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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

The Confidence to Love

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After surviving and hopefully thriving with the Yom Kippur experience, we move on to the holiday of Sukkot. Some of the classical Jewish thinkers posited that Yom Kippur is related to service of Hashem through yirah (fear), whereas Sukkot is related to ahava (love). Let us take a look at Sukkot with this distinction in mind.
During Yom Kippur, we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to receive atonement for many sins, which certainly is a happier prospect than receiving the full punishment we deserve. However, the service is still one with the "gun against the temple." On Sukkot, we should have the feeling that we have, for the most part, made it through that stage and celebrate as those who can concentrate on the positive elements of our relationship with Hashem.
The Ramban (Shemot 20:7) famously makes the distinction between positive and negative commandments, saying that the latter is based on yirah of Hashem, while the former is based on ahava. Indeed, someone who fears tries to stay away from mistakes, whereas one who loves looks for opportunities to display the love, with less fear of what might go wrong. Yom Kippur is a day when we demonstrate the element of fear to an extreme. Not only do we refrain from problematic things, but we even refrain from such basic bodily needs as eating. We do not trust our connection with the natural physical world, and try to approach Hashem in a manner that is divorced from the physical world as much as possible. In contrast, on Sukkot, we fulfill two active mitzvot (sukka and the four minim). We take representatives of different things from nature into our hands, and we envelope ourselves in the "leftover of the winepress and the silo."
Our interest to engage the broader world also expands on Sukkot. We would sacrifice 70 bulls in the Beit Hamikdash, corresponding to the 70 nations, for whose ultimate success we pray. This is also related to our focus on Sukkot on the coming of Mashiach (the haftarot, the references to the hide of the Leviatan, etc.). Rav Kook writes in several places (including the first piece of Ein Ayah) that during the time of exile, when the Jewish people are physically and spiritually vulnerable, we are to be inwardly focused to ensure our survival. Only when we return to our Land and the Days of Mashiach begin can we reach our full potential as a nation of priests and lead the world toward universal service of Hashem. The other nations will lose their prominence as leaders and, like the decreasing number of bulls offered as Sukkot progresses, they will be happy to follow our lead as they come to see the "G-d of the house of Jacob" in Yerushalayim (Yeshaya 2:3).
May we merit seeing the increasing confidence to show our love of Hashem on the world stage as we continue to move toward the days of full liberation.
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