Sukkot 5774 – Gilayon #817
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"You shall live in booths seven days;
All the citizens of
The citizens – that is citizens. Of
– including sojourners, [gerim] (Rashi,
ibid). This excludes women from time-bound mitzvot but does include sojourners and freed slaves.
The literal translation, according to the
Kabala, alludes to "One law shall you have for sojourners and
citizens of the land." (Numbers 9:
"All the dwellers in
would not be necessary to mention citizens and sojourners each time, he says, "all
the citizens of Israel," to include everyone in Israel, adults and
children, so that all shall dwell in the sukkah, not
just one from each household while the others would remain in the house, but
all would dwell together. Perhaps it said that every citizen resides happily in
his home, to exclude sailors and travelers.
The transience of permanence and the permanence
that is in the transient
On the Festival of Sukkot, we are commanded to go out of our homes and live in
a sukkah. The Braita, describes it like this: "Our rabbis taught: Seven
days man makes his sukkah his permanent abode and his
home, temporary. How does he do this? If he has beautiful crockery – he brings
them to the sukkah. If he has beautiful linens – he
brings them to the sukkah. He eats and drinks and
passes his leisure time in the sukkah," (T.Bavli,
Sukkah 28:72). The sukkah becomes the space we live in for seven days, while
our real homes become a temporary place that we enter from time to time.
Our sages differed on
the architectural character of the sukkah. Rabban Gamliel interpreted it
that the sukkah should withstand strong sea breezes,
as opposed to Rabbi Akiva, who thought that a normal
land breeze was sufficient. The Talmud explains their dispute: "Rabban Gamliel is of the opinion
that the sukkah must be a permanent abode and since
it cannot withstand normal sea breezes, it is nothing, while R. Akiva, is of the opinion that the sukkah
must be temporary, and since it can withstand a normal land breeze it is valid"
(Bavli Sukkah 23:A).
In the same way, Rabbi Yehudah thought that a sukkah must have a mezuzah, because he also saw the sukkah as being permanent, as opposed to the rest of the
sages, who considered a sukkah exempt from a
mezuzah because it is a temporary abode (Bavli, Yoma
the dispute of the Tannaim, as to the maximum height
of the sukkah (Bavli, Sukkah 2:B). In all these
disputes, the Halakha is always according to the
opinion that the sukkah is a temporary abode and not
During the Festival of
Sukkot man should feel like his home is temporary. The
accepted interpretation of this mitzvah, is that particularly at the time of
harvest, when man’s self confidence is strong – the feeling of accomplishment
and his agricultural success – Man’s feeling of entitlement and strength –
particularly then, he should leave his protected living environment – his home
– and dwell in the sukkah, his temporary abode, where
he will again feel reliance on God, who provides the power to succeed.
City dwellers who,
during the year, are not engaged in reaping and harvesting, can also find
existential meaning in the mitzvah of the sukkah.
Mankind lives in the dialectic between two existential polarities. Sometime we
feel permanence: In work, in society, in the family. We live with the assurance
that what was, will be, that the sun that rose yesterday will also rise
tomorrow. We believe that our financial stability will endure and that our
relationships with our family will be sustained. But sometimes we are forcibly
shaken out of our complacency. We sense the transient condition of our
existence; impaired health, eroding relationships, and disintegrating economic
To cope with these
tensions, the mitzvah of Sukkot offers us a chance to
make our permanent home temporary and make the sukkah
permanent. Thus, we can experience the transient as permanent and the permanent
as transient. From turning our permanent home to temporary, we learn that what
seems to be permanent is not so safe: Home, family, work, social networks – the
things, that we try so hard to stabilize and institutionalize – all these do
not buy us complete security, as we never know what awaits us today, as it says
"Man can plan in his heart but God’s intent will prevail."
If man delves too
deeply into his thoughts he is likely to be completely depressed and
helpless, and will be unwilling to build and achieve. To balance these
thoughts, we turn our sukkah, for seven days, from a
temporary dwelling to a permanent residence. The sukkah
exemplifies our ability to design complete lives in a temporary situation. We
are reconciled to our insecurity and we create an existence for ourselves, also
in a temporary residence. Our willingness to perceive our sukkah
as a home provides us with the peace of mind to live with the uncertainties. On
an island of stability, for a moment of serenity, there can also be importance
and meaning and we can achieve the most out of the temporary and transient.
This idea has a
spiritual and emotional dimension, as well as a deep social meaning. In a state
of self– confidence, man lives for himself, in his own protected and
air-conditioned house. We live in a fortress. Confidence isolates, transience
unites. Moreover, houses represent class disparities – the simple sukkah – equality. We can go out to the sukkah,
we meet our neighbors, hear and join in with their singing and conversation,
and we enjoy the aromas of their cooking. Passerbys
peek in and are welcomed in. "Ushpizim"
(guests) visit, whether they are ancient guests, like Abraham and Isaac, or
they are new guests – they all enter our sukkah "that
are worthy to sit together"( Bavli Sukkah 27:B), with no class or ethnic or ideological
distinctions. Not only that, but all the nations of the world
are invited to celebrate with us the Festival of Sukkot
"You shall live
in booths seven days… All the citizens of Israel shall live in booths…in
order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in
booths when I brought them out of the Land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God."
23:44). The people of
they sat in sukkot in the desert. The mitzvah of sukkah reminds us of the wandering in the desert, the years
we lived together in simplicity, solidarity and equality. When we leave our
home to go out, we are attempting to recreate the wilderness experience, the
simplicity and the social cohesiveness and the belief that we are capable of
coping with transience and insecurity, in the wilderness, in the uncultivated
land – and in the land of milk and honey.
Ariel Pikar – Educational
Director of Tochnit Beeri
at the Hartman Institute.
…And you shall rejoice before the lord your god seven days.
On rejoicing – when, how much and how!
…All seven days of
the festival, we recite the [full] Hallel,
but on Pesach we recite the [full] Hallel only
on the first day and its preceding evening. Why? Because "If your enemy
falls, do not exult; If he trips, let your heart not rejoice." With
regard to Shavuot, simcha – joy
– is mentioned only once, as is written, "And you shall observe the
Festival of Weeks for the Lord, your God, and you shall rejoice you and your
household." Why is joy mentioned? [Because] the
wheat has been harvested. Why is it not
mentioned twice? Because the fate of the fruits of the tree
is still being decided. But on Rosh Hashanah, joy is not mentioned even
once, because souls are being judged, and man pleads for his soul more than for
his wealth. But on the festival [Sukkot],
because all souls were pardoned on Yom Kippur, as is written, "For on
this day, atonement shall be made for you", and the grains and
the fruits of the tree have been gathered, joy is mentioned three times, "You
shall rejoice in your festival", "You shall rejoice before the Lord
your God", "You shall have nothing but joy".
What is "nothing
but joy"? Even though man may rejoice in this world, his joy is
incomplete. How is that? Children are born to him – he worries lest they not
survive. But in the future, The Holy One, Blessed Be He, will abolish death
forever. That joy will be complete, as is written "Our mouth was filled
with laughter and our tongue with ringing song."
(Yalkut Shimoni, Torah, Parshat Emor, 247 654)
It appears to me that a connection
between the custom of reading Kohelet and the holiday
of Sukkoth is to be found in the words of R' Yonathan
in Yalkut Kohelet: "R'
Yonathan said, first 'Shir Hashirim' (Song of Songs) was composed, followed by 'Mishlei' (Proverbs) and then 'Kohelet'. R'
Yonathan derived this from the way of the world: in one's
youth he sings songs, when he matures he recites parables, and
in old age, he speaks of vanities…"
The three pilgrimage festivals signify
this cycle in the seasons of the year: In spring-which parallels youth-on Pesach
we read "Shir Hashirim"
("the time of singing has come"); in the season of harvest and
the ripening of first fruits, we read the Scroll of Ruth, which makes mention
of the wheat harvest; and in the [produce] gathering, we read Kohelet, which makes reference to man's last days, ending
with "The sum of the matter".
(Mordecai Zer-Kavod, from
his preface to his commentary on Kohelet in "Daat Mikra")
basic tenet of the Torah of Moses, our teacher, and all who follow the Torah,
is that man's ability is total, this is to say, that he has the nature, the
choice, and the desire to do anything which man is capable of doing, without
necessitating the creation of anything new… Another basic principle in the
Torah of Moses, our teacher, is that the Blessed one is in no way false.
Guide of the Perplexed, III
And god seeks the pursued.
In connection with that which is
written, and God seeks the pursued –
Rabbi Huna said
in the name of Rabbi Yosef: In the future, God will
exact the blood of the pursued from their pursuers:
A righteous man pursues a righteous man
– and God seeks the pursued,
A wicked man pursues a wicked man, or a
wicked man pursues a righteous man – and God seeks the pursued.
You are found implying: Even if a
righteous man pursues a wicked man, in any case: and God seeks the
Know that it is such, for Abel was
pursued by Cain, and therefore the Lord paid heed to Abel and his
offering, but to Cain and his offering He paid no heed (Bereishit
4:4-5). Noah was pursued by [the people of] his
generation and it is written that Noah found favor with the Lord (4:8).
Abraham was pursued by Nimrod, and it is written, You
are the Lord God who chose Abram, who brought him out of
Isaac was pursued by the Philistines, and it is written, and they said,
"We have plainly seen that the Lord has been with you, and we thought: Let
there be a sworn treaty between our two parties, between you and us (Bereishit
26:28). Jacob was pursued by Esau, and it is
written, for the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself,
pursued by his brother, and it is written, the Lord was with Joseph,
and he was a successful man; and he stayed in the house of his Egyptian master (Bereishit
39:2). Moses was pursued by Pharaoh, and it is written, had
not Moses His chosen one confronted Him in the breach to avert His destructive
is pursued by idolaters, and it is written, the Lord chose you to be
His treasured people (Devarim
Rabbi Yehudah Ben Simon says in the name of Rabbi Nehorai: The ox is chased by the lion, the lamb by the
wolf, the goat by the leopard – God said: Bring only
the pursued before Me as offerings – the ox, or the lamb, or the goat.
is Good for Man?
antithesis between the constantly repeated question – what
is good for man? – and nothing is discovered which is good for man
– and the final verse, which does not say what is good for man but
rather what is the totality of man. That is to say, what is
the significance of human existence in a world in which nothing is good for
man? This antithesis proves that the final verse is not an addendum tacked on
by a God-fearing Jew who had been shocked by the skepticism and heresy found in
the author's words. It is rather quite the opposite: that verse expresses the
author's own main intention. Kohelet does
not say fear God and observe His commandments, for that is good
for man. Rather, he says in a demonstrative and blatant fashion: for
that is the totality of man. Here faith and the service of God
are seen as independent values, not as means for the gain of benefit.
Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz z"l's He'arot le'Parashiyot Ha'Shavu'a pg.
The Temporariness of
who dwells in the Land of Israel must always remember the name Land of Canaan, which connotes
servitude and submission to God… you will merit being strangers in your land,
as David said: I am an alien
in the land (Tehillim
and then: Hallelujah, O
servants of the Lord (Ibid.
that the inhabitants of the land must live in humility, and, like sojourners,
should not consider secure settlement to be the main principle. In the words of
the Sages: "And Yaakov dwelt
wished to dwell in tranquility; The Holy One, blessed be He said: "Is it
not enough for the righteous that which is prepared for them in the world to
come? He will only be in the
land of his father's sojourning, and an alien am I, and it will be the Land of Canaan and his
father's sojourning will be
the secret of Yitzhak's fear, the measure of the law, terror all around [Translator's note: The SheLaH relates the Hebrew magor – terror – to the word ger – alien]
…and this is the meaning of you
are but strangers resident with me, and
your indication is It is a
land which devours its settlers – it
destroys those who wish to dwell there in quiet and tranquility and power, to
eat its fruits and to enjoy it exclusively.
(Shenei Luhot HaBrit of
Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz,