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Sukkos/Simchas Torah 5760

Outline Vol. 3, # 33

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

This issue has been dedicated in honor of the 59th anniversary of Max and Florence Zimring.

Sukkos -- based on the Divre Yoel

In the Talmud, the Rabbis dispute the purpose of the Sukkos festival. Although the verses describe the Sukkah huts as bringing about a recognition of Hashem's protection in the desert, Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva disagree regarding the nature of the original shelter.

"...You will rejoice before Hashem... Seven days you will dwell in Sukkos... So that your generations will know that I placed the Jews in Sukkos when I took them out of Mitzraim (Egypt)." (Vayikra [Leviticus 23:40-43])

What kind of Sukkos does the verse discuss? Rabbi Eliezer says that Hashem's Sukkah refers to the protective clouds which surrounded the Jewish People, while Rabbi Akiva says that the reference is to the structures the people made themselves.

The Chaye Adom explains why the Torah calls the Yom Tov "Chag Hasukkos" -- in the plural -- instead of "Chag Hasukkah:" There were two different protective coverings -- the clouds and the man-made structures.

According to the Chaye Adom, then, both views, that of Rabbi Eliezer and that of Rabbi Akiva, are integral aspects of Sukkos. If so, what was their argument?

The Chida records a famous question. There were three primary miracles in the desert: The Mon (manna), the Ba'er (well of Miriam), and the Ananim (Clouds). Why was a Yom Tov dedicated in recognition of the third miracle only, but not the other two?

The answer that the Chida mentions, is that food and water are such basic necessities, that Hashem was, so to speak, forced to provide them. That is, if Hashem was to keep His promise to deliver the Jews safely from Egypt, He would have to provide their basic necessities. The extra protection of the clouds, however, was a miraculous phenomenon that was beyond the call of duty. The protective clouds merit their own, unique festival in recognition of the "tosefes tova" -- extended blessing -- which was beyond the level of basic necessity. Therefore, only the clouds deserved a special Yom Tov.

However, one may ask: Isn't shelter also a basic necessity? Don't people need protection from harsh weather and wild animals?

Indeed, all agree that there were both aspects -- the man-made protection, and Hashem's shelter. The debate concerns the primary focus. Rabbi Akiva says that the main aspect is the man-made structures. Only because the people had their own protection, would the clouds be recognized as something special.

Rabbi Eliezer, on the other hand, maintains that the stress must be put on Hashem's protection. He, too, agrees that if it weren't for the man-made structures, the special quality of the protective clouds would not be appreciated.

In the davening, Sukkos is referred to as the Festival of Rejoicing; the verses mention rejoicing more often in connection with Sukkos than with any other festival. Why is such rejoicing stated only in regard to Sukkos?

Sukkos, more than any other time, shows the great esteem that Hashem has for Yisrael.

In Pirke Avos, chapter three, Rabbi Akiva mentions the great love that Hashem has for Man, who was created in the image of Hashem; an added degree of love was shown by making Man aware of his elevated status. Beloved, too, are the Jewish People, who are called the Children of Hashem; especially so, because they were granted the recognition of their elevated status.

At Sukkos, Hashem's love for Yisrael became manifest through the extended blessing of the clouds. That we became aware of this love is the sign of even greater love. Therefore, specifically at Sukkos we are told "So that your generations will know that I placed the Jews in Sukkos when I took them out of Mitzraim (Egypt)." The Clouds were the sign of the special degree of love, and the knowledge is an even greater sign.

Greater than the pleasure of receiving a gift, is the pleasure of realizing the love that the giver has for the recipient. The special realization of the significance of the Sukkah is the cause of the special simcha -- joy -- associated with the festival of Sukkos. well, should be performed in an exemplary manner.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.

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