subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:SHOLOM613@AOL.COM


The yahrtzeit of the GR"A is on Cholo Shel Mo'eid Sukos. In honour of his memory the following divrei Torah on Sukos by the GR"A are offered:

There are three basic wall structures acceptable as a valid sukoh:

1) A four walled structure
2) A three walled structure
3) A two walled structure with a third side consisting of a beam that is at least one "tefach," about four inches, wide, which is within three "t'fochim" of one of the two walls

The GR"A says that these three configurations are alluded to in letters of the word "SuKoH" itself, spelled Samech-Kof-Hei. The Samech is shaped somewhat like four attached walls. The Kof has the shape of three attached walls. The letter Hei has the same shape as two walls with a small wall that is not attached, but nearby.

Vayikroh 23:42: "Basukos teishvu shivas yomim" - The GR"A says that the mitzvoh of residing in a sukoh weakens the drive for speaking loshon hora. He points out that the letters of the word "SUKoH," Samech-Vov-Kof-Hei, each emanate through a different part of the mouth's vocal system. The Samech is from the set of Zayin-Samech-Tzadi-Shin, which emanates from the teeth. The Vov is from the Beis-Vov- Mem- Pei set which emanates from the lips. The Kof is from the set of Gimmel-Yud-Kof-Kuf-Reish which emanates from the palate. The Hei is from the set of Alef-Hei-Ches-Ayin, which emanates from the throat. The letters Dalet-Tes-Lamed-Nun-Tof are the set of letters which emanates from the tongue but no letters from this set are in the word "SUKoH." The previous four components of the speech system surround the tongue and hide it. This indicates that the letters of the word "SUKoH" protect against the sin of the tongue, loshon hora. This is alluded to in T'hilim 31:21, where it says "Titz'p'neim b'sukoh meiriv l'shonos." This can be translated as, "He will hide them in the letters of the word "SUKoH," the argument causing of tongues (loshon hora)."

The GR"A once tested a student who had completed the tractate Sukoh. He asked one question. "How many different kosher and non-kosher structures and situations of a sukoh are mentioned in the gemara Bavli, Yerushalmi, and Tosefta?" The student was unable to answer and the GR"A said that there are 91 kosher ones, equal to the numeric value of the word sukoh when spelled with a Vov, in full, indicating a proper sukoh, and there are 85 non-kosher ones, equal to the word sukoh when spelled without a Vov, lacking, indicating a sukoh which lacks kashrus.

(The Imrei Moshe says in the name of the Magid of Trisk that in the gemara Bavli only, there are 66 kosher sukos, equal to the first two letters of the word sukoh, and 25 non-kosher ones, equal to the last two letters of the word sukoh.)

The GR"A said that there are only two Torah mitzvos which a person fulfills with his whole body. They are, residing in a sukoh and living in Eretz Yisroel (Living in E.Y. is a mitzvas haTorah according to the Ramban.) The GR"A says that this is alluded to in T'hilim 76:3. It says, "Va'y'hi v'sholeim suko u'm'onoso b'Tzion." This can be translated as, "And he was complete (his whole body involved) in his sukoh and in having his home in Tzion."

(The Kotzker Rebbe said that the mitzvoh of residing in a sukoh is so encompassing that it even includes the heavy winter boots that one wears. The Chidushei hoRI"M said that Shabbos is even greater than the mitzvoh of sukoh. It totally encompasses the body (Chachmei Kaboloh call Shabbos 'Ohr Hamakif.'), and while one can step out of the sanctity of a sukoh, one cannot leave the sanctity of Shabbos.)

The mishneh mentioned in the gemara Sukoh 28b says, "If rains descend one is exempt from the mitzvoh of sukoh. The Rabbis said that this is analogous to a servant who came "limzoge kose l'rabo," and the master poured the container upon the servant's face." This indicates that the master in unhappy with the action of his servant. This is commonly understood as meaning that the master spilled the wine onto the face of his servant. However the example does precious little in adding on to the basic understanding. Rain sent by Hashem on Sukos stops us from fulfilling the mitzvoh and shows that Hashem is unhappy with us. (Please note that this is only true in Eretz Yisroel, where rain at that time of the year is highly unusual.)

The GR"A says that the story mentioned in the mishneh alludes to something deeper. "Limzoge" means to add water to the wine and dilute it, making it suitable for drinking. In the days of the Talmud the wine was so strong and concentrated that without dilution it was not drinkable. Wine is symbolic for strict judgement, midas hadin. Water is symbolic for mercy, midas horachamim. The servant came with a container of water on Sukos to dilute the midas hadin of the previous days from Rosh Hashonoh through Yom Kippur. However, the master took the jug of water and spilled it onto the face of the servant, indicating that he was not willing to accept the water, the diluting of the strict judgement with mercy, symbolized by water.


"U'sh'avtem mayim b'soson mi'ma'y'nei ha'yishuho" - You shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of deliverance. (Yeshayohu 12:3)

Throughout the year wine offerings were poured onto the altar, and on Sukos there were also water libations. The source for this is explained in the gemara Shabbos 104b. The gemara Sukoh 48b relates that there was once a Saducee Kohein (Tzedoki) who poured the water libations onto his feet and the people pelted him to death with their esrogim. Why would he do such a thing, and why did they stone him with their esrogim?

There are two basic approaches to serving Hashem:

1) TAAM VODAAS, reason (literally "taste") and understanding - serving Hashem based upon comprehension of the significance of a mitzvoh and the profundity of the Divine revelation achieved after performing it.

2) KABOLAS OLE, absolute submission to perform the will of Hashem regardless of whether the significance is understood. Wine has taste, and water is tasteless. Therefore, one must precede wine drinking with a brochoh even if one is not thirsty, while over water a brochoh is only made if one drinks to quench his thirst (Sh.O. Orach Chaim 204:7).

Wine and water are analogous to these two approaches to serving Hashem. Wine represents the approach of "taam vodaas," comprehension, and water represents the approach of "kabolas ole," absolute subordination, even without understanding. The latter mode is loftier because it is unfettered. It is not conditional upon previous understanding.

The Saducee Kohein advocated serving Hashem based on understanding only, and rejected the approach of doing mitzvos when one has no idea what they accomplish. Consequently, this Kohein subscribed to the wine libations throughout the year, but scoffed at the water libation, pouring it onto his feet instead of onto the altar.

The people were deeply offended by this because it implied that only the learned scholar should serve Hashem but not the common folk, and therefore, in their severe rage, they pelted him with their esrogim, putting him to death (There is an opinion that he was not killed, as per some Rishonim on the above gemara.) for his heretical philosophy.

Alternatively, his message was that only the simple people who are like the feet, the base organs, and have no mind of their own should serve Hashem based on "kabolas ole," but intellectuals should serve Hashem based on their understanding and comprehension.

The people severely rejected this because even the most superior minds cannot comprehend the infinity of Hashem, and therefore to a certain extent everyone must exhibit "kabolas ole." (Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt"l)


Ch. 33, v. 8: "T'ri'veihu" - Rashi says that this refers to "mei m'rivoh," - the waters of discord. Even though only Moshe said "shimu noh hamorim" (Bmidbar 20:10), Aharon and Miriam were also held responsible even though they did nothing. I have difficulty understanding this, as Miriam died before the incident of "mei m'rivoh." To understand why Aharon's being punished for the sin of "mei m'rivoh" is a praise of the tribe of Levi we must see the words of the Yalkut Shimoni remez #764. It explains the words of this verse and the next to mean that Aharon was held responsible just by being second in command to Moshe, and that he did not attempt to persuade Hashem to forgive him in the merit of his illustrious father or mother, "Ho'omeir l'oviv u'l'imo lo r'isiv," nor in the merit of his brother, "v'es echov (read 'ochiv') lo hikir," nor in the merit of his sons, "v'es bonov lo yodo." Rather, he just kept quiet and accepted Hashem's punishment.

The Zayis Raanon explains Aharon's sin. We find that Moshe hit the rock twice, "Va'yach es ha'sela b'ma'teihu paamoyim" (Shmos 20:11). If Moshe did not listen to Hashem by hitting the rock rather than speaking to it, why was it necessary to mention that he struck it twice?" He answers that this explains how Aharon also sinned. After Moshe hit the rock once, Aharon should have stopped him from hitting it again, knowing that this was not Hashem's will.

Ch. 33, v. 9: "Ho'omeir l'oviv u'l'imo lo r'isiv v'es echov lo hikir v'es bonov lo yodo" - Rashi (Sifri and Yalkut Shimoni remez #955) says that when the bnei Yisroel sinned with the golden calf Moshe announced "Mi laShem eiloy" (Shmos 32:26). The complete tribe of Levi assembled and Moshe told them to kill the sinners even if they were the person's own father, meaning his mother's father (one calls his grandfather "father"), his maternal brothers, and his daughter's sons (one calls his grandchild his child). Rashi adds that it impossible to explain "father" literally, or "brothers" as paternal brothers, nor "sons" literally, since the sinners would then be members of the tribe of Levi and this cannot be since the same verse says "Va'yei'osfu eilov KOL bnei Levi," that not even one person of the tribe of Levi sinned.

Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank in Har Zvi asks why Rashi does not point this out in parshas Ki Siso on the words "v'hirgu ish es ochiv" (32:27). He answers that this explanation is not conclusive in parshas Ki Siso, as although ALL the bnei Levi did not sin, but also many others from the rest of the tribes also hearkened to Moshe's call. His saying to slay those who sinned, including parents, siblings, and children, could be taken literally, as Moshe also spoke to people of tribes other than Levi. However, our verse is discussing only the bnei Levi. Here the parents, siblings, and children must be explained as non-bnei Levi.

It seems that a simpler answer might be that in parshas Ki Siso when Moshe commanded to slay even a relative, only a brother was specifically mentioned, "v'hirgu ish es ochiv" (32:27). This is easily explained as a maternal brother. Our verse mentions not only brothers, but also parents and children, thus necessitating the explanation that Rashi gives.

Ch. 33, v. 18: "Smach Z'vulun b'tzei'secho" - Rashi explains that Z'vulun and Yisochor had a partnership. Z'vulun would pursue a livelihood through overseas commerce. From his profits he would support the tribe of Yisochor, allowing Yisochor to study Torah unhindered, without the burden of having to generate income. In turn, Z'vulun would be a partner in Yisochor's Torah study. We now understand why Z'vulun should be joyous even upon LEAVING to pursue a livelihood. Usually a businessman leaves home in pursuit of income and if and when he returns with a profit he is joyous, but not upon starting out. However, since Z'vulun left home in pursuit of income to support Yisochor, he was assured of success, and as well immediately had the mitzvoh of involving himself in the endeavour of supporting Torah scholars. (Alshich Hakodosh, Sha"ch, A'keidas Yitzchok, Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh, Klei Chemdoh, Chofetz Chaim in Shmiras Haloshon)

Rabbeinu Bachyei says that possibly the reason for the double letter Sin in Yiso(s)chor's name is to indicate that his Torah learning brings a double reward, Sin for "Sochor" - reward, for himself, the actual Torah learner, and also for Z'vulun who supports him.

Ch. 33, v. 19: "Ki shefa yamim yinoku" - Rashi says that this blessing of deriving wealth from the sea will free up Yisochor and Z'vulun, allowing them to learn Torah. We can derive from this that it is insufficient for Z'vulun to only support the Torah study of Yisochor. He must also study Torah himself. (Mataa'mei Yaakov - Horav Y.Y. Fisch)

Ch. 33, v. 20: "V'toraf zro'a AF kodkode" - When Gad slew the enemy with his sword, he not only decapitated him, but also severed the enemy's arm in one swing of his sword. Why doesn't the verse simply say "kodkode uzroa" leaving out the word AF and mention "kodkode" first, as one goes after the enemy's head. Rabbi Yoseif Bchor Shor answers that when the enemy saw Gad about to swing his sword, he would lift his arm in front of himself in an attempt to protect his head. Gad's sword would first cut below the uplifted arm and continue through, lacerating and separating that arm and the head, ending on the other side between the neck and the shoulder. Thus Gad cuts his enemy's arm first, which the enemy hoped would be the only victim of the sword, then his head as well, "zro'a AF kodkode."

Rashi seems to not make an issue of the order mentioned in the verse, as in his commentary he says that Gad cuts the head and the arm in one swing of the sword, mentioning the head before the arm.

Ch. 33, v. 28: "Va'yishkone Yisroel betach bodod" - For a nation to live with a sense of security, "betach," it usually makes alliances with friendly nations, thus knowing that it can rely upon them in the time of need. Our verse tells us the opposite regarding our nation. Yisroel will reside in Eretz Yisroel with security even though it is "bodod," on its own. This is because we are an "am nosha baShem Mo'gein ezrecho," (next verse).


Perhaps it can be added that security comes not EVEN when the bnei Yisroel are "bodod," but ONLY when they are "bodod" and fully recognize that they have only Hashem to rely upon, as history has indeed borne out.

Ch. 33, v. 29: "Vaasher cherev gaavo'secho" - The Holy Zohar asks, "Do the bnei Yisroel pride themselves with the power of the sword? Is this not the vocation of Eisov, as per Breishis 27:40, "v'al char'b'cho sichyeh"? He answers that this refers to when a student hears an explanation of a Torah thought that does not sit well in his heart, i.e. he feels it is incorrect. He then so vigourously wages the war of Torah to refute it as if he is fighting with a sword in hand.

Ch. 34, v. 5: "Va'yomos shom Moshe evved Hashem al pi Hashem" - The gemara Sotoh 13b brings the following opinion: Some say that Moshe did not actually die. We can derive this from the seemingly superfluous word "shom" in our verse. We also find the word "shom" in Shmos 34:28, "Va'y'hi SHOM im Hashem." Just as there Moshe stood and served Hashem, here too, after what seemed to be his death, he actually is still standing and serving Hashem.

Why doesn't the gemara simply state, "Just as there he was alive, here too he is still alive?" Rabbi Alexander Schor answers with the explanation given by commentators to the question, "How may Hashem delay payment of those who fulfill the commandments of the Torah? Doesn't the Torah clearly state, "B'yomo si'tein s'choro" (Dvorim 24:15)? It is understood that until their death they are still in the middle of their work, but why not reward them immediately after their death, when they are in Gan Eden, rather than delaying it until after the resurrection of the dead, "t'chias ha'meisim?" They answer with the gemara B.M. 111a that states that if a worker is hired through an intermediary the law of "b'yomo si'tein s'choro" does not apply. Moshe was the intermediary between Hashem and the bnei Yisroel, so Hashem may rightfully delay their payment.

However, why is Moshe not rewarded immediately upon his death, as Hashem gave him the mitzvos directly? This is the intention of the gemara. Moshe is not only to be considered as alive even after his physical body has ceased to function, but also that he is still serving Hashem. He has thus not yet completed his service of Hashem until the time of "t'chias ha'meisim." We thus interpret the words of our verse as: "Va'yomos SHOM Moshe," Moshe is standing and serving Hashem. We must say this because "evved Hashem al pi Hashem," Moshe was Hashem's servant, receiving the mitzvos directly from Hashem.

Ch. 34, v. 6: "Va'yikbore oso vagay" - The gemara Sotoh 14a says that the Torah begins with an act of kindness, Hashem's supplying and clothing Odom and Chavoh (Breishis 3:21), and ends with an act of kindness, Hashem's burying Moshe, as mentioned in our verse. A person's life is fashioned after the Torah. Just as at the beginning of the Torah we find Hashem clothing Odom and Chavoh, so to everyone is born in his birthday suit and requires the kindness of others to supply him with clothes as well as dressing him. At the end of one's life he again requires the kindness of others to bury him, just as we find at the end of the Torah that Hashem buried Moshe. (Hamedrash V'hamaa'seh - Rabbi Yechezkel Lifschitz, Gav"d of Kalish)

Ch. 34, v. 6: "Va'yikbore oso vagay mul beis p'ore" - The gemara Sanhedrin 46b says that the requirement to bury a person is either so that the living should not suffer the embarrassment of seeing a human form, the same as their own, rotting and putrefying in full public view, or because burying the body in the ground brings the deceased person atonement. With Moshe neither of these reasons was applicable. He died cleansed of all sin, and his body was not subject to normal deterioration and decomposition, as stated, "lo chohasoh eino v'lo noss leicho" (34:7). He was "evved Hashem," and had no sins. His body was not subject to deterioration "al pi Hashem." There was therefore no need for a person to bury him. He was buried by Hashem because "mul beis p'ore," to bring about atonement for the bnei Yisroel who served the false god p'ore. (Pnei Dovid - Chid"o)

It is in place to repeat a dvar Torah from the past parshas Matos that is connected to this subject.

<< Ch. 31, v. 2: "N'kome nikmas bnei Yisroel mei'eis haMidyonim achar tei'o'seif el a'mecho" - The gemara Sotoh 14a says that Moshe was buried across from the false god baal p'ore to atone for the bnei Yisroel's sinning with it. Tosfos d.h. "mipnei" brings in the name of the Medrash Agodoh that every year on the anniversary of the time that the bnei Yisroel sinned with the daughters of Midyon which brought to their sinning with baal p'ore, baal p'ore elevates itself and attempts to indict bnei Yisroel for their sin. When baal p'ore sees Moshe's burial place it is stymied and sinks back into the ground up to its nose. This situation repeats itself annually. Thus Moshe's overpowering Midyon and its god was not limited to the war that was waged during his lifetime, but is an ongoing annual event. Thus our verse can be read: Take revenge for the bnei Yisroel from the Midyonim, "achar tei'o'seif el a'mecho," even after you will pass on. (Rabbi Yoseif Zvi Dushinski)>> So not only does Moshe bring atonement, but he also stops the accusations in their tracks.

The Holy Zohar is quoted in the Pnei Yehoshua on gemara Kedushin 30a as saying that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah. An early commentator says that this is hinted at in the first word (BREiSHiS)as well as the last word (YiSRoEL) of the Torah. Torah Yeish Boh Shishim Ribo Osios - Yeish Shishim Ribo Osios LaTorah.

Rabbi Saadioh Gaon counted and gave us a total of under 800,000. Sefer Hamesorres written by Rabbi Eliyohu Habochur claims it includes the letters of Nach. Our text of Nach makes this an impossible answer, as including Nach brings the total to well over 1,000,000 letters. Our count gives us 304,805 for the Torah alone. This is about half of the 600,000 mentioned in numerous sources.

Numerous answers have been given to this problem. The sefer Megaleh Amukos writes that the souls of males and females emanate from each letter, hence 300,000 become 600,000. Sefer Chesed L'Avrohom in Maayon 2 Nahor 11 writes we calculate the letters with "milluy." For example, an Alef is 3 letters, Alef-Lamed-Fei, and so on. However, this is problematic as it brings the total to well over 600,000 letters.

The sefer Emes L'Yaakov written by MVRHRH"G R' Yaakov Kamenecki zt"l answers that the 600,000 are letter spaces. So a Vov or a Yud are one space each and a Shin would be 3 spaces. The total spacing would bring it to 600,000.

The sefer Olilos Ephraim (same author as the Kli Yokor) in his writings on Shovuos, column 15, says that since the Torah was written with black fire on white fire ("Mimino eishdos lomo, Dvorim 33:2), with black indicating the hidden part of the Torah and white indicating the open part of the Torah, this doubles the number of letters.

Rabbi Avrohom Yaffeh in Mishnas Avrohom says that most of the letters of the Alef-Beis are composite letters (like a Mem is a Kof and a Vov joined). Single components add up to 600,000.

The Pnei Yehoshua on Kidushin 30a says this question has perplexed him for years. He answers that we add the Targum to the written Torah - since it was given at Har Sinai as well.

Another answer he gives is that we have over 300,000 written letters and we add to that the sanctity of reading, since when the Torah was given the bnei Yisroel were able to see the audible. In the reading we have slightly less than 300,000 letters, as numerous letters (such as Vov and Alef) are not heard. Perhaps along the same line of thought: Since a sofer must verbalize each word before he writes it, as per Sh.O. Y.D. #274:2, this adds the verbal count of 300,000 to the written 300,000, totaling 600,000.

The Likutei Torah on Parshas B'har says we have to add extra letters which aren't even written to make up for the vowels as Rashi explains in the gemara K'suvos 61b (and also in Makos 7b d.h. "yeish eim limsorres").

Another possible answer might be developed from a statement in Tosfos on the gemara M'nochos 35a. Tosfos explains the normal three headed Shin and the four headed Shin found on the head tefillin. Tosfos says that the three headed Shin corresponds to the Shin of a sefer Torah and the four headed Shin corresponds to the Shin in the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Since the writing on the tablets was actually a lack of stone, since the letters were etched into the stone, the remaining physical part that gave shape to the letters was the background stone. A section of the stone behind a letter Shin, cut a certain way would create the configuration of a four headed Shin. This is explained and illustrated in a sefer called Boruch She'omar from a German Rishon. Since the two tablets of the Ten Commandments embody the 613 mitzvos as stated by Rav Saadioh Gaon, and the Baalei Tosfos in parshas Yisro consider the Ten Commandments as if they are the whole Torah in some aspect (They say that the king's second Torah is only the Ten Commandments.), perhaps we can say that the 300,000 letters are doubled, corresponding to the written Torah and the tablets of the Ten Commandments which encapsulate all the mitzvos of the Torah. Possibly this is alluded to in the fact that tefillin are called the whole Torah at the end of parshas Bo (Shmos 13:9),and tefillin have two letters Shin. Each Shin equals three hundred (thousand), times two for the two letters Shin = 600,000.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

Back to Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel