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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 5 May 2017 05:10 PM and ends Sat 6 May 2017 06:09 PM
י"ג תשרי ה' אלפים תש"ע
On Motzei Yom Kippur, a Bat-Kol calls out to say
" לך אכל בשמחה לחמך ושתה בלב טוב יינך כי כבר רצה האלקים את מעשיך" - “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God hath already accepted thy works” (Kohelet 9:7) - because we have been judged for life at the close of Yom Kippur.
For many people, this is the end of the Yamim Noraim. However, Chazal tell us that the
Yemei HaDin don’t end with the sound of the Shofar after Yom Kippur, they continue until Hoshana Raba – what is that the significance of this, and what exactly does it mean?
In Tanach, the name of a person or place is not just a name, but rather the essence of that place or person. The first named place the Jewish people encountered when they came out of Egypt was Sukkot. Additionally, when Yaakov departed from his brother Eisav for the last time, he first came to Sukkot. What is the special significance of this place called Sukkot?
The Gemara (Brachot 4b) says that one needs to connect mentioning the geula in the Bracha of Ga’al Yisrael to the Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharit. The Gemara asks: Why don’t we connect the two directly in Ma’ariv as well, rather than inserting the Bracha of Hashkiveinu in between them? The Gemara answers that the Bracha of Hashkiveinu is considered an extension of the the Bracha for Geula – it is a Geula Arichta. What is the Gemara trying to teach us?
Whenever Hashem brings the Jewish people to a position of Geula, redemption and freedom, it is always in danger of being lost. Therefore, our need for Hashem’s protection does not end once we achieve redemption. We also need the power to maintain that state of Geula that we are in. This protection, this power, this Shemira, is the Sukkah!
The Sukkah is a completely open place - it is open to the heavens, and open to visitors. On Sukkot we are commanded to leave our secure homes and bring the house to the Sukkah. This demonstrates our belief that our protection comes not from the bricks and wood of the house, but rather directly from Hashem; even in the open, flimsy Sukkah we are completely secure.
Looking back at Yaakov Avinu and Bnei Yisrael, we now understand that they went from redemption to Sukkot in order to gain the protection of the Sukkah for the new state of Geula that they found themselves in. We can now understand the Gemara’s ruling regarding the Bracha of Hashkiveinu. In that Beracha we say “U’fros Aleinu Sukkat Shlomecha” – ‘and spread over us your Sukkah of peace” - we ask that Hashem not only grant us Geula, but also a Shemira for the Geula – a Geula Arichta!
The covering for the Sukkah is called Schach. In Gematria, Schach has a numerical value of one hundred. That is the same as the number of Brachot we are required to say
every day, and the one hundred Shofar blasts we blow on Rosh Hashana. The concept of a Bracha, a blessing, is Ribui, expansion. When we recite a blessing, we expand our perspective on the world and realize that the blessings we have are from Hashem. We are then ourselves expanded and are in a position to bring Hashem into our lives.
The one hundred Shofar blasts are also a call to bring Hashem into our lives, as Rambam famously explains, “wake up, sleepers from your slumber!” The message of the Schach is the same. It reminds us to wake up and reevaluate everything, and to make sure we are including Hashem in our lives. If we are to be an Or LaGoyim, a light unto the nations, we first need to be a light unto ourselves, and to do what we need to ensure that we bring that light into our daily lives.
This concept of gathering strength to be a light unto the nations is particularly appropriate to Sukkot. Sukkot marks the end of two cycles. It is the last of the three Regalim; Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. It is also the end of the High Holidays of Tishrei; Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Sukkot is the time that we sit with Hashem in the protective embrace of the Sukkah, but it’s also a holiday for the nations of the world, a time when we bring Korbanot in the Beit Hamikdash for the protection and well-being of all the nations.
The Shalosh Regalim are specifically given for the Jewish people to come to Jerusalem and be close with Hashem in His place. However, the Yamim Noraim are not just a time of judgment for the Jewish people, but rather for the whole world, as we say “the entire world passes before You like the Bnei Marom”.1 Sukkot is the time when those two cycles come together, both to strengthen ourselves and our relationship with the rest of the world.
What is our opportunity to strengthen ourselves during Sukkot? Maharal points out that the word Emunah is mentioned three times in the Torah.2 The first time it appears is when Moshe Rabbeinu comes to tell the Jews about the imminent Geulah.
And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had remembered the children of Israel, and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.
And Israel saw the great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the LORD; and they believed in the LORD, and in His servant Moses.
And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and may also believe thee for ever.' And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD.
1. Time of Meaning
Maharal explains that these three Emunot constitute the foundation of Judaism. The first belief, when the Jews are told they will be redeemed, is belief in Hashgachah Pratit – the idea that Hashem watches specially over the Jewish people. Hashem remembered and watched over them, even in the depths of bondage in Egypt. The second belief, at theparting of the Sea of Reeds, is the belief that there is none other than Hashem, Who is all-capable and all-powerful. Hashem showed his mastery over nature and the world when He miraculously split the sea. The third belief, at the giving of the Torah, is the belief that the Torah is from heaven – a gift from God.
These three Emunot are manifested in the holidays of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos. On Pesach, the holiday of Yetziat Mitzrayim and K’rias Yam Suf, the Emunah of Hashem being all-capable and all-powerful is manifested; on Shavuot, the Emunah of
Torah coming from Shamayim is manifested. On Sukkot, when millions of people are Oleh La’Regel and participate in the Simchat Beit HaShoevah, the Emunah of Hashgachah Pratit is manifested. It is therefore appropriate that we dwell in the Sukkah, which commemorates the Ananei HaKavod, and symbolizes the Hashgachah Pratit that Hashem exercised in watching over the Jews during their travel through the desert.
Because of the fundamental beliefs realized and celebrated on Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, these three Chagim are called Regalim, legs - the legs on which Judaism stands.
Historically, more people would travel to Jerusalem on Sukkot than the other two Regalim. It is specifically at this time, when millions of people are spending the Yom Tov together, that we reinforce the belief that Hashem’s presence and protection rests on every single Jewish person. The Gemara says that during the Simchat Beit Hashoeva celebrations in the Beit Hamikdash, Hillel would say “If I am here, all are here”.3
What Hillel said was not an expressiong of ga’avah, haughtiness! Rather these were words of chizuk for the nation, reminding them that each person is unique, and the bearer of unique abilities that no one else has. Every single person must discover his uniqueness and share it with the rest of Klal Yisrael.
Pesach is considered the moment of the birth of the Jewish nation, and Shavuot, when we received the Torah and its mitzvoth, is considered the Bar Mitzvah of the Jewish nation. Finally, Sukkot, when we dwell in the Sukkah with Hashem, is the wedding of the Jewish nation with Hashem. That is the time in which we strengthen our relationship with Hashem and His Torah. It is specifically at this time, when our relationship is strongest, that we can realize our potential as an Or LaGoyim, an example to the nations of the world. It is our relationship with Hashem and our bond with the Torah that gives us the identity to be a model for others. Without this bond to Hashem and His Torah, we have nothing else to make us the Or Lagoyim. That is why Sukkot is the appropriate finale to the period of the High Holidays and the judgment of the entire world.
May we all merit feeling Hashem’s embrace when we step in the Sukkah and as we
step out into the world.
Sukkot To-Go 5768 / 2007
1 The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 18a) offers three possible translations: a flock of sheep, people ascending
a steep and narrow hill-path, or like soldiers of the house of David, who had written out Gittin to
their wives before going into battle, so as not to be distracted by thoughts of home white at war.
2 Gevurot Hashem, Chapter 47
3 Gemara Sukkah 53a