Just Desserts (& the Penultimate Correction)!
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
The Talmud in Tractate Avodah Zarah talks about the future. It details
for us a scenario that will occur after the final redemption, when the
G-d of the Jews and His Torah are known and accepted by all of mankind.
The entire world will see the great reward meted to the small nation that
endured an incessant exile while following the Torah scrupulously. Then
the idol-worshippers from other nations will line up before G-d and complain,
"what about us?" Had we been given the Torah we, too, would surely have kept
it! Why are you only rewarding the Jewish people?" The Talmud tells us that
G-d makes a deal. "All right," He tells them. "I'll give you one easy
mitzvah. If you observe it correctly, fine. However, if you do not, then
your complaints are meaningless.
The Talmud tells us He will give them the mitzvah of Sukkah. G-d will
then take out the sun in all its glory and the protection of the Sukkah
will be no match for its rays. These idol-worshippers, predicts the Talmud,
will kick the walls of the Sukkah and flee in disgust.
There are many mitzvos in the Torah. 613 to be exact. And there are
quite a number of difficult ones. Some are conducive to despair and
disheartenment without a broiling sun. Why, then, was the mitzvah of
Sukkah chosen to be the cause celebre that differentiates our commitment
to that of an idolator?
Rabbi Paysach Krohn, in his first book of the Magid Series tells the
story of a Reb Avraham who was about to enter a restaurant one late
spring afternoon. Upon entering, he noticed a familiar vagrant Jew,
known to all as Berel the beggar, meandering outside.
Reb Berel, rumor had it, was a formidable Torah scholar back in the old
country, but had his life shattered physically and emotionally by Nazi
atrocities. He was a recluse, no one knew exactly where or how he lived:
but he bothered no one, and not too many people bothered with him.
Reb Avraham asked the loner to join him for a meal. He was about to make
a business trip up to Binghamton and figured that he might as well
prepare for the trip with more than a hot meal - he would begin it with a
Reb Berel gladly accepted the offer; however, when it came time to order,
he asked for nothing more than two baked apples and a hot tea. Reb
Avraham's prodding could do nothing to increase the poor man's order.
"All I need are two baked apples and a steaming tea," he insisted.
Reb Avraham's trip to Binghamton was uneventful until the rain and the
darkness began to fall almost simultaneously. As if dancing in step, the
darker it got, the heavier the deluge fell. All Reb Avraham remembered
was the skidding that took him over the divider and into oncoming traffic
on Route 17 in Harriman, New York. He came to shortly after two tow
trucks had pulled his wrecked car from a ditch and lifted him to safety.
Refusing hospitalization, he was driven to a nearby motel that was owned
by the Friedmans, a Jewish couple who were readying the place for the
Mr. Friedman saw the battered Reb Avraham and quickly prepared a
comfortable room for him. His wife quickly prepared a little something
for him to eat. She brought it out to a shocked and bewildered Reb
Avraham. On her serving tray were two baked apples and a glass of
When the Jews left Egypt, they had nothing to look at in the vast desert
but faith. They built simple huts, almost in declaration: "Hashem we
will do ours, we are sure You will do yours." And those simple huts,
those Sukkos, protected them from the heat, the cold, the wind, and the
unknown. Hashem tells the prophet Jeremiah to tell his folk, "I remember
the kindness of your youth as you followed Me in an unsowed desert."
Perhaps when the final redemption arrives, it will again be the simple
Sukkah that will stand as the protectorate and advocate of the People who
stood for 2,000 years in the face of idolators, who invited the Jews to
join them... or die. So, when we enter the Sukkah this year, let us remember
that it is only a small Sukkah stop on a long journey home. And when we
arrive there, the Sukkah will be there once again to greet us as it was more
than 3,300 years ago in the Sinai Desert. After all, it's nice to be served
at the end of a 2,000-year-long journey with just desserts.
Good News. According to many commentaries the final -- final day of
judgement is Hoshana Rabbah. (That is when the messengers go out to do
their job) So perhaps we can call Yom Kippur, PENultimate. Otherwise, I
do apologize, consider it a slip of the pen!
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