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Hashem is In Charge!The Chag of Succos is in remembrance of Yetzias Mitrayim. The purpose of the Succah is to remind us of the Clouds of Glory, the ענני הכבוד (the Heavenly Protection in the desert)? This engenders a famous question - Why is Succos in the Fall and not in the Spring at Pesach time.
One explanation brought by the Midrash is that the reason for our sitting in the Succah is that if Hashem decreed Golus (Exile) for us on Yom Kippur, we will fulfill our punishment by being exiled from our homes.
The obvious question is: What sort of exile is it to sit in a Succah with your family over Yom Tov, singing and having delicious meals?
In order to answer this, we have to understand the fundamental concept which permeates the whole ימים נוראים: The point of a Succah is to teach us that there is no כח (power) in the world other than Hashem - אין עוד מלבדו. By going out of your secure area into a temporary structure which has to be roofed by פסולת - the rubbish of your vegetative growth - rather than proper material, you show that you are placing your trust in G-d, that only He can protect you, whatever the situation is.
On Succos we read the Haftorah of the War of Gog and Magog מלחמת גוג ומגוג. The War of Gog and Magog, the Seforim explain, will not be a physical war but a spiritual war. R' Shimshon Refoel Hirsh explains that 'Gog' uses the terminology of גג - roof - which underlies their philosophy of protection and strength. They believe in כחי ועוצם ידי - in one's own strength rather than in G-d's. "Magog" is the ideology of protecting somebody else, being somebody else's security.
On Succos, we 'take the roof off' - we do the ultimate opposite of that ideology by placing our trust purely in Hashem.
Of course we haven't gone into Exile. But the point of exile is to make one understand that he is away from his comforts and security, and G-d is in charge. By sitting in the Succah, one can achieve the same lessons without actually needing to go into Exile. You have accomplished the same effect as the Exile should have.
That is the point of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succos: מלכיות - the Coronation and acceptance of Hakadosh Baruch Hu as our sole ruler. The recognition that He is our King is the fundamental purpose of the Yomim Noraim.
That is also the point of reading Koheles קהלת - where Shlomo Hamelech tells us הכל הבל הבלים - everything on this world is all vanity and emptiness, except for Hashem, אין עוד מלבדו.
Simchas Torah is the climax of the entire ימים נוראים, and after Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succos, you can open the Aron Hakodesh and say truly -אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת כִּי ה' הוּא הָאֱלֹקִים אֵין עוֹד מִלְּבַדּוֹ "You appeared (to us at Har Sinai), in order that we should know that the Lord He is G-d; there is none else besides Him.
(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 absolve 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 inspiring everyone 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 think 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?"
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!
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