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Succos. The lofty, spiritual joy that we are supposed The Happy Reaper to experience on Succos is the joy that the Rambam SUKKOT — סוכות calls an avoda gedola- a great task. And indeed it is, by Yehuda Tager (MTA ‘15) 15-23 TISHREI, 5774 for it is not always easy to see happiness in our SEPTEMBER 18-27, 2013 Volume V avodas Hashem. But that is our job on Succos. The Torah tells us (Devarim 16:14): חגֶָּך אַ תָׂה ַב ְ ָׂוְשָׂמַ חְת Issue 1 However, we still have not explained why Succos is ָׂריָך ֶּ מנָׂה אֲשֶּ ר בִשְ ע ָׂ ל ְ והַָׂא ְ הי ָׂתֹום ַ ו ְ הגֵּר ַ ְלוִי ו ֵּ ה ַ ְ ו,עבְדְָך וַאֲמָׂ תֶָּך ַ ו ְ בנְָך ּובִתֶָּך ִ ּו the time when we highlight this aspect of our avodas “You should rejoice on your festival (Succos)- you, Hashem. The Torah uses similar words by Shavuos, and your children and your servant and your but there we do not have any promises about lasting happiness, maidservant and the Levi and the stranger and the orphan and so what makes this holiday special? Drash Dovid continues and the widow that are within your gates.” explains that we must look at the agricultural cycles in order to This is one of the sources in the Torah that one should truly understand the answer to this question. Shavuos is called be happy on this yom tov of Succos. However, there is much chag hakatzir- holiday of harvesting. It is the time when the more to this pasuk as well. It discusses the importance of crops are fully grown and cut from the ground. However, they including the less fortunate in our festivities. In fact, the could become ruined as they sit outside waiting to be gathered Rambam uses strong words to condemn a person who does not in. It is not until Succos- chag ha’asif- that we do that. Thus, on include the poor in his simchas yom tov. He says that this Shavuos we are still anxious while on Succos we are finally at person is not partaking in the simcha of yom tov rather he is ease. Thus, a farmer who shares his simchas yom tov with the partaking in the unholy simcha of his stomach. From here we less fortunate on Shavuos is gaining merit in order to save his can begin to glean some insight as to what it means to be happy crop- it is a sort of tefila. However, on Succos the celebration is on Succos. It does not just mean to be happy. It is a specific joy one of gratitude to Hashem for providing us with the food we that comes from helping others. The Torah expects us to use will need for the coming year. While bakasha is important, Succos as an opportunity to grow in our avodas Hashem, not hoda’a is what we need to have joy in our avodas Hashem. just to enjoy ourselves, and so we are told to do extra chesed. Therefore, when we sit down and thank Hashem for all that he However, there is still more that we must understand. has given us it should bring us a true feeling of simcha- a feeling Succos is called zman simchasainu- the time of our rejoicing. of closeness with Hashem. In truth, this is really what Succos is Why should Succos be any happier than the other holidays? all about. The succah represents the protection Hashem gave us Furthermore, the next pasuk in Devarim says “v’hayisa ach in the desert. It was a Divine hug that our nation experienced samaiach,” “we should only be happy.” Rashi explains that this 3000 years ago, and we bring it back by leaving our own homes is a promise from Hashem that we if we rejoice on Succos we to rejoice in the “arms” of Hashem. Earlier this month was a time will be able to be happy all year. Also, in describing the simcha of intense bakasha as we marked the yomim noraim, but now we that took place in the Beis Hamikdash of Succos, the mishnayos get to thank Hashem for reaccepting us and we get to rejoice (Succah 5:1-4) tells us that one who has not seen it has not seen with him. We should all be zoche to have true simcha this yom simcha in his entire life. Why should Succos have all of this tov. great joy more so than any other day of the year? In truth, the joy that we have been discussing is not like regular joy that goes on all around us. It is a joy that comes from closeness with Hashem. In fact, the mishnayos that we quoted above say that it was not the entire nation of Klal Yisrael who rejoiced on Succos in the Beis Hamikdash. Rather it was the talmidei chachamim and anshei maaseh. Drash Dovid explains that this is because it was the greatest people of our nation who were able to partake in the holy, spiritual joy of
The Holy Hedyot
by Asher Finkelstein (MTA ‘15)
The Tur famously asks why Sukkos is celebrated in Tishrei and not Nissan, the time when Hashem first enshrouded the Jewish people in the Ananei HaKavod which the Sukkah represents. The Chidushei HaRim responds with a fascinating
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multi-stepped insight. The Torah informs us that the purpose of the mitzvah of Sukkah is "למען ידעו דרתיכם כי בסכות הושבתי את ,"“בני ישראלSo that future generations will know that I placed the children of Israel in Sukkos. (Vayikra 23:43)”. This passuk makes it clear that fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkah requires knowledge and serious thought. The Gemara (Sotah 3a) states one does not sin unless a spirit of foolishness or insanity has entered him. During the majority of the year, most of us are ensconced in various sins, thereby indicating that we are inhabited by a spirit of craziness according to the aforementioned Gemara. Therefore, says the Chidushei HaRim, during the majority of the year, Nissan included, we are unfit to fulfill the mitzvah of Sukkah which requires true דעתor knowledge. However, in Tishrei, right after Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we are cleansed of our sins and only then do we have the requisite level of knowledge to properly fulfill the mitzvah of Sukkah. The Chidushei HaRim goes on to explain that this same requirement of knowledge or full sanity also explains why a ,מצטערone who is harried and distressed by extreme weather, swarms of pests of the winged variety, or the like, is exempt from the mitzvah of Sukkah. When one is harried as such, one cannot possibly summon the presence of mind necessary for this mitzvah. This may also explain why we are exempt from the mitzvah of Sukkah when there is significant rain pouring down. Strangely enough, the Chidushei HaRim reportedly did not adhere to this principle himself. The story is told that he (among other Chassidic Rebbes) did not leave his Sukkah when rain began pouring down. A number of serious Halachik and hashkafik issues can be raised about this practice. The most well-known issue emanates from the principle laid down in the Yerushalmi (Berachos 2:9) that one who is exempt from a mitzvah but does it anyways is called a ,הדיוטan ignoramus. This principle is applied specifically regarding those who are exempt from Sukkah by the Rama (639:7 in accordance with the Hagahos Maymoniyos). Furthermore, eating in the Sukkah uncomfortably while it is raining may be a violation of the notion of oneg Yom Tov, enjoying Yom Tov. Thirdly, the Yachel Yisrael (Siman 1) mentions that the Oneg Yom Tov (Orach Chaim 49) suggests that sitting in the Sukkah while it is raining may cause one to incur the Torah violation of benefitting from the materials of the Sukkah. The only reason why we are normally allowed to benefit from the shade of the Sukkah is that we are in the midst of fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkah. However, during a time when the mitzvah of Sukkah does not apply, benefitting from its shade
would be prohibited (he explains however, that this would not preclude women from sitting in the Sukkah for various reasons). Finally, from a hashkafik perspective, remaining in the Sukkah during a downpour seems audacious at best, impudent at worst. The Mishnah in Sukkah (28b) states that when it rains in the Sukkah it is comparable to coming as a servant before a master to pour a cup of water and having the master pour it back in your face in contempt. So if G-d is sending us a strong message that he wants us out of the Sukkah, how could anyone, even the great Chidushei HaRim, dare to remain inside? Although imitating the Chidushei HaRim’s practice may not be recommended, it is worthwhile to attempt to understanding his reasoning and possible justification for remaining in the Sukkah. As far as Oneg Yom Tov’s suggestion that remaining in the Sukkah while it is raining is a violation of the Issur Hanaa which applies to the Sukkah, perhaps the Rashba can be of assistance to the Chidushei HaRim. The Rashba famously explains that when it is raining, a person is not just exempt from sitting in the Sukkah; rather the Sukkah itself ceases to be a Sukkah. Since the Sukkah is no longer a Sukkah, perhaps the Issur Hanaa ceases to exist as well. Now let us turn to the idea that one who is exempt from sitting in the Sukkah but does so nonetheless is considered an ignoramus. There are number of possible approaches worth examining, the third being the strongest. Firstly, the Mishnah which establishes the law that rain exempts one from sitting in the Sukkah is phrased as follows: “When may one leave (the Sukkah)? When the bean soup begins to spoil.” The Mishnah says that at that point one is allowed to leave the Sukkah; it does not say one must leave the Sukkah. Secondly, the Chidushei HaRim’s grandson, the Sefas Emes, takes an interesting approach in defining the allowance to leave the Sukkah when the bean soup begins to spoil. He says that it could be that this allowance is made only if one actually has before him bean soup or the like which is being spoiled by the rain. If however, one is eating hardtack which is doing fine in the rain, then he must stay even if the current amount of rain would spoil a hypothetical bowl of bean soup. The Sefas Emes says that one should be stringent in deference to this possibility. Therefore, it could be suggested (albeit strenuously) that the Chidushei HaRim held this way as well and did not happen to be eating anything that was getting ruined when the rains began to pour. Finally, we turn to the Beiur Halacha (Orach Chaim 639:7) who states that even in a situation where one is
generally exempt from the Sukkah (e.g. extreme heat), if a particular person does not feel irritated by this, then he may be machmir and remain in the Sukkah. It would come as no surprise if the saintly Chidushei HaRim was in such a state of spiritual ecstasy sitting in the Sukkah that he was not in the least bothered by the rain. This would also negate the oneg Yom Tov issue which is obviously not violated if one is not irritated and the rain does not detract from his enjoyment. We must now turn our attention to the hashkafik issue mentioned earlier. How could the Chidushei HaRim seemingly ignore the Divine message to leave the Sukkah? A closer look at the Mishnah in Sukkah which this issue emanates from can perhaps answer this question in an aggadic manner. The Mishnah compares rain in the Sukkah to a slave who comes to pour a cup for his master and the water is poured back in his face by the master. When a slave messes up, he’s finished. If you allow a pebble to fall into Pharaoh’s bread, you’re bird-feed. If we, as Hashem’s slaves, are rejected by Him in the form of having our Sukkos rained out, we must retreat into the house in humble submission. However, if we are not slaves, but sons of Hashem, then the situation is radically different. A son may stumble but he is always a son and the love of the father never fades. Perhaps, on his high level, especially right after Yom Kippur, the Chidushei HaRim felt like more like a son than a slave and therefore knew that when the pitcher was thrown in his face, it did not signal a disastrous rebuff from the master but rather a fleeting moment of rebuke from a loving father. Although we don’t accept the Chidushei HaRim’s practice, may all merit to reach the level of truly being banim lamakom.
Finding Happiness during Zman
by Yehoshua Szafranski (MTA ’14)
We announce every single day of Succos during our Tefilos, bentching, and Kiddush that the Succos is “zman simchaseinu”, “the time of our happiness”. Have you ever wondered what the legendary ‘happiness’ of Succos is and what it stems from? Why are we so happy during these days? What are we experiencing? Yes, the holiday is called chag ha’asif, and we are ecstatic about the gathering of our beautiful harvests… but I, as well as my neighbors, unfortunately forgot to plow our backyards this year so my harvest will be ostensibly absent
from my Succos table, so what gathering am I so happy about? And yes, we are so happy, that, according to Rabbi Eliezer, we were whisked through the midbar engulfed and protected by the beautiful and ‘oh so spacious’ clouds of glory for 40 years (Succos 11b). But where is MY “Aladdin style” magic carpet ride? I don’t know about you, but I will be spending the next 7 days outside in an unstable hut against all odds taking on the elements. Where is MY protective cloud? The “secret” of the incredible happiness that lies within this time period is masqueraded as a mold covered structure, which lies void and useless for almost the entire year in your garage. That’s right; zman simchaseinu is epitomized by a “BOOTH”. Succos is the holiday that we rejoice in the love that Hashem constantly showers upon us. The Midrash Tanchuma says that the first day of Succos is called “rishon l’cheshbon avonos”, the first day that Hashem starts counting our sins since Yom Kippur. The Kedushas Levi brings down the Gemara in Yuma (86b) that says that when someone does teshuva out of fear "zidonos na'aseh k'shgagos,” Hashem doesn’t punish them because it is as if the sins don’t count. However when we do teshuva out of love "zidonos na'aseh k'zichuyos," our aveiros turn into mitzvos. The Kedushas Levi says that on Yom Kippur we do teshuva out of fear so Hashem ignores and wipes away our previous iniquities. But on Succos, we do teshuva out of our extreme love of Hashem; it is a day of tremendous happiness because all of our previous sins are now turned into mitzvos. It is a day of counting because Hashem recounts all of the new “mitzvos” (aveiros that he threw out of Yom Kippur which have now been turned into mitzvos) that you have accomplished through this teshuva of happiness and love. Each perek of Pirkei Avos ends off saying: “Rabbi Chanya ben Akashia says, Hashem, wanted to confer merit upon B’nei Yisrael; therefore he gave them Torah and mitzvos in abundance..." How does Hashem show that He loves His children? He gives us more opportunities to connect with Him through the learning of His Divine wisdom and the through the performing of His holy mitzvos. The Hebrew word for “happiness”, “simcha”, alludes to this idea. The first two letters of “simcha”, shin and mem spell “sham”, “there”; while the numerical value of the latter two letters, ches and heh is thirteen, the same numerical value of “ahavah”, “love”. One who realizes that he is loved, experiences the supreme form of happiness. It is no coincidence that Succos has the most mitzvos and is the longest out of any of the other holidays. It includes the
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mitzvah to build a succah, the waving of the arbah minim, nisuch hamayim (the annual water libations), the specific commandment to be happy, the 98 korbanos that we give from start to finish, and all of the new mitzvos and merits that we will hopefully gain from our teshuva m’ahavah. Not only that, but the previous Bostoner Rebbe wrote that the succah represents all mitzvos asei (positive commandments). The minimum area of a Sukkah is seven tefachim by seven tefachim. There must be at least two walls of seven tefachim and one wall of one tefach. The minimum height of the walls is ten tefachim. Thus the area of the walls is 2(7x10) + (1x10) = 150 square tefachim. Adding the 49 square tefachim of area on the floor and on the s’chach ceiling, we arrive at a total of 248 square tefachim, the exact total of positive mitzvos in the Torah. When you build a succah, you are building it with a foundation of all of the mitzvos asei that Hashem has bestowed upon us. In other words, a foundation based on love and happiness. The Rambam asks in his Yesodei Hatorah 2:2, “What is the way to love and fear Hashem?” The Rambam answers: “Whenever one contemplates the great wonders of Hashem's works and creations, and he sees that they are a product of a wisdom that has no bounds or limits, he will immediately love, laud and glorify Hashem with an immense passion…” When you sit at night in the succah, and you feel a nice cool breeze blow in, you gaze up and just barely see the stars, and hear the crickets chirp a their beautiful melody, you have no choice but to feel that sense of love, connection, and happiness towards Hakadosh Baruch Hu, for making that moment so perfect, for creating you in such a beautiful world. May we all be zoche to feel a true sense of simcha, clarity, and closeness to Hashem this zman simchaseinu.
Tempering Joy with Sadness
by Yair Fax (YULA ‘14)
On Shabbat Chol Ha’Moed Sukkot, we read Megilat Kohelet. At first glance, Kohelet seems like an odd choice of a Megilah to read on Sukkot. After all, the Torah tells us “V’Samachtah Bechagecha – Rejoice in your holidays,” yet Kohelet is filled with despair and dejection. King David, Kohelet’s author, opens with the verse “Havel Havalim Amar Kohelet Havel Havalim Ha’Kol Havel – Vanity of vanities, said Koheleth; vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” He repeats the word vanity four times, painting a vivid picture of a sorrowful king wallowing in what he perceives to be the dejectedness of life. Yet, Sukkot is a holiday specifically created for the
purpose of expressing our happiness. And even more so, Sukkot compounded with Shabbat should certainly be one of the most joyous days of the year. Why do we read of the futility of life in a time designated for euphoria? The answer lies in the balance that Jews constantly strive to achieve: We strive to temper our rapture with a dash of despondency. In the happiest of times, Kohelet reminds us that as happy as we may be, this world is still temporary. Our actions are still futile. We see this balance pervading our daily, Jewish lives. At a wedding, perhaps the most ebullient occasion in any person’s life, we break a piece of glass in commemoration of the lost Beit Hamikdash. This age-old ritual reminds us that life is a balance. When a man places too much weight on one side of the scale, it is doomed to topple over. If we become too overjoyed in our Simcha, we forget our purpose of serving Hashem. Of course, the balance of sentiments operates the other way as well. The last line of Eicha, the Megila read on Tisah B’av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, states “ Hashiveinu Hashem Eilecha V’Nashuvah Chadesh Yameinu K’Kedem – Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.” In the darkest time of the year, declare our hope in the future because we recognize that the world is not all bad. Kohelet itself concludes on a very different note than that of its outset. In this world, says Kohelet, all our actions are futile because everything is ultimately evanescent. But, “Sof Devar Ha’Kol Nishma Et Ha’Elokim Yireh V’Et Mitzvotav Shemor Ki Zeh Kol Ha’Adam – The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man.” Our actions are not futile because Hashem, who is far from ephemeral, gives value to our otherwise meaningless actions. Therefore, if we heed Hashem’s word and serve him faithfully, our life and our actions will gain meaning. Only then, can our joy and Simcha be eternal and unbounded.
Sukkot: A Holiday of Unity
by Eitan Meisels (YULA ‘15)
Many of us see Sukkot as a time to reflect upon the intensity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, Sukkot has a deeper and more significant purpose. We must recall the origins of Sukkot and view it from a thematic perspective in order to fully comprehend the awesome holiday.
In Parshat Emor, Hashem commands: “In booths you are to dwell for seven days [ . . . ] so that your generations will know that I caused the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them from the land of Egypt” (Vayikra 23:42-43). Apparently, the Sukkah is meant to remind Bnei Yisroel of what Hashem did for us upon our exodus from Egypt. Though Hashem redeemed the Jews from Mitzraim, he could have abandoned us in the desert; however, Hashem guided us through the Midbar and to Har Sinai. The means through which we were guided and protected were the Annanei Hakavod, or “Clouds of Glory.” Thus, we are instructed to build Sukkot to commemorate the Annanei Hakavod, which Hashem provided when we needed them most. Like these clouds, the Sukkah, with a minimum of two and a half walls and a roof, protects us from the dangers of the outside world. Based upon the above paragraph, two pertinent questions arise. First, why would Hashem order us to a build Sukkah, an activity that requires intense physical dedication, after we just expiated our sins on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The physical labor of Sukkot only appears to amplify the intense spiritual labor of the Yomim No’raim. Do we not deserve a break after all of our difficult work? Second, why would Hashem want us to construct “booths” as a means of remembering what he did for us some three and a half thousand years ago? What does Hashem think we will gain by physically assembling a Sukkah? Hashem frequently challenges us with situations where we must display our steadfast loyalty to him, and the holiday of Sukkot is no exception. Even though we may feel the onerous fasting of Yom Kippur proves our faithfulness, Sukkot is our first opportunity to physically verify our Emunah in Hashem. In actuality, Hashem does us a favor by obligating us to build the Sukkah because it gives us a chance to start off the New Year on a positive note in a physical manner. In order to approach our second question, we must examine the following quote in Shemot (16:1): “And it came to pass, as Aharon spoke unto the whole congregation of the Children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Hashem appeared in the cloud.” We become immediately aware that B’nei Yisroel stood together as they saw the “glory of Hashem appearing in the cloud.” Unity, an integral aspect of Judaism, is manifest in the holiday of Sukkot. Hashem could have had us commemorate Sukkot in so many different ways, yet he chose a method that requires us to come together, to build a Sukkah, to sit united under one roof, and to thank Him for
his compassion and mercy. Also, the protective structure of the Sukkah makes it known that Hashem is there to watch over us throughout the year. After we have toiled to gain His respect during the Yomim No’raim, we come together as a single unified nation and witness Hashem’s glory on Sukkot. To conclude, Sukkot is not a time to recover from the extreme spiritual experiences we undergo during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a time to augment our spiritual growth with feelings of passion, gratitude, and excitement for a year of health, happiness, and success.
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Your Separation is Difficult for Me
by Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom (YULA)
A well-known comment of Rashi1 in Vayikra, explaining the word ‘Atzeret’ to denote the festive day which comes on the heels of Sukkot, imagines God as requesting one more day of celebration with His children since “your separation is difficult for me” – קשה עלי פרידתכם. This comment is generally understood, in light of the antecedent Midrashim2, as God’s desire to “spend one more day” with His people before they depart from “His home” – the Mikdash. This is, however, difficult even within the realm of homily – for what is gained by the extra day with God? In any case, the people must leave; if not today – then on the morrow. I’d like to suggest two other approaches to understanding Rashi’s modification and amplification of the Midrash; approaches which complement each other and provide a window into understanding the nature of Jewish unity. As festive as Sukkot is – it is uniquely marked as “Zman Simhateinu” – the plethora of laws and customs which engage us during the holiday have the potential of generating dissent and dispute. One of the most famous attacks on the oral tradition3 was generated by a Kohen who spilled out the water of the libation on his feet – and was pelted by the assemblage with their Etrogim! One of the earliest disputes recorded in the Mishnah is that between the elders of Shammai’s school and their Hillelian counterparts regarding the minimal size of a Sukkah4. The extent of detail and time, resources and energies spent on making an absolutely correct Sukkah and purchasing
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the most beautiful and proper species for the “Arba’ah Minim” is impressive; yet all of this has the potential to divide us. So…HaKadosh Barukh Hu “begs” us to remain one more day – to celebrate one more day but without all of the “Mitzvah material” that could divide us; to allow the pure rejoicing without objects of worship – to paraphrase R. Soloveitchik – where the heart becomes the “Heftzah shel Mitzvah”. The division generated by different approaches to Sukkah and Lulav are “difficult” - so God desires one day of togetherness without those great vehicles for worship which could drive us apart. Yet, we can not be satisfied with this approach alone, as it still begs the question asked before – what is gained by one more day, if, after all is said and done, we depart from God’s house and return to Afulah, to Sederot and to Alon Shvut - and to our mundane work? For this we must add a second explanation to קשה עלי .פרידתכם Instead of understanding the פרידהas separation (or farewell) from God, I’d like to suggest that it refers to our separation from each other. While we have an environment of celebration, of rejoicing, of cessation from mundane activities and focus on the sanctity of a holiday, we have – at least in potential – the ability to find a spark of unity. That magical moment where all else falls away and the pure sense of common history merged with common destiny is not – and should never be understood as – the modus vivendi of Am Yisrael. We have never experienced – nor do we envision – a constant existence of harmony and single-mindedness. However, we understand that in order to appreciate each other’s unique and differentiated contributions to “corporate Israel” (“K’lal Yisra’el”), we need to have the opportunity to shed the differences, the uniqueness of our different paths and join together in “one last dance”, as it were. Buried in these three words of Rashi are the secrets of Jewish communitas: An understanding that that which is closest to our hearts has the potential to divide us against each other and that we need to endeavor to find common ground; that that common ground affords us the opportunity to seize the spark of essential unity that serves to inform our appreciation for each other throughout the year. It was specifically regarding the ingathering in Jerusalem that, Rav Avraham Yitzhak haKohen Kook taught us5 about the appreciation for each other’s unique contribution to Avodat Hashem; as we gather to celebrate,
we also seek out that magical moment of connection that gives us the spiritual energy to continue in our own unique path until the next ingathering.
Celebrating Simchat Torah
by Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky (DRS)
There is a widespread custom in Jewish Communities throughout the diaspora to celebrate the second day of Shemini Atzeret as “Simchat Torah”. In Eretz Yisrael, “Simchat Torah” is of course celebrated on the one and only day of Shemini Atzeret. This day is the day where we complete the entire cycle of reading the Chamisha Chumshei Torah. According to the Medrash in Koheles Rabba (1:1) and in Shir Hashirim Rabba (1:9), Shlomo Hamelech made a party when Hashem granted him unique wisdom, and from there we learn that one makes a party at a siyum. According to the Beit Yosef (Siman 669), this is the source for the celebration of Simchat Torah. It is interesting that Shlomo Hamelech made the party upon acquiring knowledge, and from here we derive the custom to make a party upon completing a body of torah study. Rav Moshe Soloveitchik (quoted in Harirei Kedem) explains that the real celebration of a Siyum is the ability to now go back and learn the torah in greater depth based on the knowledge gleaned the first time around. To stress this, Rav Moshe would take the Aliya of “Chatan Bereishit”, not “Chatan Torah”, highlighting the obligation to start the Torah anew right away. This indeed is why we begin reading Sefer Bereishit immediately after we complete the Torah. This is likely the reason why the text we recite at a Siyum is “Hadran Alach…”, we will return to you. The whole goal of the siyum is to return to study in greater depth. Why did Chazal set up the calendar to complete the Torah specifically on Shemini Atzeret? Would it not make more sense to do this on Shavuot, or perhaps on Yom Kippurim, the day of the giving of the Luchot Rishonot or Shniyot respectively? The Sfat Emet (Drashot L’Sukkot) quotes from the Kotzker Rebbe who explains that since this is already “Zman Simchatainu”, we are already in such a heightened state of Simcha, we are required to channel that Simcha into Torah. At the Brit of my Bechor Binyamin Boruch, Mori Verabbi Rav Herschel Schachter Shlita quoted a similar explanation of his Rebbe Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik as to why there is a minhag quoted by many poskim that the father of a baby about to have a Brit gets an Aliya. Since the father is already in a heightened state of
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Simcha, due to the impending Mitzva of Mila, we instruct him to channel that Simcha into public teaching of Torah. It would seem that the same logic could be used to explain our custom of giving an Aliya to a Chatan prior to his wedding (Aufruf), as well as during Sheva Berachot. When you are in a heightened state of Simcha, you are supposed to express this by teaching Torah publicly and getting an Aliya. The Rama (OC 669) quotes the minhag on Simchat Torah to bring out all the Sifrei Torah, sing songs, and circle the bima with the Sifrei Torah similar to the way we circle the bima with the lulavim on all the other days of Sukkot, all because of Simcha. The Rama makes no mention of dancing. The Sefer “Chemdat Yamim” quotes this custom, basing himself on the famous wild dance of David Hamelech (Shmuel Bet 6:16) as the Aron was brought to Ir David. Similarly, as we escort the torah around the Bima, we should engage in festive, even wild, dancing similar to the way David Hamelech danced for the Sefer Torah, without regard to his own personal honor. The Rama compares the Hakafot on Simchat Torah to the Hakafot on Hoshana Rabba. On Hoshana Rabba, we encircle the Torah with our Lulavim. But how is that relevant to taking the Torah and encircling the Bima? In “Man of Faith in the Modern World”, volume II of Reflections of the Rav, Rav Soloveitchik suggests that when we encircle the Bima on Simchat Torah, it is symbolically as if Hashem’s presence is now in the middle of the circle. So throughout Yom Tov there is a progression. First, we use the Lulav to encircle the Sefer Torah, stressing the importance of Mitzva performance as the primary aspect of Torah observance. However, once we have “mastered” the art of using the Lulav, we abandon the Lulav, embrace the Torah, take it out into the circle, and use it to celebrate our relationship with Hashem Himself, without the Lulav, just with the Torah alone. The circular motion highlights two important ideals. In a circle, all the points of the circle are equidistant from the center. Every Jew has an equal ability to perform Mitzvot to come close to Hashem in order to have a relationship with him. Finally, in a circle, we keep coming back to the same original point. The further along in Jewish History we go, we still gain our sustenance and inspiration from our roots, from Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov, and all the great Jews who have lived throughout history. May the Simcha we experience this Yom Tov propel us to a year filled with joyous Mitzvah observance and an enhanced and inspired relationship with Hashem.
The Ushpizin’s Role in Sukkos
by Yitzie Scheinman (DRS ‘14)
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One of the integral parts of the holiday of Sukkos is the Ushpizin. These are the 7 guests that we invite into the sukkah before entering, one each night: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and Dovid. The biggest question that many people ask about the Ushpizin is simply, what’s the point? Sure, the concept of inviting these holy personalities into our Sukkah is a nice idea, but why the emphasis on doing it every single night? Even on Pesach, where we also place an emphasis on inviting guests, the invitation isn’t anything more than a formality; we don’t actually need to invite guests into our homes in order to proceed with the seder. Here, however, we are required to invite these guests in each night before starting our meal in the sukkah. Why? Furthermore, why is the invitation so formal? The fact that we say a long paragraph instead of a simple invitation adds to the seeming importance of the Ushpizin. This continues to beg the question: what is so important about the Ushpizin? In order to answer this question, we must first ask a seemingly unrelated question about the sukkah: the mitzvah of sukkah is the only full-body mitzvah that we do fully clothed, dirty shoes and all; why is that allowed? By the mitzvah of mikvah, even the smallest piece of clothing that’s touching our skin is a chatzitza, a separation, and prevents the immersion from taking effect. So why isn’t the mitzvah of sukkah regarded with the same respect? In fact, one opinion in the Gemara states that the reason for the sukkah is to represent the Ananei Hakavod, the holy cloud that protected the Jews in the desert and contained Hashem’s shechinah. If anything, shouldn’t the sukkah deserve even more respect than other mitzvos like the mikvah? The answers to these two questions about the sukkah are actually connected, and both can be answered by looking at a well-known story about Avraham Avinu in Parshas Vayera. After Avraham had given himself a bris milah, Hashem was doing the mitzvah of bikur cholim and visiting him. While Avraham was talking to Hashem, he saw three travelers, who turned out to be angels, walking towards him. Even though it was the third day after his bris milah, and he was in a great deal of pain, he immediately got up, left the shade and comfort of his tent, and ran in the blistering heat to greet these weary travelers. This is a testament to the
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greatness of Avraham, as he had a perfectly good excuse to stay in his comfortable tent and continue talking to Hashem, but instead he jumped at the opportunity to do chesed. However, this story also teaches us an important lesson about the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim, greeting guests. The pasuk says, “Vayisa einav vayar, vehinei shlosha anashim nitzavim alav, vayar vayaratz likrasam mipesach ha’ohel” – “And he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing opposite him, and he saw them and ran towards them from the opening of the tent” (Bereishis 18:2). The Vilna Gaon points out that although Avraham could have shown equal respect to the guests and Hashem by walking sideways, the words “Vayaratz likrasam,” “And he ran towards them,” tell us that he completely turned his back on Hashem and faced the guests when he went out to greet them. The Vilna Gaon learns from this story the importance of the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim – it’s even more important than Hashem’s shechinah. Rav Chaim Zuckerman, in Birchos Chaim, uses this lesson to answer both questions about the sukkah. He explains that the importance of the Ushpizin is actually a direct result of the way we do the mitzvah of the sukkah. Normally, we would in fact deem it necessary to give the sukkah the utmost respect, just like mitzvos such as the mikvah. It is obviously more preferable to do the mitzvah fully clothed, but we don’t want to degrade the sukkah and Hashem’s shechinah that it represents. It is for that reason that we place so much emphasis on the Ushpizin. The story of Avraham showed us that hachnasas orchim trumps even Hashem’s shechina. By inviting a guest into the sukkah each night, we are avoiding any problems of disrespect towards Hashem’s shechinah. We must say the Ushpizin before entering the sukkah in order to be able to walk into the sukkah fully clothed without showing any disrespect to Hashem. We should all keep in mind this year when saying the Ushpizin the importance of what we’re saying and the respect we’re giving to Hashem when we say it.
Sukkos: A Wrap-Up of the Yomim Noraim
by Moshe Lonner (DRS ‘14)
The holiday of Sukkos appears to have many characteristics that on the surface seem to be very odd, but when analyzed thoroughly have extremely profound meaning. Some examples include the timing during the year that we celebrate the holiday of Sukkos, the shaking of the arbah minim, and the holiday of Shemini Atzeres that follows
Sukkos, which Chazal refer to as a “Regel Bifnei Atzmo” – its own holiday. All three of these ideas are themes that characterize our observance of the holiday of Sukkos in specific and our relationship to Hashem in general. The first oddity about the holiday of Sukkos is the time period in which we observe it. Sukkos does not immediately follow Pesach, but rather follows the beginning of the new year. Sukkos always occurs during the fall season, when farmers generally bring their crops into their houses. At this time in the year, we are susceptible to arrogance and may think that the reason why we were successful in bringing in such a great crop only came about due to our own hard work. To counter this, we celebrate the holiday of Sukkos to remind ourselves of our obligations of Bein Adam Lamakom. We observe Sukkos by leaving our houses and dwelling in temporary huts. In these huts all of our luxuries from the rest of the year are gone and we are all in what looks to be the same financial situation as everyone else. It is as if Hashem is telling us to remember that He is in charge and our success is rooted only in Him. The second peculiarity of Sukkos is that we have a mitzvah to shake the four species – the lulav, esrog, hadas, and aravah. Chazal tell us that each of the arbah minim symbolize each of the four types of Jews. The esrog, which has both good taste and good smell, refers to a Jew who has both a portion in Torah and performs good deeds. The lulav and hadas have only good taste or good smell and refer to Jews that have either learned Torah or performed good deeds. The aravah, which has neither good taste nor good smell, represents the Jew that has neither Torah nor good deeds. One of the lessons of Sukkos is the Bein Adam Lachaveiro aspect that is learned out from the taking of the four species. Just like one needs all of the four species in order to perform the mitzvah, so too only through a united effort and true achdut among klal yisrael can we properly serve Hashem. The last of the three abnormalities about the holiday of Sukkos is that it is trailed by the holiday of Shemini Atzeres, which Chazal tell us is its own unique holiday. Throughout the holiday of Sukkos, 70 bulls were offered altogether, representing the 70 nations of the world. However, when it comes to Shemini Atzeres, only 1 bull is offered. This stresses the major difference between the Jews and the gentiles of the world. When Jews celebrate, we do it with holiness, purity, and prayer – drastically different from the way that gentiles celebrate their holidays. The relationship between Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres is therefore a prototype of the relationship between Jews and the rest of the world.
The holiday of Sukkos teaches us many important ideas about our service to Hashem. The fact that we celebrate Sukkos after we have collected our crops stresses the importance of our relationship between us and G-d. The taking of the four species highlights the importance of uniting together and building a relationship between a man and his friend. The juxtaposition between Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres models for us what our relationship should be with the rest of the world. After a month of Elul, which we spend mending our ways and doing teshuva, Rosh Hashana, where we ask Hashem to inscribe us in the book of life, and Yom Kippur, where we fast and ask Hashem to forgive us for our sins, we are catapulted into a holiday of Sukkos. Sukkos is basically the point where a person begins to make great efforts to improve his Avodas Hashem after he has promised to change his ways on Yom Kippur. Sukkos teaches us that in order to improve one’s self spiritually, we must focus on improving our relationships – between us and G-d, between us and our fellow man, and between us and the rest of the world.
An Experimental and Philosophical Approach to Sukkah Size
by Aryeh Krischer (TABC ‘14)
A Sukkah is the temporary structure we live in for seven days each autumn. It can be made of virtually any material, needs two walls and a smidgen of a third, and must be covered in Schach (organic materials) to provide a roof. The Gemara in Sukkah (2a) cites a Mishnah that discusses the minimum and maximum sizes for a Sukkah. The Tana Kama (the anonymous author) tells us a Sukkah can be no more than twenty Amot (an Amah is the distance between the crook of the elbow and the tip of the middle finger) tall and no less than ten Tefachim (a Tefach is the distance across four fingers held loosely together) tall. But what do those measurements mean? In an effort to better understand how I would fit into the minimum and maximum Sukkah sizes, I measured a virtual Sukkah based on my own Tefach and Amah, as these measurements are inherently subjective. I started with the minimum Sukkah, having dimensions of 7x7x10 Tefachim, as outlined in the first Perek of Gemara Sukkah. First, I measured a height of ten Tefachim which came out to one Tefach above my head, meaning I could sit up comfortably. But what of the footprint? As it turns out, seven Tefachim is
surprisingly tight. I couldn’t even sit cross-legged in my little virtual Sukkah because it wasn’t wide enough. This conforms to the Gemara’s requirement that a Sukkah be large enough to encompass most of one’s body and table. With a board on my thighs I would fit this requirement just fine, but the Sukkah wouldn’t fit much else. One thing I noticed was the Schach was just low enough that no matter where I looked from my position of repose, it was in my field of vision. As for the Sukkah’s maximum height, I didn’t really have twenty Amot of space to play with, so I started by measuring the average height of a room - five Amot. Four story buildings are approximately twenty Amot high, and are thankfully easy to locate. I found that Twenty Amot was actually a borderline for me; below four stories I could lift my head and see the Schach fairly well, but above four stories, I had to crane my neck back to see anything. Children are classically taught that the Schach must not be solid so that those sitting inside the Sukkah can gaze up though it to Shamayim. In a way, the entire Sukkah can be seen as a symbol of a Jew’s relationship with Hashem. A small Sukkah is cozy and tight, almost squeezing out its occupant. On the other hand, a large Sukkah is so big the occupant is only aware of it on the very edge of his vision. These two extremes represent the boundaries of a healthy relationship with Hashem. Some Jews pile on laws and stringencies. They sit in a small, cozy Sukkah, so tight that they can only sit in certain postures. The Schach, representative of Hahsem, is always in their field of vision and thoughts, even while simply resting. Other Jews live broader lives, choosing a large Sukkah, where Torah tends to hover more on the edge of their vision, even temporarily out of sight and mind. Whichever Sukkah one chooses, one must know that those are the limits. A Sukkah any smaller than 7x7x10 doesn’t fit a person, just as laws and stringencies that are too constraining make it impossible to live. Likewise, in a Sukkah taller than twenty Amot, its Schach, the connection to Hashem, is out of sight and can only be seen with difficulty, if at all.
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The Tribes Then and Now
By Leo Metzger (TABC ‘14)
In Parashat VeZot HaBerachah, just before Moshe ascends Har Nevo to see Eretz Yisrael before he dies, he blesses the Shevatim. This situation is reminiscent of a similar scenario that occurred in the last hours of another great man’s life, that man being our patriarch, Ya’akov. On his deathbed, Ya’akov gathers his sons and blesses them individually; some are
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blessed with great wealth or power, like Yosef and Yehudah, while others are rebuked for past deeds, like Shimon and Leivi. Ya’akov requested of his sons one final task, to bury him in Ma’arat HaMachpeilah with his parents and grandparents in the land of Israel. This request puts the children of Ya’akov in a very similar situation as that of the Shevatim 250 years later at the border of Eretz Yisrael- about to reenter the land after having left it for a period of time. But the major difference between the tribes’ situation in the desert and that of the sons of Ya’akov is the content of the blessings they receive. When Ya’akov blessed his sons, he took into consideration their abilities, personalities and deeds for both good and bad. He rebuked Re’uven and stripped him of his firstborn rights for dropping the baton of leadership and for moving his bed unjustly, while he blessed Yehudah that his descendants would be leaders and will never be deposed, because he took responsibility for his actions with Tamar when he could have avoided public humiliation by simply staying silent. He also berated Shimon and Leivi for how they dealt with the people of Shechem when Dina was taken captive. When Moshe blesses the Shevatim in VeZot HaBerachah, he gives many of them blessings that were similar to the ones that Ya’akov had given their patriarchs. The main differences lie with the Berachot of Re’uven, Shimon, and Leivi. Re’uven was originally chastised for erroneously moving his father’s bed, and he was stripped of his rights as the firstborn for his impetuous actions. Moshe, however, blesses the tribe of Re’uven that they should not fall victims to their impetuous nature as their patriarch had, and that even though they chose to live on the opposite side of the Jordan River, they should still maintain a connection to the rest of the Shevatim. He then blesses Yehudah in a very similar fashion to Ya’akov: that his armies would be victorious. Moshe then goes on to bless Leivi with a blessing that is quite the stark contrast to that of Ya’akov’s: Ya’akov cursed Leivi for his anger-driven actions that he perpetrated together with Shimon when they laid waste to the city of Shechem after their Prince had kidnapped Dinah. He had said that they would be scattered across the land, an allusion to the Levite cities spread throughout the Land of Israel and the members of the tribe of Shimon that lived in host territories in the southern region of the land due their lack of specific tribal territories. Moshe, on the other hand, blesses the Sheivet of Leivi for its adherence to Hashem’s laws and its
work in the Mishkan, and says that they will become teachers of Torah all across the land. The contrast between Ya’akov’s and Moshe’s blessings was wrought from the continued efforts of the tribe of Leivi to better themselves and rise above their original nature. Another stark difference comes to light when looking at the blessings of Shimon; Ya’akov had grouped Shimon and Leivi together while Moshe seems to have not given Shimon any blessing at all. Ramban states that the Torah always sticks to the format of twelve tribes, normally either the two sons of Yosef, Efrayim and Menasheh, are counted as one, and Leivi is included in the count, or they are counted as two separate entities and Leivi is excluded and dealt with in a separate count due to their unique status within the tribes. In any case, the number of tribes counted is consistently twelve. In this instance, Moshe decides to bless the tribes of Efrayim and Menasheh separately because the new leader Yehoshu’a is from Sheivet Efrayim. The tribe of Leivi is also included in the count since their blessing would benefit the whole nation, as they work in the Temple. The tribe of Shimon is chosen as the Sheivet to be omitted because of its small size and because its members would live scattered in the southern region of Eretz Yisrael, and since they did not have a specific tribal territory, they would benefit from the Berachah received by their host tribe. We can learn from the difference between the blessing received by the Tribe of Leivi that if one is determined to accomplish something and puts in a real genuine effort, one can conquer any obstacle or challenge that comes his way, no matter how insurmountable it may seem.
An Analysis of an Essential Sukkah Story
by Rabbi Chaim Jachter (TABC)
Occasionally Chazal seek to impart a message by relating a story. The message of a Mishnah that relates a story is often more powerful and memorable than a Mishnah that teaches only pure Halachah. The Mishnah’s story is even more powerful when the characters are great sages whose words we regularly study and whose actions we now have the opportunity to learn form from as well. In this essay we shall analyze a story that is presented in the Mishnah towards the end of the second chapter of Masechet Sukkah. This analysis will greatly enhance our appreciation of the Mitzvah of Sukkah.
Eating a Snack Outside the Sukkah
The Mishnah (Sukkah 25a) teaches that one is permitted to eat a snack (“Achilat Arai”) outside the Sukkah. The subsequent Mishnah (Sukkah 26b) relates that Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai was given a small quantity of food to taste and that he asked that the food be brought to the Sukkah for him to eat. Similarly, Rabban Gamliel was offered two dates to eat and some water to drink and he requested that these items be brought to the Sukkah for him to eat. On the other hand, when Rabi Tzadok was offered a snack to eat on Sukkot he chose to eat it outside the Sukkah in accordance with the rule articulated in the previous Mishnah. The Gemara (Sukkah 26b-27a) explains that the stories in the Mishnah teach that one has options regarding snacking outside the Sukkah. One option is to follow the baseline Halachah and eat snacks outside the Sukkah. Another legitimate and Halachically meaningful action is to be Machmir (strict) and refrain from consuming even small amounts of food outside the Sukkah. The Rambam (Hilchot Sukkah 6:6) and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 639:2) codify these both approaches as entirely legitimate Halachic options. It is important to note that the Halachah presents both obligatory activities and optional tasks. This is important to note as the Chumash presents two models regarding Mitzvot. One model is Moshe Rabbeinu relaying to us Hashem’s command us to observe various Mitzvot. The second model is the Avot voluntarily observing Mitzvot. Rav Kook refers to these phenomena respectively as Torat Moshe and Torat Avraham. Rav Yehuda Amital once stated in a talk to alumni of Yeshivat Har Etzion that the Halachah presents us with these two models within many Mitzvot that we observe. For example, we must keep Shabbat from sunset on Friday evening until nightfall on Saturday evening. However, the Halachah also requires that we supplement Shabbat by adding Tosefet Shabbat. Although there are some basic parameters regarding the requirement of Tosefet Shabbat, every individual is essentially given the option to decide how much he should add to Shabbat. Similarly, in regards to the Mitzvah of Sukkah, there are both non-negotiable obligations and areas of options for each person to decide what is appropriate for him.
The Mishnah’s Connection to Churban Bayit Sheini
When studying this Mishnah with the TABC Y9
Gemara Shiur of 5763, we noticed that the characters in this Mishnah are central rabbinic characters involved in the stories surrounding the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash (see Gittin 55b-56b). We wondered about the connection between the issue of eating snacks outside the Sukkah and Churban Bayit Sheini. I suggested that perhaps this Mishnah implicitly presents a remedy to the spiritual malaise that was responsible for Churban Bayit Sheini. Chazal (Yoma 9b) state that the sin of Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) caused the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash. The Netziv in his introduction to Sefer BeReishit elaborates on this point. He writes that the Jews of the time were very pious and assiduously studied Torah. However, they regarded anyone who differed from them in their style of Yirat Shamayim as a heretic. Our Mishnah presents a remedy to this spiritual malady as it presents two equally legitimate and viable options in the manner in which one may observe the Mitzvah of Sukkah. We do not regard either option as “too frum” (Mechzei KeYuhara) or “too liberal” or “too modern”. Joshua Strobel suggested another approach to this Mishnah. He noted that the aforementioned Gemara in Gittin records that Rabi Tzadok fasted for forty years before the Churban in an effort to convince Hashem to relent and not destroy the Beit HaMikdash. He also noted that Raban Gamliel and Raban Yochanan Ben Zakai did not fast in the manner of Rabi Tzadok. The Mishnah in Sukkah, on the other hand, presents a contrasting situation where Rabban Gamliel and Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai were strict about a matter of eating and Rabi Tzadok was lenient about a matter of eating. The Mishnah might be teaching a lesson regarding balancing our actions and emotions. Rav Yosef Adler cites Rav Yosef Soloveitchik’s explanation of the Shvil HaZahav (moderate path) that the Rambam vigorously advocates in Hilchot Deot. The Rav explains that the Shvil Hazahav is not achieved by being moderate about every issue. Rather one is considered a moderate if the sum total of his actions represents a moderate path. In other words, even a moderate is sometimes aggressive and sometimes passive. One achieves the desired status of a moderate if the aggregate of his actions represents a balanced approach to life’s challenges. Our Mishnah presents such a model of moderation as Rabi Tzadok who was strict in the context of fasting before Churban Bayit Sheini was lenient regarding eating a snack outside the Sukkah. On the other hand, Rabban Gamliel and Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai who were lenient regarding fasting before the Churban were strict regarding eating a snack
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outside the Sukkah.
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