Succot 5780: The Essence of Succot

Shalom Friends;

Our Succot vort is being sponsored by Haim and Danit Kalb and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh Lilui Nishmas for Haim’s Dad, Mordechai Yosef ben R’ Efraim and for the Yahrtzeit of Haim’s Grandfather R’ Efraim ben R’ Mordechai. To the Kalb family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Succot 5780: The Essence of Succot

by Moshe Burt

Having emerged from Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, hopefully all have been inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy, successful and meaningful year and years ahead, we now find ourselves in the midst of Succot.

During Succot, the B’nai Yisrael, as an Am Segula (a nation apart and unique from the other nations) — as Hashem’s special, chosen people, visit and bond with our brethren while celebrating our special and unique relationship with HaKodosh Borchu. To this author, this visiting and bonding with brethren conjures up memories, during youth, of visits to family in Montreal (this author’s Mother’s side of the family was from Montreal) where, one night during the visit, Grandfather would host the entire assembled family for dinner in a prominent restaurant in the city.

We recite Tehillim psalm #27: “L’David Hashem O’ri…” twice daily from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Simchat Torah night (through Shemini Atzeres in Chutz L’Aretz). The Succot Machsor (Nusach Ashkenaz, pages 68-69) explains:

The custom to recite this psalm of repentence is based on the Midrash [Vayikra Rabbah, Perek 21, siman 4] which expounds: “Hashem is my light” on Rosh Hashanah; “and my salvation” on Yom Kippur; “He will hide me in His shelter”… an allusion to Succot. The implication is that Rosh Hashana, Hashem helps us to see the light and repent; on Yom Kippur, He provides us salvation by forgiving our sins. Once we are forgiven, He shelters us from all foes and dangers, just as He sheltered our ancestors in the wilderness.

Various commentators cite the Zohar Vayikra daf 31b which indicates that the final sealing in the Book of Life occurs on Hoshana Rabbah. Thus, one could draw a definitive spiritual connection between this final sealing of one’s future in the coming year on Hoshana Rabbah, and the recitation of Tehillim psalm #27: “L’David Hashem O’ri…” from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Simchat Torah night.

[Again, many thanks to R’ Yedidya Kramer of Ramat Beit Shemesh for his help in nailing down the exact sources: (Vayikra Rabbah, Perek 21, siman 4 and Zohar Vayikra daf 31b as noted above)]

From the above citing: “He will hide me in His shelter…” an allusion to Succot; Jews recognize that Hashem has dominion over the world and that man can’t look to or have trust in the physical, such as stone, iron or steel structures, etc. to provide protection. The nations, conversely, look to tall, fortified edifices for security and protection.

The Artscroll Succot Machzor notes (Page 310 in the Ashkenaz Machzor):

Generally, the [Torah] reading of the first day of a festival deals with the historical event being commemorated. Thus, on the first day of Pesach, we read about the Yetziyot Mitzrayim and on… Shavuot, we read about the Revelation on Sinai. Today, however, since there is no narrative dealing exclusively with Succot, we read a chapter that discusses all the festivals in general.

These introductory verses conclude with an admonition not to desecrate the Name of Hashem Who liberated us from Mitzri bondage. Since all of the festivals — and our very existence as a nation — flow from the Yetziyot Mitzrayim, this section is used to introduce the festival portion.

The Artscroll Succot Machzor renders to English Sefer Vayikra, Perek 23, posukim 1-2, 33-36 (pages 311 and 315 in the Ashkenaz Machzor):

“Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: ‘Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and say to them: Hashem’s appointed festivals that you are to proclaim as holy convocations — these are My appointed festivals.'” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 23, posukim 1-2)

“Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: ‘Speak to the B’nei Yisrael saying: ‘on the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Succot festival, for seven days to Hashem. On the first day is a holy convocation for you, and you are to offer a fire-offering to Hashem, it shall be an assembly, you may not do any laborious work.'” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 23, posukim 33-36)

The Artscroll Succot Machsor provides an overview in which the Mitzvah of Succot is discussed (page XX1):

The commandment of Succah tells Jews, leave the permanent dwelling and settle in a temporary dwelling (Succah 2a). In the context of the desert experience, even a Succah offered little security. Makeshift walls and a thatched shade could not have provided true comfort in the vast, baked wilderness where there was neither food nor water, where snakes and scorpions were a constant danger (Sefer Devarim, Perek , posuk 15). Israel’s comfortable survival for forty years in the wilderness was possible only because of Hashem’s constant mercy. Thus, when a Jew leaves his home in favor of his Succah, he realizes that his own personal survival, like that of his forefathers, ultimately depends on Hashem’s protection. Even in modern times, the threat of human destructiveness and natural disaster make plain that man has no safer refuge than his fragile Succah, and the Heavenly protection it represents.

One need wonder; what motivation of the nations could be behind their seeking reward and favor with Hashem? Would the nations perceive Succot as “an easy Mitzvah”, “a free pass” courtesy of HaKadosh Borchu? Gemura Mesechet Avodah Zora, daf gimmel blows such a perception out of the water in relating that while the head of state of the nations sat in the Succah, an unbearable heatwave came whereupon he and and his party bid a hasty retreat from the Succah kicking down the door with disdain as they left.

The Artscroll Succot Machsor’s overview also discusses the Mitzvah to celebrate Succot and expresses the symbolism of B’nei Ysrael’s Spiritual Harvest (pages XX11-XX111):

Only once does the Torah command Israel to rejoice on Shavuot (Sefer Devarim Perek 16, posuk 11) — but no less than three times is Israel enjoined to celebrate Succot (Sefer Vayikra Perek 23, posuk 40 and Sefer Devarim Perek 16, posukim 14-15). The implication is plain.

The greatest cause for celebration is the attainment of a goal. Succot symbolizes the successful completion and ingathering of Israel’s spiritual harvest; that is surely ample reason for Torah to stress three times, and for the Sages to incorporate into the days’ tefillot, that Succot is the season of our gladness (citing S’fas Emes).

And so we ponder the War of Gog and Magog:

“When Gog, all his army and all of the nations attack Israel, even in a redemption ‘in haste,’ Israel will tremble with fear. Afterward, G’d will rise up and destroy the nations in the final redemption, as in the first one.” (”The Jewish Idea”, by Rabbi Meir Kahane, Z’l, Vol. 2, page 984)

“Our sages said (Tanchuma, Re’eh, 9); “…In the future, Gog and Magog will attack Israel, and they too will be burnt up with one fire, as it says, ‘I will punish him with pestilence, blood and torrential rain […fire and brimstone]. At that moment, I will magnify and sanctify Myself, and make Myself known to many nations.’” (Yecheskel, 38.22-23 in part, as quoted from ”The Jewish Idea”, by Rabbi Meir Kahane, Z’l, Vol. 2, page 984)

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

L’Shana Tova, Chag Same’ach and Good Shabbos! — may all who read this enjoy a healthy, happy, sweet and prosperous 5780 and every year thereafter to at least 120!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.