by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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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 mishnoh 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.

The Mabi"t in Beis Elokim asks why we have a sukoh as a remembrance for the clouds of glory which surrounded the bnei Yisroel in the desert and no remembrance for the miraculous manna and the wellspring of Miriam. Taamei Haminhogim #789 in the name of the Bnei Yisos'chor says that the special Yom Tov foods and drinks serve that purpose. The sefer Dvorim Nechmodim says that since the wellspring of Miriam gave forth water which could have the taste of any beverage and the manna had the taste of almost any food, it would be impossible to make a proper remembrance.

However the GR"A says that the question is resolved through a completely different understanding of what the remembrance of the clouds of glory means. The GR"A asks, "If the sukoh is a remembrance of the clouds of glory, then the mitzvoh should take place in the month of Nison since that is when the clouds of glory began to encompass the bnei Yisroel." The GR"A answers that the clouds of glory left when the bnei Yisroel sinned with the golden calf. They did not return until Hashem forgave them and they had begun to build the Mishkon. The announcement for the collection took place on the day after Yom Kippur and the collection lasted through the fourteenth of Tishrei. The work began the next day, on the first day of Sukos. Although the building of the Mishkon (or the Beis Hamikdosh) does not push aside the sanctity of Shabbos or Yom Tov, they began with limited work that was not a Torah level transgression (See footnote in P'ninim Mishulchan haGR"A). On that day the clouds of glory returned, a visible sign of Hashem's forgiving the bnei Yisroel. It is this return of the clouds of glory, indicating Hashem's accepting our repentance, which we commemorate with the sukoh. Hence we do not commemorate the miracles which took place in the desert, and the question raised by the Mabi"t is answered.

The Meshech Chochmoh says that according to the GR"A it is most understandable why the Torah does not call this Yom Tov "Sukos" until parshas Emor, after the return of the clouds of glory. In parshios Mishpotim (23:16) and Ki Siso (34:22) it is called "chag ho'osif."


"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)


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.


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