Succot 5783: Gog and Magog — the Clouds of Glory and Aaron, the Antithesis of Amalek

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, his Mother, Feigye bat R’ Mordechai and for the Yahrtzeits of Haim’s Grandfathers R’ Efraim ben R’ Mordechai and Mordechai ben David as well as for the Yahrtzeit of Danit’s Father Avraham Avigdor ben Aba Yehuda. 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 5783: Gog and Magog — the Clouds of Glory and Aaron, the Antithesis of Amalek

by Moshe Burt

Emerging 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, after assembling our Succahs and acquiring our Arba Minim (Lulav, Hadassim, Aravot and Etrog) celebrating Succot.

And we all know who the first Ushpizin is… as this author loves this parody on that old Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In axiom:

“And now, the man without whom the Jews wouldn’t be the Jews without the Jew — Avraham Aveinu!”

The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, z”l wrote discussing Succot in his Sefer, “Inspiration and Insight,” Volume ll (pages 97-99)

In the Shemonah Esrei of Yom Tov, we say, “And you, Hashem Kelokeinu, have lovingly given us appointed times for gladness, festivals and seasons for joy…” Every Yom Tov is a time for Simcha, gladness. However, only Succot is called “Z’man Simchateinu,” the season of our gladness. The source of this… is the verse (Devarum, Perek 16, posuk 14) where the term Simcha is used specifically in connection with Succot (though it applies to the other Yomim Tovim as well). Why, indeed, is Simcha associated with Succot more than with Pesach and Shavuot?

The joy of Succot can be explained…, the season of soul-searching and introspection which commences with Rosh Chodesh Elul becomes more intense with the advent of Rosh Hashana and reaches its climax with Yom Kippur, when we enumerate our sins… and beg forgiveness. Those who approach this season with the seriousness that it demands might well become dispirited after spending so much time pondering their spiritual failings. R’ Yisrael Salanter writes in a letter that in days past “every man was seized with dread by the voice which proclaimed the month of Elul.” (ibid, citing Ohr Yisrael 14) Forty days and countless tears later, such a man might find it difficult to mend his broken heart.

Yom Tov is a time of special closeness between Hashem and His people: this closeness is the source of the joy that permeates the Yom Tov experience. The Mitzvah of Succot symbolizes this closeness in a most unique way. The Gemara states that the Succah represents the Ananei HaKavod, Clouds of Glory, through which Hashem’s Presence was manifest during the Jews’ sojourn in the Wilderness and which sheltered them from harm. The Vilna Gaon, in Shir HaShirim 1:2, showed how the very date on which Succot commences is related to the Clouds of Glory. Succot is the season of our gladness because its arrival revives our broken spirit and infuses us with joy, both because it is Yom Tov and because its primary Mitzvah (ibid, Primary in the sense that it becomes one’s dwelling throughout the festival) represents the special bond which exists between HaKadosh Borchu and Klal Yisrael.

But it may seem that joy of Succot may be tempered somewhat by events both within Am Yisrael — in Eretz Yisrael as well as within world Jewry — and the chaos worldwide.

It is in this context that this author cites Sefer Shem Mishmuel (written by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, the Rebbe of Sochaczev and translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski). Shem Mishmuel cites a Tehillim, “devoted to Moshiach and the activities of those who oppose him,” and writes (pages 448-451):

“Kings of the land stand up and nobles take counsel together against Hashem and His Moshiach.” (Tehillim 2:2 rendered to English in Sefer Shem Mishmuel)

The Tur tells us:

So said Rabbi Hai Gaon: “I heard it from wise men that the victory over Gog and Magog will take place in Tishrei.
Therefore we read the relevant Parsha in Tishrei.” [actually on Shabbos Chol HaMoed] (Shem Mishmuel citing the Tur, Orach Chaim 490)

Shem Mishmuel continues (ibid):

As Gog and Magog will be the last struggle before the commencement of the Messianic age, we may assume that this verse refers to their act of rebellion. It is important to realize, however, that the nature of their rebellion is not the same as the Four Kingdoms, who have oppressed Yisrael at various stages of our history. These four kingdoms despised Yisrael; they believed that G-d had abandoned them and had exchanged them for another chosen nation. For this reason, the oppressors found it justifiable to enslave them [B’nei Yisrael] to their own ends. Not so, Gog and Magog. Their future objection and protest against G’d and Moshiach will be completely baseless — hatred and rebellion purely for their own sakes, an irrational refusal to submit to the Will of Hashem. Despite all of the tremendous advantages that Yisrael and the rest of the world will gain from the advent of Moshiach, Gog and Magog will attack. This will be much in the same way as Amalek fought the nascent Klal Yisrael upon their liberation from Egypt, despite the open signs and wonders that had just been witnessed. We can suggest that this war will be the final struggle between good and evil and ultimately the death throes of the vision of Amalek — rebellion directed against Hashem and all of that the Torah represents.

The holy Arizal understood that an underlying theme of Succot is the destruction of Amalek. This can be understood at a simple level. Succot is the Yom Tov of Aaron HaKohen.

Aaron is described as a lover of peace, a man who was unbiased in his love for everyone and who succeeded in bringing people closer to Hashem. Even though he was a man who was involved in great spiritual pursuits, he didn’t hesitate to mediate in petty squabbles, to make peace between man and wife or friends in dispute, or to steer sinner toward the path of teshuvah. According to the Maharal (Shem Mishmuel citing Tiferes Israel, chapter 22}, the name Aaron indicates his nature…. The alef at the beginning of… [his name], with the value of one, represents that he mediated not for personal aggrandizement, but for the glory of Hashem, the One G’d.

Returning to our discussion of the connection between Succot and the demise of Amalek, we are told that Moshe found it necessary to invite Aaron to approach the Mizbeiyach on the eighth and final day of his investiture. Rashi fills in the details:

…for he [Aaron] was embarrassed and frightened to approach. Moshe thus said to him, “Why are you embarrassed? For this you were chosen.” (Shem Mishmuel citing Rashi on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 9, posuk 7)

Thus Aaron personified bashfulness. This was, of course, the absolute opposite of the arrogant, self-seeking nature of Amalek and his spiritual inheritors, Gog and Magog. For this reason, the “Clouds of Glory” [the Ananei Hakavod] which surrounded Klal Yisrael in the desert protected them in the merit of Aaron. (Shem Mishmuel citing Mesechta Ta’anis, 9a) …When Aaron died, these clouds departed and Klal Yisrael were exposed. (Shem Mishmuel citing Midrash Tanchuma, Chukas 18) They were immediately attacked by Arad, who unsurprisingly, say Chazal (Shem Mishmuel citing ibid, Rosh Hashana 3a), were Amalek. Once Aaron, their antithesis, had died, Amalek felt that the time was ripe to fight their old foe.

It is now perfectly clear why this war, in which the enemy will be defeated, will happen at Succot-time. For, in the merit of our Succos, which represent the “Clouds of Glory,” which in turn existed because of Aaron, the man who personified bashfulness, Gog and Magog will meet their doom.

We observe the economic crises of severe inflation effecting us here in Israel, as well as throughout much of the world. There is the woke’ism, raging anti-semetism and multiple levels of immorality in the western nations as well as the oligarchic and tyrannical heads of state and administrations of the United States and Canada, not to mention the familiar despots of Russia, China, the “PA,” Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.

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. Our sages said (Tanchuma, Re’eh, 9, cited in part, rendered to English in ”The Jewish Idea”, by Rabbi Meir Kahane, Z’l, Vol. 2, page 984):

Consider what Pharaoh did when Yisrael left Egypt: He took “six hundred chariots with chosen crews [and shaloshim (captains or thirty) upon each one].” (citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 14, posuk 7) There were thirty men going forth for every Jew. What a force that was, going forth with Pharaoh! When [Am] Yisrael saw this, they were alarmed. It says, “The L-rd’s angel traveled” (citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 14, posuk 19) Am Yisrael asked, “Who would stand up to them? Hashem replied, “I swear that I will consider them all like a single man and a single chariot,” as it says, “When Pharaoh’s horse came” (citing ibid, Perek 15, posuk 19) All of them died in one breath, as it says, “You blew your wind. The sea covered them.” (ibid, Perek 15, posuk 10)
“….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].’ (R’ Kahane citing Yecheskel, 38.22) At that moment, ‘I will magnify and sanctify Myself, and make Myself known to many nations.’” (R’ Kahane citing Yecheskel, 38.23)

The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, z”l wrote a fitting closing to this Succot vort in his Sefer, “Inspiration and Insight,” Volume ll (page 103)

May the joy of Succot inspire us to serve Hashem throughout the year in a spirit of love, repentance and joy.

May we merit, in the spirit and personification of Aaron HaKohen’s example in humility, to see Moshiach, as we each gather B’Simcha with guests in our Succot, our Ananei Hakavod, as Hashem destroys Amalek.

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May 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 eight 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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 5783 and every year thereafter to at least 120! (123 years if you are Kohen!)
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.