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by Daneal Weiner
It's a mad house I tell you- a mad house. I don't know why we have to move out to the Sukkah for the realization of this transient existence because the house itself is inside out. I’ll end up going out to the Sukkah for a sense of order.
Speaking of order, a thank you to Hashem is in order. This morning a had my first first half of a root canal. For the lifeless prayers I say every day and for words of lashone horah which kills, I now have a dead tooth. May it be an atonement. Generally what necessitates a root canal is extreme pain brought on by certain natural circumstances. My public praise to Hashem is for having only experienced degrees of discomfort which made it clear something was wrong and chasdai Hashem- Hashem’s kindness spared me the pain.
I’ll let you guys in on a secret. I never did practice good oral hygiene. Every Pesach I’d look at my toothbrush and wonder if I needed to buy a new one or has is not been used since last Pesach. About three years ago I said to Hashem, “I’ll watch my mouth if You watch it too.” A little over a year and a half ago I went to the dentist. Overall the checkup was good. He said my gums showed natural wear for my age, with all the brushing I do (ha!) and my teeth were fine. Baruch Hashem! I did have one cavity which required deep drilling, close to the nerve. Hashem let me catch it in time. The dentist put in a compound beneath the filling which he said might or might not protect the nerve from hot and cold foods. No guarantees. It was sensitive a few weeks but then was fine, Again, chasdai Hashem. I knew that it was going to be up to ME how it played out long run.
Apparently I haven’t been giving it my best effort because about 2 months ago I bit on a cooked dry grain of rice which, as you know, has the same molecular structure as marble. Shortly thereafter I made an appointment with the dentist. It had been a year and a half since that last checkup so why not. He took a couple x-rays, said everything looks fine and he called me the “brushing king”!!! I kid you not! Hashem was definitely keeping His half of the deal.
Other discomforts began, as mentioned and I just went back after 5 short weeks. The dentists opened the suspected tooth, the same one that had the deep filling and had bitten the petrified rice, and from the inside saw it was certainly a goner. Once inside he also found a crack. He took out the nerve and I have to go back to have the tooth fully cleaned out and filled. He said the crack can be a problem. It may be shallow or it may go down the entire length of the root. The only way of knowing is by waiting to see if it gives me trouble in the future. G-d forbid it does, to the extent that it needs to be pulled, only then will a dentist be able to look at it and see if there is a crack or not. And we can’t rule out the possibility that it is now a shallow crack or maybe the dentist will file it out altogether. But now, with an even thinner wall to the tooth, another rice episode and “Eh, what’s up doc?”
Once again Hashem has cleary put the matter in my hands. That’s inaccurate. I put it in my hands. Still incorrect. It’s always in our hands. What Hashem has done for me is to put clearly before me the blessing and the curse. A crack, or not a crack. That is the question. I just have to keep my half of the bargain.
And that is what
is all about. Only by Sukkos does Hashem place clearly before us the blessing and the curse. The barometer if all Israel is keeping thrier half of the bargain. If for the week of Sukkos the weather is sunny, blessing. If it rains, curse.
What?! The rainy season is about to begin! Some years it rains early, some years it rains late. So what’s a little rain on Sukkos? We get to go inside! Sorry, time for a reality check. Sukkos is for heightening our awareness that although we live by the nature of the world, it is not nature at all. We exit our homes to realize it’s not four walls that hold the ceiling over our heads but chasdai Hashem. This time of the year the crops are in, the storehouses are full and we think we’re sitting pretty. What could go wrong? Like having a filled tooth which has returned to normal. What could go wrong?
We all woke up this morning, Hashem is keeping His half ofthe bargain. What have we done since than? Has our focus been nature or Hashem? I know no one would just read a newspaper but rather wants to be worldy. Informed. Jews left the ghettos! So who is writing the headlines? How does a Jew read the news.?
We can start with the relatively recent resurgence of El Nino, (pronounced El Ninyo), a ‘natural’ phenomenal disaster that has reeked somewhat chronic havoc since the 70’s. You can say its cause is a depression of the thermocline in the Eastern Pacific and an elevation of thermocline in the West. Or maybe the cause is spoken out in a Midrash which tells of a time when the spilt blood of man within man will cry out for vengeance! Spilt blood? Man within man? Abortion maybe? Funny that it wasn’t a Jew who named it ‘El Nino’ which means “the child”. The nature of it, the first disastrous effects of El Nino are usually felt by Peru and Ecuador who make up the worlds largest fishery. Funny, not even two weeks ago we asked Hashem for a blessed that we be fruitful and multiply like fish. Nature or Hashem?
More recent was a solar eclipse. The Gemorah Sukkos brings three opinions as to what a solar eclipse signals. Either trouble for the nations, trouble for the Jews or trouble for the whole world. Isn’t an eclipse just nature? The next one has already been predicted! These questions were asked and answered centuries ago. The real question is, has there been a week without some kind of ‘natural’ disaster since the eclipse? Nature or Hashem?
The Russian capital has been terrorized by a wave of bombings blamed on Islamic militants. For decades Russia has supplied the Arabs with weaponry for terrorizing Jews. Suddenly Russia finds themselves asking for Jewish help to defend themselves against the terrorism. The nature of Islamic politics or Hashem?
Israel is facing a water shortage. The government asked Turkey about purchasing some of their water. Turkey responded with an outrageous price. Suddenly Turkey finds themselves more sensitive to hardships on a national scale and are prepared to renegotiate. The nature of Islamic politics or Hashem?
Sukkos is for heightening our awareness that although we live by the nature of the world, it is not nature at all.
And it’s not just our awareness of nature that we need to focus on. Vayikra 23:40 says, "And you shall take yourselves on the first day the fruit of the Hader tree, of the date palm, the leaves of the hyssop and willow..." (close enough, anyway). Before we recite the blessing on these 4 minim- species most siddurs have a Y'he Rotsone, a brief prayer as kind of a preface to the mitsvah. In it we say, "...osiyos shimcha hamiyuchad tikarev echad el echad v'hoyu l'achadim b'yadi v'laidah aich shimchah nikrah alai..."- the letters of Your Name [Hashem’s four letter name] You should bring close, one to one, and unite them in my hand to know how Your Name is called upon me..."
Very nice. Problem is that the Arizal says that the 5 books of Moses parallel the FIVE elements of Hashem’s name; the last 4 books parallel the 4 letters and the first book parallels the kotes- the point of the inscribed letter yud! This mysterious kotes is created by the concave head of the yud. If the head of the yud is a right angle it is invalid. It’s disputed if the kotes is the top point or the bottom point of the head. Our point, if Hashem's 4 letter name is really 5 parts, then why not take 5 minim?
Rav Wolfson says the answer is already revealed in understanding the portion of the Y'he Ratsone quoted above, "...to know how Your Name [Hashem] is called upon me..." ME! That’s YOU!Hashem's Name is on the 4 minim and on us too! WE are the 5th specie paralleling the sublime kotes of the Yud!!
Afterbringing ourselves back into Hashem's domain with the month of Elul, accepting He is King with Rosh Hashanah and repenting till the spiritually cleansing service of Yom Kippur we have perfected ourselves just like the 4 minim we drive ourselves nuts over, searching for the perfect ones. [Granted you’ll hear the occasional "Just give me the cheapest one you got! Kosher is Kosher!" No need to elaborate.] Our hopefully perfected spiritual state and that same condition which we seek in our 4 minim are one in the same. And this brings us back to the verse from Vayikra, "Take yourselves, the fruit, the palm, etc." Not “take for yourselves” but “Take YOU yourselves”! This Sukkos, when someone greets you while putting out their hand, give them a real shake! [Careful not to poke the person behind you.]
Speaking of the perfectminim, the laws of the esrog can be clumsily summed up as needing to be shalaym- whole. Any marks, specks or blemishes don’t automatically void the esrog for its imperfections. Rather they raise the question if the esrog is or isn’t whole. Is the blemish ON the surface or in place of a broken surface? Our esrogim should be shalaym. Esrog is spelled Aleph, Sav, Reish, Gimmel. The Aleph stands for Emunah Shalayma, the Sav- Tshuva Shalayma, the Reish- Refua Shalayma, and the Gimmel- Geula Shalayma. All the things we pray and hope should come quickly and in their entirety are reflected in the esrog.
Such a cute, simple little vort and yet it reveals the unimaginable. No mitsva stands alone. Each mitsva and every aspect of each mitsva is a reflection of all Judaism. A mitsva is not just a part of a whole, a facet, if you will, a proverbial puzzle piece of a greater picture. Not just one neuron of billions of interdependent neurons which we call the Judaic brain. Nay! They are more than that. They are each each other. Glad I cleared that up. How about, they are each an embodiment of all Judaism. I did say this was unimaginable, didn’t I?
But let’s take the lesser analogy. A mitsva is just one neuron of the Judaic brain. Imagine a 21st century brain surgeon comes along. One with progressive ideas. She wants to reform neurology, conservatively, in a traditional way. So she opens up your brain and says, "This neuron....no.” “This onnnnnnnne, don't like it.” “Don't know WHAT these are doing here?” “This operates right motor skills and this left?! How extremity-insensitive. Lets connect 'em all together.” “A stronger right hand? The left has rights too!” “Hmm, this half creative and this half analytic? Sorry, not politically correct.” Congratulations! You’ve created a politically correct, egalitarian vegetable! Sure it just lies there but the mortician has painted a smile on it’s face. If you wouldn't let such a quack near your brain, why let him near your soul? If we could inaccurately see mitsvas as critical parts of a whole, even theneach would be indispensable. To realize that really each one contains the dna for Judaism, then we can understand the Rambam who says he who denies one mitsva it’s as if he denies the entire Torah. The emphasis of the esrog, our Judaism should be shalyam.
Getting back to where we started, we, as one of the mimin need also be shalaym. We’ll all have our flaws but do they represent something is missing or are they just superficial scratches? We need not only realize the Godliness of nature but also the Godliness of ourselves and of each other. His name is upon us as well. Are we nature or Hashem?
The Gemorah Sukkos offers the idea that we learn the height of the sukkah from the Keruvim – Cherubs in the Holy of Holies. It concludes that really the height was information given to us from Moshe from Mt. Sinai. The seemingly erroneous original assumption is true Torah as well. The message is this that there is a relationship between the sukkah and the Holy Temple. A relevant height of one should be the height of the other because somehow they are one in the same. And in a way they are different. In a way that the succah is better! Whereas a Jew was never allowed onto the grounds of the Holy Temple in an impure state, we can go into our succah, what ever condition we’re in.
On this holiday the Torah say visamachta b’chagecha- you shall rejoice on your festival. The rest of the verse, “…you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, the Levite, the proselyte, the orphan and the widow.” An equal opportunity holiday! Everyone has access to the Holy Temple, the house of Hashem. It is for this reason Rav Wolfson suggets we be on our best behavior. If we were on the Temple grounds would we talk sports, politics or business? Hashem has made His place of dwelling available to us, as we are, even if we have not reached the wholeness we strive for. She lovingly welcomes us like a mother who would caress her child even having just been playing in the dirt. When we step into the house of Hashem we should be sure to step in with With total joy and with proper reverence for the place. We enter the doamin of He Who runs the world. We realize our position and value in His world. Realize what value your Torah and mitsvos have in the world.
Have an unnatural, unimaginably joyful Shabbat Shalom and Chag Somayach
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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