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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Sukkot

Apply the Lesson in your Own Way

Rabbi Yossef Carmel15 Tishrei 5767
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How about analyzing the Torah’s reading about the historical Sukkot story? This would be difficult, as we don’t really read one during the entire chag. We read only that the Torah commands to commemorate the holiday by taking the lulav and etrog, offering korbanot, and sitting in sukkot. The latter is because Bnei Yisrael sat in sukkot in the midbar. This is very different from the lengthy accounts of the Exodus we read on Pesach and the section on the giving of the Torah on Shavuot. Even the mitzva of sukka itself is a little about not doing things. We make sure not to live in the regular, permanent house, which is replaced by one which is temporary in nature.

Rav Dessler (Michtav Me’Eliyahu, vol. II) claims that the theme of Sukkot is nullifying the significance of the physical world in one’s eyes. In davening, we refer to being enveloped by a sukka of peace, which he describes as the realization that the pursuit of pleasures and security of the material world is futile. One must realize that Hashem alone provides our needs. He explains in that light also that the fact that Divine clouds, which some say were the historical sukkot, were given to Bnei Yisrael in Aharon’s merit. Aharon’s attribute was that of a peace-maker. True peace requires negating the pursuit of materialism. If one stresses worldly pleasures, he will view others as competitors for its treasures. Only if one strives for true spirituality (not pursuit of honor within the world of the spiritual) will he view others’ success as beneficial to him.

Let us not make a mistake. Sukkot is not a time of asceticism. All of the three festivals have an agricultural element to them, and Sukkot is the most joyous, as the festival of harvest (chag ha’asif). In fact, in our simple dwelling, we are supposed to arrange the finest décor we can. We are not to deny the value of the bounty but to put it into perspective. Possessions are important tools, not permanent attainments. A related message is that you beautify a structure by what you put into it, not by the structure itself.

That perhaps is the message of the dearth of the Torah’s historical account. We do not stress what happened. We stress how the message of what happened then helps us to deal with our present situation. We realize that Hashem sustained Bnei Yisrael when we needed protection. So too, we forego our normal form of protection and look for one "closer to Hashem." How this message applies to the individual depends more on the particulars of his life than to the historical occurrence.

Many of us, especially in Israel, have felt insecurity from this summer’s experiences. We have learned in an all too sobering fashion that what one could view as a permanent house can suddenly turn into little more than a sukka. Let us be encouraged, not depressed by Sukkot’s message, that even in a temporary dwelling, Divine protection continues to exist, for each generation and person with its or his one modalities.

More on the topic of Sukkot

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