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Sukkot
Why Avraham is our first virtual Sukkot guest Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 October 2017

When the angels disguised as men went to visit Avraham, he was more than happy to host them. In Breishhet 18:4 Avraham tells his guests: “Let a bit of water be brought and wash your feet. Rest yourselves under the tree.”

In Breisheet Raba 48:10 we learn that Avraham seated the guests under the tree so that they would have a comfortable, protected, shaded place to sit. The Midrash teaches that since Avraham seated them under the tree, his reward would be that his future offspring, B’nei Yisrael would always be protected by God.

When B’nai Yisrael left Egypt, God gave them shade in the desert, as it says in Tehillim 105:39: “He spread out a cloud for shelter, and a fire to illuminate the night.”

How do we know that God also gave Avraham’s offspring shade when they were living in the Land of Israel? In Vayikra 23:42-43 we read: “You shall dwell in sukkot for a seven day period; every native in Israel shall dwell in sukkot so that your generations will know that I caused B’nai Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I took them out of the land of Egypt.” The sukkah is like a chuppah (canopy) of honor which protects us and gives us shade from all harm, so that in every generation we will remember that God protected B’nai Yisrael and enveloped them in the clouds of glory.

From where do we see that God will protect us and envelope us in the future/ the days of the mashiach (messiah)? Yishayahu 4:6 states: “And there will be a sukkah as a shade from the heat in daytime as a protection and refuge from storm and from rain.”

Since Avraham went out of his way to protect his visitors, the Jewish people will forever be protected by God. It is not a coincidence that the first of the Ushpizin (virtual guests) is Avraham followed by his son, Yitzchak, his grandson, Yaakov, his great grandson, Yosef and his future descendants Moshe, Aharon and David.

 
Sukkot, the Happy Holiday Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014

In Dvarim 16:13-15 we read: “You shall make a festival of Sukkot for a seven day period, when you gather in from your threshing floor and from your wine cellar. You shall rejoice on your festival (visamachta bichagecha)- you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, the Levite, the convert, the orphan and the widow who are in your cities. A seven day period shall you celebrate to Hashem, your God, in the place that Hashem your God will choose, for Hashem will have blessed you in all your crop and in all your handiwork and you will be completely joyous (vihayita ach sameach).”

Rashbam explains that the reason the word “ach” is used is to contrast Sukkot with the holidays that came before it: “Although Rosh HaShana is a day of remembrance and Yom Kippur a day of atonement, Sukkot is a feast of joy and thanksgiving for the bountiful crops God has blessed the people with.”

The Baalei HaTosafot add: “At Sukkot, when all has already been gathered in and the sins had been forgiven on Yom Kippur, rejoicing is mentioned three times: once in Vayikra 23:40 ‘You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a citron tree, the branches of date palms, twigs of a plaited tree and brook willows and you shall rejoice (visamachtem) before HaShem, your God, for a seven-day period’ and twice in Dvarim: ‘You shall rejoice on your festival’ and  ‘you will be completely joyous’. You should be rejoicing for the produce of the earth, for the fruits of the tree and for the forgiving of the sins. Rejoicing should be your exclusive concern.”

Rabbi Naphtali Hirz Wessely (1725-1805, Hamburg) explains that we should be happy on Sukkot. However, the word “ach” limits us and tells us not to get carried away, it is a warning against frivolity and folly.

Nehama Leibowitz adds that the word “ach” limits the rejoicing which is to be a festive one, in the spirit of the commandment, with no alien motives which are apt to emerge at this season when the sight of plenty may go to one’s head and joy may turn into riot.

Although we are commanded to be happy, we can’t just do what we want all week as if we are on vacation. We move out of our comfortable homes into sukkot (booths) which must be built in a specific manner. We must buy kosher four species that are prescribed by the Torah which can often be very expensive. We have restrictions over Yom Tov as well as over Chol HaMoed.

Despite all of the laws and restrictions, when we are sitting outside this evening in our Sukkot under the full moon, there is no question that this is the holiday where we can really feel God’s presence. It is also a happy time to be in Israel as we only have one day of Yom Tov, you can find a sukka almost everywhere including on the beach and they have really good deals on Lulav and Etrog sets!

 

 
The Sukkah of the Sea Monster Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 September 2013

On the last day of Sukkot, when we leave the Sukkah for the last time, we say the following prayer:

 

Yehi Ratzon- May it be Your will, Hashem, our God and the God of our forefathers that just as I have fulfilled the mitzvah and dwelled in the Sukkah, so may I merit the coming year to dwell in the Sukkah of the skin of the Leviatan (Monstrous fish). Next year in Jerusalem.

 

The Leviatan was created on the Fifth day of the creation (Bresiheet 1:21 “And God created the great sea monsters”). The Leviatan is the ruler of all of the creatures of the sea. In Masechet Bava Batra 74b we learn that the Leviatan will be slain and its flesh served as a feast to the righteous in the World to Come and its beautiful skin will be used to cover the tent where the banquet will take place.

 

In a prophecy about the destruction of our enemies in Yishayahu 27:1 we read “On that day God will bring punishment with His harsh, great mighty sword upon Leviatan… and He will kill the great fish that is in the sea.”

 

According to Radak, the Leviatan symbolizes the great world powers. Yishayahu uses the death of the Leviatan to allude to the eventual downfall of the enemies of Israel.

 

According to the Daily Mail, last month a thirteen foot long sea monster washed up on the beach in Villaricos, Spain. Marine biologists are having trouble identifying it saying that they have never seen anything like it before.

 

Since there is a good possibility that the sea monster that was found dead in Spain was a Leviatan, then there is also a good possibility that soon we will see the downfall of our enemies as well.

 

As we celebrate Sukkot and pray for peace we look forward to the day that we will sit in the Sukkah made from the skin of the Leviatan.

 

Photo: Is this the Leviatan (the Sea Monstor from the 5th day of Creation)?

 
The Importance of Having Kavana in the Sukkah Print E-mail
Friday, 05 October 2012

Why do we sit in Sukkot?

 

The answer is found in Vayikra 23:43: “So that your generations may know that I made B’nai Yisrael dwell in Sukkot when I brought them out of the Land of Egypt”.

 

The Tur in Orach Chayim explains: We sit in the Sukkah to remember the Exodus of Egypt since everyone was there to see the Exodus and nobody can deny that it took place. The Sukkot in the desert were the clouds of glory which protected B’nai Yisrael from the heat and the sun. The Sukkot that we make remind us of those miracles.

 

The Bayit Chadash points out that the fact that the Tur who usually sticks to explaining the Halachot spends time here explaining the reason behind the mitzvah shows that part of the mitzvah is to have Kavana (intent) when we are in the Sukkah to remember the Exodus from Egypt.

 

Is it enough to have Kavana that we are doing a mitzvah by sitting in the Sukkah or do we have to have Kavana that God took care of us in Sukkot when we left Egypt?

 

According to the Pri Migadim and Mishna Brura, one would still have fulfilled the mitzvah if  they ate in the Sukkah while only having the intent of fulfilling the mitzvah of eating in the Sukkah (without focusing on the Exodus from Egypt).

 

Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger gives a stricter opinion. If a person didn’t focus on the Exodus from Egypt during the meal on the first night then he should actually eat another Kezayit, this time making sure to focus on the Exodus. One should teach their children and grandchildren on the first night the reason why we sit in the Sukkah in the same way that we teach our children about the Exodus at the Pesach seder.

 

We see from here that Kavana is a very important aspect when fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkah. Since we are physically sitting outside eating our meals in a booth instead of eating at our dining room table we may automatically have more Kavana. However, over time we may get so used to the mitzvah that we may take sitting in the Sukkah for granted.

 

Sukkot is a great opportunity to invite guests who are not as familiar with the holiday who will ask a lot of questions and give us the opportunity to explain why we are living in a booth for a week.

harona Margolin HalickmanL'ay ghy we are living in a booth for a week.with the holiday who will ask a lot of questions and give

 
The Sukkah: The Symbol of God’s Shelter Print E-mail
Friday, 02 October 2009

From Rosh Chodesh Elul through Shmini Atzeret we recite Psalm 27 L’David Hashem Ori… The psalm alludes to Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

 

The sentence that alludes to Sukkot is sentence 5: “For in the day of evil he shall hide me in his Sukkah, He will conceal me in the concealment of his tent…” The idea that is expressed here is God’s protection and shelter of the Jewish people. Both ‘sukkah’ and ‘ohel’, tent, are used over and over in the Tanach as places that God protects and where God dwells.

 

As we prepare to celebrate Sukkot and as we spend the last week of the season reading Psalm 27, Let’s take a moment to appreciate God’s protection of the Jewish people.

 

From the Hamas prison we now see on a videotape released today that with Hashem’s protection Gilad Shalit appears to be in good health. The Jewish heart in all of us, after seeing this video, wishes we could reach into the TV screen and pull Gilad out of the evil and darkness. With the continued protection of Hashem, we pray that Gilad Shalit will be released soon.

 

Let’s make an effort to have special kavana when we say the words in sentences 12 and 14: “Deliver me not over to the will of my enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me who breathe “Hamas”, violence…Hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and He will give you courage and hope to Hashem”.

 
What Do The Mitzvot of Dwelling in the Land of Israel and Dwelling in a Sukkah Have in Common? Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2008

In Tehillim (Psalms) 76:3 we read: “Vayehi viShalem Suko, umeonato viTzion”, In Shalem also is His Sukkah and His dwelling place is in Tzion.

 

The Vilna Gaon points out that the Mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah and the mitzvah of Tzion, dwelling in the Land of Israel have something very special in common. When you perform these mitzvoth, you enter into them with your entire being, with your entire spirit and with your entire body- even with your shoes. In the same way that the mitzvah of Sukkah is “taaseh”, you must personally do it (as opposed to something that is done for you), so too is the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel, you must personally live there and build it up, it is not something that can be done for you.

 

Why is the mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah more widespread than the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel?

 

It is a lot easier to pick yourself up and say “for this week I will be eating and sleeping in an alternate home without all of the comforts that I am used to (sort of like going camping or going on vacation), it is another thing to pick up your entire life and move away from your home, your friends, your family, your career etc.

 

However, think of what a privilege it is to live in a country where your entire being, your entire spirit and your entire body are involved in mitzvoth just by dwelling there. In Israel, we don’t have to wait for Sukkot to have that form of experience (maybe that is why we get two less days of Yom Tov!)

 


 
Sukkot in Israel Print E-mail
Sunday, 07 October 2007

As the Sukkot holiday begins tonight, Israel is bustling with lots of action. Lulavs and Etrogs are abound, Sukkot are on almost every street corner,including four in front of our building. Jerusalem is gearing up for many activities including Ir David, The City of David tours, Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel where 25,000 people descend on the Old City to be blessed by thousands of kohanim and a giant Sukkah made of candy can be visited at city hall!

Another city that is getting ready for its many guests is Hevron, the capital for the first seven years of King David’s reign and burial place of Avraham, Sarah, Yitzhak, Rivka, Yakov and Leah.

Yesterday, my husband Josh and our son Dov had the opportunity to visit Chevron and saw first hand the preparations that were being made.  Huge Sukkot were being erected and a stage was being prepared for a massive concert that will take place over Chol Hamoed.

Josh and Dov visited Tel Rumeida where the ancient city walls and homes have been uncovered from the time of Avraham and also went to Beit Hadassah where a Jews of Chevron were slaughtered by Arab rioters in 1929. There is now a memorial along with a museum detailing these attacks. Today, twenty-five Jewish families live in the Beit Hadassah complex.

The tour then went to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood and stopped in the Avraham Avinu Shul which had been destroyed in 1948 by the Arabs and turned into a goat and donkey pen. In 1989 the community and synagogue was rebuilt as a beautiful edifice.

At their last stop, Ma’arat HaMachpelah stories were told of how Avraham purchased the cave from Ephron as a burial site for Sarah and how Jews were not permitted to pray there for over 700 years until the city was liberated in 1967. The building is now “shared” with the Arabs and is only completely accessible to Jews for ten days a year where they can visit the Yitzhak hall, in which portals to the depths of the cave are found. Some of these days fall on Chol Hamoed Sukkot.

As we enter our Sukkot, our temporary homes, we must remember how important it is to continue to visit Jerusalem, Chevron and other places in Israel to ensure that they permanently remain in our hands.

 
The Sukkah as Divine Protection Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 October 2006

The Mitzvah: (Vayikra 23:42) "You shall dwell in sukkot for seven days, every native born Israelite shall dwell in sukkot".

The Reason: (Vayikra 23:43) "So that generations will know that in the sukkot I caused B'nai Yisrael to dwell when I took them out of the land of Egypt, I am Hashem your God."

Why do we need a holiday to remind us that B'nai Yisrael lived in sukkot (booths) when they left Egypt?

According to Rashi who quotes Rabbi Eliezer (Sukkah 11b), there is a deeper meaning. Sukkot were not booths as we know them today. Rather, they were the "Ananei HaKavod", the clouds of glory that protected B'nai Yisrael when they were in the desert.

Ramban agrees with this view. Ramban adds that while Pesach reminds us of the miracle of the exodus from Egypt, the holiday of Sukkot reminds us of the ongoing miracle, God's protection throughout their forty year stay in the wilderness.

Where do sukkot (booths as we know them today) fit in?

According to Rabbi Akiva (Sukkah 11b), B'nai Yisrael made themselves real sukkot (booths). Ramban explains that B'nai Yisrael made literal booths on the onset of the winter season on account of the cold. When we dwell in sukkot, we are reminded that B'nai Yisrael did not live in homes for forty years. Rather, God was with them and they lacked nothing.

It is now over a year since the residents of Gush Katif have been forced out of their homes. Many are living in temporary dwellings, even tents while they wait for a permanent place to live.

As we sit in our sukkot, let's not forget how fortunate we are to have God's protection both inside and outside our homes. The fact that we have permanent homes to return to at the end of the holiday should not be taken for granted.

 
Insights Into the Etrog Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2005

In Vayikra- Emor 23:40 we are told "You shall take for yourselves pri etz hadar- the fruit of the beautiful tree."

How do we know that this fruit is the etrog? According to Ramban, the word etrog is the Aramaic word for the Hebrew word hadar. The word etrog means desirable, Onkelos says that it is nechmad, pleasant to the sight.

According to the Kabbala, pri etz hadar is the fruit in which there is a great deal of desire. This is the fruit that Adam and Chava sinned with in Breisheet 3:6: "And the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable as a means of wisdom and she took of the fruit and she ate".

Chava's punishment for eating the fruit was that she would have a difficult time during childbirth.

How do we make a tikkun, correction for Chava's eating of the fruit without permission?

There is a custom for a pregnant woman to bite off the end of the etrog (pitom)on Hoshana Raba. According to Chava Weissler in Voices of the Matriarchs, this custom was thought to ensure an easy childbirth. The custom appears both in Tsenerene (a women's bible published in 1600) as well as in books of tkines (women's prayers).

After biting off the pitom, the pregnant woman should give tzedakah, pray the she has an easy labor and recite the following prayer:

"Ribono shel olam, because Chava ate of the etrog, all of us women must suffer such great pangs as to die. Had I been there, I would not have had any enjoyment from the fruit. Just as now I have not wanted to render the etrog unfit during the whole seven days when it was used for a mitzvah. Now on Hoshana Raba the mitzvah is no longer applicable, but I am still not in a hurry to eat it..."

I am not guaranteeing that this custom will make childbirth a breeze, but it certainly can't hurt.

The Gemara in Ketubot 61a adds that a pregnant woman who actually eats the etrog (after the holiday) will have children that smell good.

Bon Apetit!