Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Sukkot
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

The inner beauty of the Torah and its commandments is expressed to us physically through the rituals of the holiday of Succot. As perhaps no other holiday on the Jewish calendar does, Succot represents the beauty of God’s world, the awesomeness of nature and the delight that the senses of sight and smell bring to the human soul. The four species with their different colors and fragrances, the succah with its gentle covering roof of nature, unsullied by human substitutions and ersatz materials, the sense of connection to God’s world and to the goodness that is inherent in us, all combine to give Succot its special quality of contentment and happiness. Here in Israel the weather on Succot does not usually afford us any special challenges. However I remember the Succot of my youth in frigid Chicago where as a child I complained to my father about being cold sitting in the succah. He gently answered me that as I grew older I would realize how warm and comfortable I would truly feel sitting in a succah no matter what the reading on the outside thermometer was. Well I am now certainly old enough now, thank God, to realize what he meant and to experience the inner warmth and glow that sitting in a succah brings with it. And again if one is privileged to have members of one’s generations sitting with one in the succah then the cycle of joy and contentment is blissfully completed. The flimsiness of the succah itself contributes to the sense of solidity and eternity that the presence of family and the performance of God’s commandments on Succot create within us.

The Talmud tells us that the mother of the great tanna - scholar of the Mishna - Shamai, the compatriot of Hillel, brought him into a Succah while still an infant. Aside from the obvious meaning that the rabbis teach us that there is no better time to train Jews in observance of God’s commandments than in their youth I think that there is something deeper that is taught here in this seemingly ordinary anecdote. Shamai’s mother wanted him to experience that whiff of immortality that the succah brings with it. In the succah there are the unseen but omnipresent guests of the founders of our people - the ushpizin. Hovering over the succah are the unseen clouds of glory that enveloped us in the desert of Sinai and the memories of generations upon generations of succot constructed all over the world in our past and present. Infants yet see the unseen; they are still close to the source of eternity from whence they have newly arrived. The infant Shammai is at home in the succah because all that is unseen to those who are older and more mature is till real and present to the infant. Studies show that the infant dreams while sleeping. What are those dreams about? Are they not the recollection of its soul as to whence it sprang and was ushered into this world? Shammai the infant is at home in the succah for it is also a place of eternity and beauty, a harbinger and reminder of the eternal world itself.

One of the great revivals in the Jewish world over the past number of decades is the availability and purchase of very large amounts of etrogim, lulavim, hadasim and aravot in honor of the holiday of Succot. Again I remember that as a child worshipping in the synagogue where my father served as a rabbi there were only three sets of the four species present in the synagogue for the seven hundred fifty worshippers who attended the services! Among the many accomplishments of the State of Israel in the field of the spiritual rejuvenation of Jewish practice and study the popularization of this mitzvah of the four species is surely one of them. The growing and merchandising of the four species has become an industry of note on its own. There is to a certain thrill in holding in one’s hand the fruits of the rejuvenated Land of Israel which yields its bounty to its children who have returned to it from near and afar. In rabbinic responsa there are countless recitations of the difficulties that Jews living in the Diaspora had in obtaining the four species and the lengths and costs that they went to obtain these species for Succot. And lo and behold look how easy and simple it has become in our time with the existence of the State of Israel in our holy land to fulfill this joyous commandment. This alone makes our commemoration of succot the time of our happiness.
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר