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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Sukkot

Parshat Sukkot

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Sukkot Edition                                                                           Print Version
15 Tishrei, 5783 | October 10, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
Succos is in the Air

It’s Succos time. Time to get a lulav and essrog. Time to take the succah walls out of storage. Time to hang up the decorations, some old, some new. Time to leave our secure home, our comfort zone, and enter the succah.       

The Torah tells us of Bnei Yisroel’s leave of Egypt and trek through the desert.

“They traveled from Ramses to Succos. (“Exodus 12:37)

The trip from Ramses to Succos was more than a journey between two locations. It was a life-altering, spiritual journey.

Ramses, city of strong pyramids and edifices, is symbolic of Egyptian culture; the belief that power and might make right. That “everlasting” strength and security can be found in pyramids and fortresses, in brick and mortar.

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they left the values of Ramses behind. They traveled to Succos, the “unknown”, trekking through uncharted desert sands. How did they survive? From where did they muster their added strength? They were fortified with emunah and bitachon, faith and trust in HaShem. Although they didn’t know what lay ahead of them, their connection to HaShem remained strong and steadfast.

They not only lived in succahs, but believed in succahs. They realized that what is often perceived as strong and secure has no real permanence. That what is seen as powerful and long-lasting, is in reality lacking in real substance, ultimately toppling and disintegrating. They recognized that the physical world we live in is only temporary.

Every year, come the Yom Tov of Succos, we recall the faith and fortitude of the Dor HaMidbar, the Generation of the Desert. We leave our secure, comfortable homes for just a little while, and enter the succah. As we gaze through the schach, the succah roof covering, to the heavens above, we are reminded that only HaShem and His Torah have permanence and perpetuity. We realize that HaShem is watching over us, just as a father watches over his children, and we have nothing to fear.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersoin zt”l, teaches that the Hebrew word schach, comprised of the letters samach, chof and a final chof, has a gematria, a numerical value, of one hundred . We also sound one hundred shofar blasts on Rosh HaShanah. Just as the sound of the shofar brings us to greater spiritual heights, so too, our time sitting under the schach of the succah elevates our neshamah.

The message of Ramses and Succos is as powerful today, as it was generations past. There are no “givens” or guarantees in life. The modern day “Pyramids of Ramses” are cracking. Just witness the financial markets, our overall economy, political upheaval, and the breakdown in culture, morals and ethics. Our “edifices”, are all troubled. Much of what we trusted and believed in, no longer stand strong.

Through a transient abode, a simple succah, we are reminded of the message “Ein od Milvado, there is no one besides Him”. This simple three-word phrase should become our mantra, words to live by. It encapsulates an entire philosophy. The belief that as HaShem provided for the Generation of the Desert, He continues to provide and take care of us, and our needs. We just need faith.

“So that your future generations may know that I housed Bnei Yisroel in a succah, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 28:43)

When the Jewish nation traveled through the desert, HaShem completely enveloped them in yet another “succah”, a spiritual succah of “Ananei Hakovod”, the Clouds of Glory. These Heavenly clouds protected the nation in all directions, – North, East, South, West, above and below. Additionally, there was a seventh cloud that led the way before them.

We recite in the Yom Tov Maariv prayer, “Ufros Aleinu succas rachamim, chaim v’sholom, and spread over us the shelter of compassion, life and peace”.

While we no longer have the Clouds of Glory, we beseech HaShem to embrace us with His blessings of peace and protection.

V’samachtah b’chagechah, you shall rejoice with your festival.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:14)

Of all the holidays, it is only Succos which is called “Zman Simchaseinu, the season our joy.”

Why is only Succos specified as a time of happiness?

Our succahs are simple dwelling places made of canvas, plywood, or fiberglass. Nothing strong. Yet, we sit and enjoy, and are truly happy with our “succalehs”, for we know that HaShem is with us. That we have the ability to take the simple and humble and elevate it into a place of kedushah, holiness. That it’s not the marble and granite that make our homes a place worthy of HaShem’s presence. We can invite HaShem into our lives no matter where we are.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk zt”l, better known as the Kotzker Rebbe, was known to always have a quick, sharp answer. When asked by an agnostic as to where was G-d, the Kotzker replied, HaShem is everywhere. He is only waiting for us to invite Him in. It’s up to us.

It’s a special mitzvah to share the joy of Succos with others. To open our succahs and hearts, not only to family and friends, but to neighbors, the lonely-hearted, and those who may have nowhere else to go.

The Talmud relates that Rabbi Yocḥanan says: “In the future, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will prepare a succah for the righteous from the skin of the gigantic Leviathan whale. (Bava Basra 75a) This special succah is to house a banquet for the tzaddikim, the righteous of the world.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Barditchev zt”l, also known as the Holy Bardichever, was always careful to invite guests into his succah. Very often they included the homeless and needy. When asked why, he responded, “In the time of Moshiach, when the tzaddikim will be in the succah of the Leviathan, I will want to join them. For sure, I will be stopped – who are you to sit with the righteous?” The Bardichever continued and said, “I will be able to justify my entry, for in my succah, I too invited ordinary Jews to join in our rejoicing of the festival.”

May this Succos bring peace and tranquility to all of mankind.

Rabbi Ari Neuwirth
In Hashem’s Army

The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 18a) tells us that we pass before Hashem on Rosh Hashanah like sheep. This is similar, says the Gemara, to the soldiers of King David’s army. The question is why this comparison is chosen? Why is our judgement, as viewed as passing before Hashem like sheep, compared to our placement as soldiers in an army?

When a country goes to war and the soldiers come to the general, they're given a job. They're given a position. Do the soldiers just come to war and decide on their own what they want to do? No. Otherwise, they’d lose the war. They come in front of their general, their leader, and he is able to ascertain what each soldier’s strengths are, their weakness and place them each in the right position.

That's what happens for us before Hashem. We come in front of G-d like a soldier, and He in turn tells us, “Based on your skills, your talents and your accomplishments of the past year – you're a father, you're a husband, you're a son, you're a daughter, you’re wife, you're a mother – either you will continue that, rise to a new level or change position. Whatever you are doing in life, based upon your strengths and your weaknesses, you will be placed in a certain place.

Our job is to identity what our inherent strengths and limitations are, and with that, find how we can best positively influence others. When we can locate that, and emphasize our unique abilities, we will be finding our most resourceful and useful place in Hashem’s army and world for the coming year.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein zt”l
Talking Together

Upon the completion of a mesechta (tractate) of Gemara, there is a special paragraph which is recited, known as the Hadran. In this recitation, we directly address the Gemara itself, as if it were a living entity, and state, “We will not forget you, and you will not forget us, not in this world or the World to Come.”

Now it makes sense how our completion of a mesechta will stand for us in the World to Come. The merits accrued by virtue of our time and toil invested in it will return to us and speak well on our behalf. But what does it mean that the mesechta should not “forget” us in this world?

R’ Baruch Mordechai Mizrachi explained the meaning of this phrase with the following anecdote.

In Mir, Poland, there used to live a well-respected Torah scholar by the name of Reb Aharon. From morning until night, Reb Aharon poured his heart and soul into the Gemara along with his study partner, Reb Nachum. However, there was a clear distinction between Reb Aharon and Reb Nachum, for those who paid close attention. Reb Aharon never went home for lunch. Instead, food would be brought to him, and he would only return home later that evening.

One day, Reb Nachum turned ill and his condition worsened until it became critical. Reb Aharon, however, although without his beloved study partner, carried on throughout his morning as devoted and focused as he always was to his learning. And then lunchtime rolled around, and the student who’d always bring Reb Aharon a plate of food arrived. But the door to the shul was locked. Surprised by this uncharacteristic lockout, the student pulled up a ladder to one of the nearby windows and peered inside. And there he saw it.

Reb Aharon was standing in front of an open Aron Kodesh, yelling, “Mesechta Bava Kama, how are you going to let Reb Nachum be sick? Mesechta Yoma, how can you forget all the times the two of us learned you? Mesechta Bava Metzia, just because Reb Nachum is sick, have you forgotten about him?” Reb Aharon was visibly screaming to each of the mesechtas. The student couldn’t make out what Reb Aharon was doing. He had never seen anything like it before!

Reb Nachum went on to completely recover.

Now, should you wonder if this is just a one-off incident that occurred many years ago, let me share with you something else.

One of the men studying in the Kollel under my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shmuel Birnbaum zt”l, had been doing so for forty years. Day and night, he spent hours diligently in front of a Gemara, learning, debating and discussing the ins and out of Torah law and life. But then tragedy struck.

His wife was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Devastated by the news, he approached Rav Shmuel. “Rosh Yeshiva, the only way I have been able to stay in Kollel for forty years is due to my wife’s devotion to me and my family. She took care of so much. If she passes on now, I won’t be able to continue learning the way I have. Please, you must do something to help her recover. She needs a miracle. The doctors are giving her only a few months. But if she goes, I know my learning will too.”

Rav Shmuel looked into the man’s eyes, pained by his wife’s condition and heartbroken that it could also mean the end of his days and nights in the beis midrash that was home to him. “I wish I could help, but I don’t perform miracles,” replied Rav Shmuel. Rav Shmuel was known as a diligent learner par excellence. However, to overturn an illness was not something he felt to be in his repertoire. But the man was broken. Something needed to be done. After mulling it over, Rav Shmuel finally said, “I’ll try to do something.”

A week later, the man received a call from a medical hospital in Belgium which was experimenting with a new trial of chemotherapy and was accepting twenty candidates. This man’s wife was one of those twenty.

Two of the twenty experienced a radical recovery. One of those was this man’s wife.

The man returned to Rav Shmuel, incredulous. “It seems that you do perform miracles!” he exclaimed. “My wife underwent an incredible recovery. I never would have imagined her to be where she is today. You must have done something!” “I did in fact do something,” said Rav Shmuel. “And let me tell you.”

“The day you came to me, the Gemara I was learning involved a dispute between the famed Talmudic sages, Abaye and Rava. So I turned to Abaye and Rava and said, ‘We talk to each other a lot. Every time I open the Gemara and you are there, you talk to me and I talk to you. But there’s someone else here who talks to you a lot also. He’s able to do that because his wife is so supportive and dedicated to him and his learning. Now she’s sick though. And if she doesn’t make it, he may not be able to continue talking with you in the same way. So please, go before Hashem and tell Him that you want to continue being able to talk with this man, and that He should therefore grant his wife and complete recovery. Abaye and Rava, you can accomplish this. Please do.’

“So it was Abaye and Rava who helped save your wife’s life. The next time you see them in the Gemara, thank them. Don’t thank me.”

When you learn a page of Daf Yomi or read a comment of Rashi, you’re not simply learning. You’re talking to the sage in the Gemara and having a conversation with Rashi. He is in your life. When that’s the case, you can say, “Rashi, I learn every comment of yours on Chumash every week. I talk to you every week. And now I need something! I need you to go before Hashem and ask Him to help me!”

Learning is not just learning. It’s living. The sages we encounter in the Gemara and elsewhere are not just names. They are alive with us and we experience a real relationship.

A mesechta does not forget the one who learned through it and toiled over it, and neither does a Torah sage. Torah is life. It’s not just a book. It’s not just a subject.

Give life to it, and it will give life to you.

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