Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg
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Ve'zos Habrochoh - Shemini Atzeres
Vol. 6 No. 49
The Four Species
The four species, say the Mekubolim, are the only ones that are not placed under the jurisdiction of angels, but whose growth is supervised by G-d Himself. How befitting then, explains the B'nei Yisoschor, that after Yom Kipur, the four species are given to Yisroel, who are also governed directly by G-d and who are the only nation not to be placed under the jurisdiction of angels. Moreover, the four species which symbolise life, are given specifically to Yisroel about whom it is written "And you, who cleave to Hashem your G-d, are all alive today".
We can understand this even better, according to what Chazal have said, that teshuvah was given only to Jews and is not effective with regard to non-Jews (presumably, Yonah and the people of Ninveh was a 'ho'ra'as Sho'oh' - a Divine ruling confined to that occasion). Having said that, we can now apply the principle 'A king cannot forego his honour', in which case there is no room for teshuvah. This in turn, we will understand when we bear in mind that the relationship between non-Jews and G-d is that of a king and his subjects, as the posuk says in Tehilim "G-d rules over the nations" (47:9). Nor is there any indication anywhere in T'nach that a closer relationship exists between them.
Not so Klal Yisroel, whose relationship with G-d is that of a Father and his children, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (14:1) "You are the children of Hashem ...", and even though a king cannot forego his honour, a father can. Consequently, when Yisroel come to do teshuvah, Hashem as a father, can forego His honour and forgive them, but when non-Jews do so, Hashem as a King, cannot.
Perhaps we can add that, even though we also view G-d as our King, as we said constantly during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah 'Our Father, our King', it is reasonable to suggest that when we do teshuvah and are close to Hashem, we are referred to as His children, and it is when we sin and fail to do teshuvah that we are called His subjects. Indeed, Yirmiyah wrote "Return naughty children" (3:14), suggesting that even before we actually begin doing teshuvah, we are already called His children (albeit naughty ones).
A sure sign that we are considered G-d's children is the very fact that we are permitted to use the four species to perform the mitzvah. We have a ruling that forbids anyone from riding the King's horse or from using his sceptre. The four species are under G-d's personal supervision and should be no different than His sceptre. So the question we need to ask is 'on what grounds do we allow ourselves the liberty of using the king's sceptre?"
The answer is that, although a stranger is not permitted to use the king's sceptre, his son is. So by virtue of G-d having granted us permission to take the four species and to shake them - (to use His sceptre) - it is clear that He considers us to be His children. That being the case, it is a sign that He has accepted our teshuvah, because 'a father has the right to forego his honour'.
The B'nei Yisoschor's explanation helps us to understand a Medrash Tanchuma, which gives a moshol of two people who were judged by the king. The case was held in camera and no-one knew first-hand who won the case. What the king had told them however, was that the victor would leave the court holding a palm branch, and that was how they would know who had won the case.
And so it is with Yisroel and the gentiles. They both appear before the King of Kings on Yom Kipur to be judged. The court session is held in camera however, and nobody knows who won his case and who lost. But there is a clue: whoever takes the four species on Sukos is the one who won his case.
The Medrash is difficult to understand, until we see the B'nei Yisoschor's explanation. The Jews are victorious on Yom Kipur, because of the teshuvah that they performed and which was accepted by their Father in Heaven, whereas the gentiles are not, because even if they do perform teshuvah, their teshuvah is unacceptable. They sinned against the King, and the King cannot forego his honour.
The commentaries also ascribe the mitzvah of simchah which is more prevalent on Sukos than on any other Yom-tov, to the fact that our sins were forgiven on Yom Kipur. To be sure, that is reason enough to rejoice, but when we realise that that forgiveness is a unique privilege that only we enjoy, the reason for rejoicing increases. And then, when we realise that all this is due to the fact that we, and we alone, are G-d's children, then our joy knows no bounds.
What Constitutes a Lulav Mehudar
Adapted from the Elef ha'Mogen (Si'man 645)
The Elef ha'Mogen lists seven specifications for a lulav to qualify for the title of a 'lulav mehudar'.
That it should be entirely green, both the spine and the leaves (if the majority of the leaves are so dry that they would snap when folded, then the lulav is posul even be'di'eved). If the greenness has gone completely, it is a sign that the lulav is dry. Most important of all is that the top of the middle-leaf should be green.
That it should be perfectly shaped, straight like a rod (i.e. not bent at all to one of the sides or forwards - though there is nothing wrong with a lulav that bends backwards - that is even considered beautiful). Also the tip of the middle stem should be perfectly straight and not bent at all.
That the tip of the middle-leaf should be complete without even the minutest amount cut off. A lulav which has two middle-leaves remains kosher if the top of only one of them is cut off.
4. Not Split
That the middle-leaf should not be split at all, even the smallest fraction, though the lulav does not become posul if only a minority of the middle-leaf is split, and certainly not if it is less than a tefach (a bit less than four inches). If only one of the two middle-leaves is split, the lulav is nevertheless posul. One should be equally stringent in this regard by all the top leaves, and not only by the middle one. One should bear in mind that even if the top leaves are only slightly split, they will split completely when they are being shaken, and one should certainly avoid using such a lulav on the first day. All this speaks about a lulav where the split is not easily discernable. If it is (i.e. the two sides of the split resemble a "vee") then it is posul, irrespective of its size.
5. The Leaves Together
That the leaves should not separate from the spine at all. They should cling firmly to the central spine and only come apart when the lulav is being shaken.
6. Not Grafted
That one should be absolutely certain that the lulav was not grafted, though this does not necessarily invalidate the lulav, particularly in case of an emergency.
7. One Middle-Leaf
That the lulav should have only one middle-leaf and not two, though according to some, that is only if they have come apart, but not if they are still attached by means of the brown substance that binds the lulav together.
One should take great care, the Elef ha'Mogen adds, to use a new lulav from this year. In fact, it is better to use a new lulav with the middle-leaf slightly split than to use last year's with the middle-leaf whole.
The ideal mitzvah is to use a lulav with sixty-eight leaves (the numerical value of 'chayim' [life]), or one of sixty leaves, corresponding to the sixty letters of the Birchas Kohanim.
One should take care not to leave the lulav in water for twenty-four hours.
A Green Esrog
Many people delight in a green esrog, preferring it to a yellow one. One should bear in mind that a deep green esrog is likely to be posul (see Shulchan Oruch 648:21).
If it is certain that if one were to leave it in a box for a long period it would turn yellow, then it is kosher, even when it is green. However, the Mishnah B'rurah concludes, one should not rely on that, but should purchase an esrog that has at least begun to turn yellow, and not one that is completely green (648:65).
'Sukah' is from the loshon 'socheh' - to look with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh - a level, it seems that one can attain through the mitzvah of Sukah. In addition, the very word 'sukah' (spelled 'samech', 'kaf' 'hey') hints at the three possible ways of building a Sukah: with four walls like a 'samech', with three walls like 'kaf', or with two and a bit 'like a 'hey' (Chido).
That's Golus For You
The reason that we make Sukos immediately after Yom Kipur, says the P'sikta, is because on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur, G-d judged and sealed everyone for the forthcoming year. Perhaps we have been sentenced to go into golus (exile). By going willingly from our house into the Sukah, we will have carried out our sentence and fulfilled our obligation, thus exempting ourselves from the need to suffer a far more bitter golus than would otherwise have been our lot.
And it's good to know that this idea cuts across the board. Any sentence that we take upon ourselves, exonerates us from a far heavier punishment that we would otherwise have received at the Hand of G-d.
Another reason that Sukos follows Yom Kipur is to show that, having done teshuvah on Yom Kipur, we are not afraid of any prosecuting angels. We leave the safety of our homes and go out into the open Sukah, to demonstrate our belief that Hashem has accepted it and will protect us from all evil.
This is hinted in the Torah, when Ya'akov, after Eisov had accepted his bribes (like the goat of Az'ozel on Yom Kipur) travelled to Sukos. (Shach)
Of Clouds of Glory and Huts
The B'nei Yisoschor explains why it is that the Torah commands us to sit in Sukos to commemorate the miracle of living in huts whilst travelling through the desert, but leaves us with nothing to commemorate the miracle of the mon or that of the well.
It is because, having taken us out into the desert, Hashem became obligated to feed us (indeed, every traveller has to eat and drink). Not so the huts in which we stayed. This was a luxury that no regular traveller enjoys. For that, we specifically need to thank Hashem.
Certainly, according to those who maintain that the Sukos commemorate the Clouds of Glory (and according to whom the original problem is easily answered), the unique aspect of the miracle is even more pronounced, because which traveller has such protection on his travels?
In addition, says the B'nei Yisoschor, whereas the mon and the well were shared by the Eirev Rav, the Clouds of Glory were not, since the Clouds precluded the Eirev Rav from its protection.
The Four Species
The analogy of the four species to the four major limbs (the lulav to the spine, the esrog to the heart, the hadassim to the eyes, and the arovos to the lips) is well-known. But, one may well ask, so what? What is this coming to teach us?
The Seifer ha'Chinuch explains that we shake these four in the service of Hashem, to remind us to devote our bodies to the service of Hashem, not to go after our eyes, to control our mouths and guard what we say, and to dedicate our thoughts (whose roots lie in the heart) to Hashem with our minds (an apt resolution, one may add, for the new year which has barely begun).
Whereas the Medrash Tanchuma connects these four limbs with the posuk 'All my bones praise Hashem, who is like You?' We learn from the four species that it is with these four (the most prominent of all our) limbs that we should praise Him.
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