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Hashem, Our Protector

Parashat Ha’azinu comes out a couple of days before Sukkot, and it is instructive to look for themes that are common to the two.


Rabbi Daniel Mann

Tishrei 8 5782
This year, Parashat Ha’azinu comes out a couple of days before Sukkot, and it is instructive to look for themes that are common to the two.

The Torah tells us, in the haunting song that makes up most of the parasha, to "remember the days of history, contemplate the years of generation after generation," which, it continues, can best be done when you "ask your father and he will tell you, your elders and they will say to you" (Devarim 32:7). The Torah continues to discuss the creation of the special connection between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael. It says that Hashem found us in a desert, in a place of danger and surrounded us with protection in the most devoted way (ibid. 10). Rashi explains that the surrounding was with the miraculous clouds, which is, according to one opinion (Sukka 11b), that which we commemorate on Sukkot.

One way or another, a sukka is consistently a sign of divine protection. In the psalm we are in the midst of saying for close to two months (Tehillim 27), David speaks about Hashem hiding him in His sukka on a difficult day (27:5). Yeshayahu (4:6) refers to the sukka as protection from the sun and from rain, as a metaphor for Hashem’s protection over Bnei Yisrael in a more glorious future.

But a sukka, a simple booth, is a strange metaphor for divine protection, which we expect to be the strongest possible. Yaakov Avinu and family, after escaping danger from Eisav, traveled to a place where he built a house for his family and a sukka for his flock (Bereishit 33:17). Yes, people prefer houses, and a sukka is only a temporary dwelling. But interestingly, Yaakov named that place not for the house that he built but for the sukkot he built, calling it Sukkot.

The Zohar famously calls our stay in the sukka as being in the shadow of belief. Therefore, we can explain that we do not want to think about divine protection in terms of a house. We specifically want to feel the physical vulnerability, with the ultimate protection and confidence coming from our relationship with Hashem.

Sukkot is meant to celebrate the protection of Hashem that can often be forgotten. While the first two of the shalosh regalim celebrate historically momentous events with great miracles, the Exodus and the revelation of Hashem and giving of the Torah at Sinai, Sukkot commemorates the 40 years of survival in the desert. One way of looking at it is that nothing miraculous happened then; we just survived. But that is very far from the truth. Instead of incredible one-time miracles, the people were sustained by relatively subtle but miraculous and critical daily miracles, from the manna to the well to the protective clouds. This should remind us more accurately of the "miracles that are with us every day." We can fail to notice that we are surrounded and protected by the Master of the Universe, but when we are in the shadow of belief, we know that we are indeed protected by Divine Providence.
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