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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Succos (64)

On the first day of Succos we read the Haftara from the 14th chapter of Zecharya. The chapter speaks of the End of Days when the fight over Jerusalem will take place. After Israel is victorious, all the nations of the world who remain after this battle, will be invited to come up to Jerusalem to the Temple to celebrate the festival of Succos. Those who do not come up to Jerusalem will be punished. Their punishment will be the absence of rain in their country.

It is obvious why this chapter was chosen for Succos, because there is a central reference to Succos in it. But let us look closer at it.


Let us look at Rashi’s comment on verse 14:17

“And any of the nations of the Land that will not come up to Jerusalem to bow to Hashem, King of the Legions, then the rain will not fall upon them.”


The rain will not fall upon them: Rashi : Why did G-d decide to decree the absence of rain (as punishment) ? [The answer is] Because the Mitzvos of the Holy Day are related to the blessing of Rain; The four species and the oblation of water in the Temple are in order to supplicate Hashem for rain, since this Festival is the season of the yearly rain. And, thus, those [nations] who equivocate about this Festival will not receive rain [in the coming year].


Rashi explains the connection between the Festival of Succos and the punishment of not receiving rain for those nations who refuse to celebrate it in Jerusalem. It is important to note that Rashi is saying that the Four Species are taken, not so much as a symbol of thanks for the success of this year’s crops, as they are for beseeching G-d for the success of next year’s produce. One could say that our recognition and appreciation of G-d’s goodness to us in the past year is itself a fitting introduction to our new request.


A look at the Succos Festival as it stands out among the three major Festivals will give us an insight into this Rashi-comment. As we know, the three Festivals of the Jewish year cycle – Passover, Shavuos and Succos – each has two reasons for their celebration. One is agricultural and one spiritual/historical. Passover is the Spring, the season of the winter harvest of barley. It is also celebrates the day when Israel was redeemed from Egyptian slavery. The Festival of Shavuos is in the Summer season, the time of the wheat harvest. It also commemorates the Receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Succos is in the Fall when the farmer gathers in his summer crops. It also celebrates the forty years of Israel’s sojourning in the Wilderness when they dwelled in temporary huts (Hebrew “succos”).


The historical reason for Succos differs somewhat from the reasons given for Passover and Shavuos. The exodus from Egypt was an event filled with miracles; the cataclysmic Revelation at Sinai was a miracle beyond words. But surviving in the wilderness although it certainly was an enormous feat, was not an outright miracle as the others were. Also each of the other historical events took place on a particular day while the dwelling in huts was ongoing for 40 years. What is the significance of the difference?


An answer: The less miraculous nature of Succos may precisely be the point. By that I mean that, the dwelling in tents brought Israel close to nature and made them dependent on the daily wonders of G-d for their normal subsistence. On Passover we remember the Exodus from Egypt which showed us how G-d miraculously interfered in history to rescue us physically. On Shavuos we remember how Hashem revealed Himself to us as the pinnacle of a spiritual experience. On the Festival of Succos we remember how our daily, this-worldly, existence is dependent on G-d’s benevolence. This is symbolically and existentially expressed in the blessing of Rain. Rain in Hebrew is “Geshem” This word also means a material, physical substance. This physical substance is our connection to G-d. Without the oh-so natural event of rainfall mankind could not continue living. It is a miracle, but a one that takes a natural form.

When the Nations of the world celebrate the Festival of Succos in Jerusalem in the Temple this is the epitome of Mankind recognizing that their needs are supplied daily by the Divine Being and that they are always the beneficiaries of His blessings. Those nations that recognize this connection and dependency will be blessed with Rain, those who cannot acknowledge this dependency are cursed to wither away without rain.


How chilling it is to see how, in our own days, at this very moment, Jerusalem stands in the central of the world’s sites and how most of the nations have sided with the forces of evil to make war with Israel in Jerusalem. May we be sparred the catastrophe and with G-d’s help live to see the blessings of Hashem in Israel and the world. And see the verse from our haftarah fulfilled:

“And Hashem will be King over all the Earth. On that day Hashem will be one and His name will be one.”

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Somayach

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