the Yid went back to his lodgings and found wine for Kiddush, candles, challos, and a table set for the Yom Tov meal. He stood there wondering to himself, "The owner of the inn, a religious Jew, doesn't have a succah?" So he went downstairs and out to the yard and found very fine succah with the innkeeper and his family sitting inside. The guest asked to come in and join them, but they refused.

Why is he getting such treatment? What had he done wrong? But he was not given any explanation, and was forced to leave humiliated.

He then turned to the succos of the neighbors and asked if he could sit with them for the Yom Tov meal. But he wasn't welcome there either. After wandering from succah to succah, he realized that the Rebbe must be behind this scheme.

He immediately ran in a frenzy to the Rebbe and asked, "What did I do wrong! What crime did I commit!" Rebbe Levy Yitzchak calmly answered him, "All you have to do is forgive my promise about Olam Haba. Then I'll immediately order everyone to let you into their succos."

The Yid stood there in silent shock. He was totally taken aback. His head started racing trying to figure out what to do. On one hand the Rebbe had promised that he would be together with him in Next World. On the other hand he was missing out on the mitzvah of sitting in a succah. In the end the succah won. He said to himself, how can one even imagine the thought of not being able to sit in a succah? He had never missed this mitzvah his whole life. How can the entire Jewish nation be sitting in succos, and he would sit and eat in the house like a Goy. So the Yid forgave the Tzaddik's promise and they shook hands as per the Rebbe's request. Then he went back to the inn to sit in the succah.

After Yom Tov the Rebbe called the man back. He said, "I am giving you back my agreement. I never had any intention of backing out on my promise. However, everything I did was for your benefit. I didn't want you to gain your Olam Haba like a wheeler dealer merchant. I wanted you to merit your Olam Haba because of your good deeds. Therefore I arranged that you should be tested with the mitzvah of succah. You withstood the test and showed that you were willing to sincerely sacrifice your Olam Haba in order to perform the mitzvah of sitting in a succah. Now you honestly and truly deserve to be together with me in my place in the Next World."

* * *

One parting thought. We have succeeded in firing everyone up to perform the wonderful mitzvos of the holiday of Succos. We have been uplifted to a new plateau. Now we must observe a different perspective to put everything in balance:

Adapted from Around the Maggid's Table

Rav Sholom Eizen, zt"l, one of the foremost poskim of Yerushalayim 50 years ago, was renown as an expert in checking lulav and esrog. In the days leading up to Succos hundreds of people lined up in front of his house to get his advice on the lulavim and esrogim they were planning on buying.

Once, a young avreich (kollel man) came in holding an esrog which this young fellow felt had extraordinary excellence. He wanted to know the Rav's opinion. Rav Eizen complied and took the esrog to examine it. He studied it from all angles, turning it around and around. After a few moments of a very exacting inspection, the Rav lifted up his head and turned to the young man. "This esrog isn't for you."

The avreich was astonished by the Rav's comment. Questions started racing through his mind. I had studied the laws of the 4 minim thoroughly, he thought. I spent hours searching for an esrog which, according to my understanding, was perfect. Why does the Rav thing this esrog is not for me?

In his confusion the avreich turned to the Rav and asked, "Is there some halachic issue with this esrog? I'm not an expert, but it seemed to my inexperienced eyes to be a perfect esrog."

Instead of answering the young man, Rav Eizen asked him a question. "What do you do?"

"I learn in a kollel in Yerushalayim."

"Do they pay you there?"

"Certainly ."

Rav Eizen inquired as to how much the kollel paid him and the young man told him the exact amount, which wasn't very much.

"Now, I shall ask you my last question," replied Rav Eizen. "How much did you pay for the esrog?" The avreich mentioned a substantial figure.

"Just as I thought," Rav Eizen responded. "You are absolutely right. The esrog is superb. It is a perfect esrog, both in halacha and in splendor; It is beautifully formed. However, listen to my advice. Buy a much cheaper esrog, and with the money you save buy your wife a dress for Yom Tov. This will be the real Kavod (honor) of Yom Tov. You will thus perform the mitzvah of being joyous on Yom Tov."

Wishing everyone a Gut Yom Tov!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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