SEPTEMBER 28-29, 2001 12 TISHRI 5762
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
As we finish Yom Kippur and experience a beautiful closeness with Hashem, we now sit in the succah, which is like sitting in Hashem's clouds of glory.
The message of the succah can be both sobering and encouraging. To the powerful and wealthy, the succah says, "Do not rely on your fortune; it is transitory. Even your castle is no more secure than a succah. If you are safe, it is because G-d shelters you as He did your ancestors when all they had was a booth over their heads. Let the starry sky you see through your s'chach teach you to build your castle on a foundation of faith under the benevolent gaze of Hashem."
To the poor and downtrodden, the succah says, "Are you more helpless than millions of your ancestors in the wilderness, without food, water or shelter? What sustained them? Who provided for them? Look around at your succah's frail walls and at the stars through its roof. Let it remind you that Israel became a nation living in such 'mansions' and that's where they became a great and G-dly nation."
Let us enjoy the holiday of Succot with the message that we are in Hashem's Hands at all times. By putting our complete faith in Him we will feel secure and tranquil and appreciate everything we have. Especially during these turbulent and trying times, we need to strengthen our faith that Hashem is the One Who can and will protect us, and the succah is the symbol of being in Hashem's Hands. May we merit to dwell in the succah which will be built for the righteous very soon in our days, Amen.
Tizku Leshanim Rabot!
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"You shall make the festival of Succot" (Debarim 16:13)
The holiday of Succot is a time of joy. Who doesn't love this holiday? Our Rabbis teach us that to be sad is not a sin, but it causes many sins. Also, regarding happiness, joy, it isn't a misvah, but it is the root and the cause of all of the misvot. Succot is a time to be happy that one is a Jew, that Hashem has given us the opportunity to do misvot.
During the High Holidays we prayed to Hashem for all of our physical needs.
We are confident that Hashem will answer all of these prayers. Suddenly, Succot arrives and we leave our homes and dwell in the succah. The home that we prayed for, that it should be strong and full of all the best things, is suddenly abandoned, only for us to enter a hut! There is a message here for us. The physical is important, but secondary.
The Torah tells us, "Make for you the holiday of Succot." When you make a succah that is temporary and you dwell in it, it tells you, that is life. Life in this world, with all of its details, is temporary. But there is a permanent dwelling somewhere - the Next World. Therefore, the holiday of Succot should be a guide for you that the permanent life is the Next World.
This will be a great source of happiness, knowing that one is building up his permanent dwelling in the Next World. The happiness we all feel in the succah with our loved ones is a spiritual happiness that rises above the joy one feels from the pleasure of the physical world. This is a hint of how beautiful the Next World will be. Shabbat Shalom & Happy Holiday.
"You forgot the Rock Who brought you forth and forgot G-d Who brought you forth" (Debarim 32:18)
This is a redundancy. Why does Moshe mention the Jews' forgetting of Hashem twice?
There once was a person who owed money to many creditors. Unable to bear the pressure and demands for payments which came from all sides, he consulted a friend who, incidentally, was one of his creditors. The friend advised him, "From now on when anyone comes asking for payment, act insane so that the creditor will think you have lost your mind, and stop bothering you." The man did this and the creditors left him alone. Once, when the friend himself came to demand payment, the debtor began to act demented, hoping to put him off. Angrily, the creditor said to him, "Don't act crazy in front of me - it was my idea!"
Among the many gifts Hashem has endowed man with is the power of "shikhah - forgetfulness." Thus, when one is, G-d forbid, confronted with trials and tribulation he is able to remove his mind from them and go on with his life. Moshe said to the Jewish people, "Sur yeldecha - the Rock Who gave birth to you - teshi - has instilled in you a gift" - the power to forget. The problem is that "vatishkah Kel meholelecha" - you are using this power of forgetfulness to also forget Hashem, Who brought you forth and Who does so much for you. (Vedibarta Bam)
This Week's Haftarah: Shemuel II 22:1-41. The chapter that we read as this week's haftarah is referred to as Shirat David - the song of David. In it, King David praised Hashem for protecting him from many different problems. It is read this week because Parashat Haazinu is referred to as Shirat Moshe - the song of Moshe. In fact, if one looks at this perashah in the Sefer Torah, he will see that the text is spaced like a song or a poem.
The following occurred to R' Mordechai M'Nedverne: In R' Mordechai's city there was an outbreak of cholera, a very contagious plague. The doctors warned the general populace to exercise extreme care in regard to sanitary conditions. It just so happened that it was just before the festival of Succot. Despite the plague, R' Mordechai built his succah as usual. The mayor of Nedverne, who was infamous for his virulent anti-Semitism, insisted that R' Mordechai dismantle his succah, claiming that it was against sanitary regulations to have a succah. The Rabbi ignored the mayor's message, refusing to take down his succah. When the mayor saw that he was being ignored, he immediately dispatched a number of policemen to "reiterate" his demand and warn R' Mordechai of the dire consequences for non-compliance. R' Mordechai responded, "I made the succah that it should stand, not so that it would be torn down." Overcome with rage, the mayor threatened the Rabbi if he would not concede to his demand. R' Mordechai looked at the mayor and said, "My great uncle was the great sadik, R' Meir M'Premishlan." The mayor heard those words and scoffed in anger, "Who cares who your uncle was? Tear down the succah now!"
During this whole dialogue, R' Mordechai never lost his temper. He remained calm and cool in the face of the mayor's rage. He reiterated his statement yet again, which brought a torrent of threats to his physical well-being from the mayor. Yet, he would not budge. Finally, he said to the mayor, "Let me tell you a story, so that you will understand why it is that I invoked the name of my sainted uncle.
"There once was a priest who was blessed with ten tall, strong sons, who were the picture of health. The priest also was the proud owner of a beautiful garden, filled with many fruit trees. One day the priest decided that he wanted a small garden of little flowers. In order to fulfill his desire, it was necessary to cut down a number of beautiful trees. He proceeded to chop down the trees, planting little flowers instead.
Suddenly, as soon as the priest completed his plan, his sons, one by one, became gravely ill and died. In no time, the priest was bereft of nine of his beautiful sons. All but one had died. Then, the youngest son, the only child left to the unfortunate priest, became gravely ill. The priest turned to doctors, to magicians, to anyone who, in his desperation, he thought could help him. Alas, everything was to no avail as his son lay dying. "A number of his close friends suggested that as a last resort he should travel to R' Meir M'Premishlan, who was the pre-eminent Jewish sage of the time. He was known to all to be a virtuous, holy man. The priest figured that he might as well go to the great Rabbi. After all, what did he have to lose? He came to the Rabbi and recounted the terrible tragedies that had befallen him. He pleaded with the Rabbi to intercede on his behalf so that his last remaining son would live.
"The Rabbi looked at him with stern eyes and said, 'You had a beautiful garden in which grew wonderful fruit trees. You were not satisfied, however, with these trees. You desired a garden of flowers. So you cut down the trees. Do you realize that you cut down G-d's trees? Are you aware that a man is compared to a tree. To cut down a tree is like destroying a life. The Almighty has taken your sons as punishment for your avaricious behavior. Your coming to me is an indication of your repentance.
I, therefore, assure you that your remaining child will be spared.' The Rabbi prayed on behalf of the child, and his prayers received a positive response; the child lived." R' Mordechai completed the story. Turning to the mayor, he said in an accusing voice, "You are that child that my uncle saved. How dare you repay the good that he produced for you by insisting that I dismantle my succah!"
When the mayor heard the story, he fell to his knees in shame, pleading with R' Mordechai to forgive his insolence. "It is true. It is true," cried the mayor. "I was that boy that was saved. I have forgotten the meaning of gratitude. You may keep your succah and celebrate your festival in the manner that you desire." (Peninim on the Torah)
"So Moshe died there...and no one knows his burial place to this day." (Debarim 34:5-6)
Why must the Torah tell us that no one knows Moshe's burial place to this day?
It was once common for debates to take place between Catholic theologians and Torah scholars. In the course of these debates, the priests would attempt to question the authenticity of the Torah. Once, such a debate took place between a Catholic priest and the famous Talmudist, Rabbi Yehonatan of Eibeshitz. The priest asked the Rabbi, "Since many people witnessed the departure from Egypt and the splitting of the sea, I can accept the Torah account of these events as correct, but how can we verify what the Torah says (Shemot 34:25) that 'he remained there with Hashem for forty days and forty nights - he did not eat bread and drink water?'"
Rabbi Yehonatan replied, "The last episode recorded in the Torah about Moshe is that he died and no one knew his burial site. If so, couldn't the Torah have written that he never died, and that he went up to heaven and continues to live on forever? Obviously, the Torah has no inclination to falsify or exaggerate, and everything it tells us is the truth."
Our Sages have taught that the lulab, etrog, hadas and arabah each correspond to a different type of Jew. The arabah, which has no fragrance or taste, corresponds to the Jew who has neither Torah nor good deeds Rabbi Eliyahu Hamway, the Ab Bet Din of Aleppo, asked the following question: Why did Hashem specifically choose the arabah to be included with the other three species on Succot? There are numerous trees and plants that have neither taste nor fragrance.
Rabbi Hamway answers that the Zohar teaches that when a person is in a dangerous situation, he is judged in Heaven to determine whether he is worthy of being saved. The Zohar then questions: How is this so? We see very often that wicked people who are very sick or in dangerous situations recover from their illnesses or are saved from harm even though they have no merit to save them. The Zohar answers that Hashem saves them because, in the future, their descendants will be righteous. From this, we can understand why Hashem designated the arabah to be placed with the lulab. The word arabah has the same numerical value as the word zera, which means seed or offspring. This comes to teach us that, like the arabah, even one who has no Torah or good deeds will merit to be joined together with the righteous of Israel if he leads his children along the proper path of Torah and misvot. (Hameir -R' Obadiah Yosef)
On Simhat Torah we conclude the annual cycle of reading the Torah in public and start anew from Beresheet. This milestone is celebrated with much joy and festivity, and all Jews, men and women, young and old, learned and illiterate, participate. One may rightfully wonder, with what justification does the one who did not learn Torah throughout the year rejoice on Simhat Torah?
A popular explanation offered to this query is the following: A scholar who once witnessed an ignorant and non-observant Jew dancing and singing with all his strength on Simhat Torah, asked him, "Why are you rejoicing so much? Did you involve yourself with the Torah throughout the entire year?" The man in all sincerity replied, "While you are right that I was remiss in my involvement with Torah throughout the year, nevertheless if I am invited to my brother's wedding, isn't it appropriate for me to dance and sing? Thus, though my brother is really the ba'al simhah today, I am actively rejoicing with him."
As intriguing as this explanation may be, it is somewhat lacking, since after all, Simhat Torah is everyone's simhah and everyone is a ba'al simhah and not just a stranger attending a relative's affair.
The processions with the Torah are called "hakafot." Superficially, the name hakafot originated from the fact that we circle around the bimah and hakafot is from the same root as the word "makif" which means "circling around." However, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, offers a more profound explanation of the word hakafot. He says that it means, "the extension of credit" as we say in Pirkei Abot (3:16), "Vehahenvani makif - the shopkeeper extends credit." When one applies for credit and is notified that his application has been favorably accepted and his request is being granted, he is indeed very happy. Likewise, on Simhat Torah, the "shopkeeper" - Hashem - says to each and every Jew, "I give you permission to rejoice with My Torah though your credit for Torah study and observance for the past year may not be exactly up to par. Dance today on credit, because I trust that you will make good during the coming year." When Hashem personally extends the Jew credit, the joy is overwhelming. (Vedibarta Bam)
Answer to Pop Quiz: Twenty amot (about thirty feet).
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