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Parashat Haazinu/Sukkot

Dedicated Le'ilui Nishmat Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama by Marc Faham

Parashat Haazinu/Sukkot

This week’s parasha is written as a song to B'nei Yisrael. In the previous parshiot, Moshe spoke to the Jewish people about all the good that Hashem will bestow upon them if they follow the ways of the Torah. Moshe describes the ultimate joy that will come to them as they enter the land of Israel and keep the ways of the Torah until our final redemption! We read this poetic passage about Yaakov, “He discovered him in a desert land, in desolation, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He granted him discernment, He preserved him like the pupil of His eye (32:10).” Rashi comments that Hashem discovered Israel's loyalty during the forty years in the desert, and they proved themselves. Hashem surrounded B'nei Yisrael with clouds of glory and protection from the elements and gave them the maan as food to sustain them. He also granted them the wisdom of the Torah.

Samachta Bechagecha

This upcoming week we will be celebrating the wonderful holiday of Sukkot, which is marked by a unique command to “live” in the Sukkah. We are commanded to eat our meals in the Sukkah, and many people even sleep in the Sukkah as well.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks comments, “When I sit in a Sukkah, I think to myself: that is how our ancestors lived. Not just in the desert in the days of Moses, but for most of the twenty centuries of exile, not knowing from one year to the next whether they’d still be there, or whether they’d be forced to move on, as Jews were so often. Between 1290 when they were expelled from England and 1492 when they were evicted from Spain, Jews knew what it was like to have no fixed home: to know that the place you were living was just a temporary dwelling, which is what a Sukkah is.”

On Sukkot, more so than any other holiday, we are supposed to be happy -- Samachta Bechagecha! Sukkot also marks a change in the mood of the holidays that we have during the month of Tishrei. After Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, holidays of awe and solemnity, we have Sukkot, a holiday on which we are commanded to be happy and rejoice.

The Chida, R’ Chaim Yosef David Azulay, writes that there is a reason these holidays are so close together. During Sukkot, we are commanded to leave our homes and move to a temporary dwelling outdoors. We just celebrated the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Those were days that we had spoken about how spiritual matters should be primary in our lives, days on which we dedicated ourselves to serving Hashem and asked forgiveness for our pursuit of earthly pleasures. The Sukkah now highlights what we have just experienced, and it reminds us that our materialistic values in this world are only temporary, just as our dwelling in the Sukkah. Hashem is giving us a booster shot. After the serious times of the high holidays have slipped away, the Sukkah reminds us about our decision to pursue the spiritual. When we sit in the Sukkah, we are reminding ourselves that our goal is to do mitzvot in this temporary world for our next long life in Olam Habah. As it says in Pirke Avot, this world is “A vestibule before the world to come (4:21).”

So on this holiday of Sukkot, we must follow the instruction “Samachta Bechagecha.” The Torah teaches us that happiness is not solely contingent on material possessions. One man who lives in a small apartment can be happier than another man living in a mansion. Therefore, eating our meals outside in a temporary dwelling can be just as fulfilling as being in our comfortable homes. Happiness is knowing that everything we have is from Hashem. “Ezehu ashir? Hasameach bechelko! -- Who is rich? The one who is happy with what he has!” On Sukkot, the joy comes from being with our families, having a door open to guests and ushpizin, and gratitude to Hashem for all He gives us.

Eating and sleeping in the Sukkah is intended to assist us in clarifying our outlook on life. We must remember that life in this world is only temporary and that we can’t take anything with us. We also remember that all that we have, we received from Hashem. The Sukkah is a sanctuary of spirituality; the message of the Sukkah must remain with us during the long winter months, so that the type of year we asked Hashem for on Rosh Hashanah is the one that we'll merit to live.

Never Forget

The Sukkah has further significance, as the Torah writes “You shall observe the feast of Sukkot for seven days, after you have gathered in your grain and your wine (Devarim 16:13).” Why do we observe Sukkot at this harvest time? The Rashbam explains that the key to the answer is another reason the Torah gives for celebrating Sukkot in Vayikra 23:43, “That your generations may know that I made the people of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

When we sit in the Sukkah, the Torah tells us we should remember how Hashem provided shelter for the nation of Israel for 40 years after they left Egypt. The nation had no land to call their own and they had to wander and be sheltered by G-d. When we harvest our crops, we may tend to lose sight of how lucky we are that G-d provided for us. The Torah warns us of this danger as it says “When you have eaten and are full, and have built your homes, and lived there; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart may be lifted up, and you will forget Hashem, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, who brought you water out of the rock, who fed you in the wilderness with the maan, so that He might humble you, and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end, and you will say in your was my power and the might of my hand that has gotten me this wealth.”

To make sure that we don't come to the point of denying G-d’s providence, we go out into the Sukkah in order to remind ourselves that just as Hashem provided for those who lived in the desert with Sukkot to live in, so too did He provide for us now. So we don't lose sight of the source of our livelihood, G-d gave us the holiday of Sukkot at this time when we are most likely to be blinded by the fact that it's our harvest time, when we get to see the fruits of our labor.

The Four Species

On Sukkot there is also a commandment to take four species and wave them together: The Etrog, which both tastes and smells good. The Lulav from a date palm, which produces tasty fruit but not a pleasant aroma. The Hadas stems, which are aromatic but not pleasant to eat. The Aravot, willow stem, which has neither taste nor smell.

Among many other lessons, the rabbis compare 'taste' to the knowledge of Torah— Hashem's Word— which is inside a person, and 'aroma' to the good deeds performed by a person, which spread like a pleasant smell. In this way, the four species are comparable to the four different types of Jews: Those who have both knowledge of Torah and good deeds, those who have one but not the other, and those who have neither. So on Sukkot, we take all four different types and wave them together – if even one of the species is missing, we are unable to fulfill this mitzvah. We learn through the four species that every Jew is integral to the whole. After pondering our failings and inadequacies on Yom Kippur, the four species are a strong validation of our importance and self-worth.

When we shake the lulav, we say Hoshiana, which means, save me. Symbolically, a person shakes the lulav and looks for salvation in all four directions: north, south, east, and west. Salvation, whether financially, health-wise, or any other aspect where someone needs Divine Assistance, can come from any direction. And when we complete the mitzvah of lulav, we say Hatzlichana and stay still, because we do not move from the place we found hatzlacha, success.

Hakarat Hatov

If the Sukkah is a reminder of the clouds of glory that Hashem created for the protection of B’nei Yisrael while they traveled through the desert, then why isn’t there a holiday for the maan or for the water that Hashem provided them as well? The first answer is that food and water are basic needs for humans to survive, and although they were gifts that we are grateful for, they do not require the yearly reminder of a holiday. The second answer is that B’nei Yisrael complained about food and water, so Hashem gave it to them. But they never complained about the elements, so Hashem gave them a beracha with the Ananei Hakavod. The third answer is the Erev Rav were not able to receive the blessing of the clouds. Therefore, Sukkot is a holiday celebrated to commemorate the extra love and beracha that Hashem gave to the Jewish nation as a luxury, like traveling first class versus coach. It is essential that we have an abundance of Hakarat Hatov for all that Hashem blesses us with—food and water yes, but also the luxuries: beautiful clothing, nice homes, family, education, and of course our community.

Rabbi David Ashear writes in Living Emunah 2 about two men, a doctor and a successful philanthropist, that came upon a middle-aged man sobbing at the Kotel. Rabbi Firer, the doctor, said, “It’s no coincidence that we are here when he needs our help. If he needs medical assistance, I will help him. If he needs financial assistance, you will help him.” He tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, do you need medical assistance?” “No,” the man replied. “Baruch Hashem everything is fine.” “Do you need money?” the philanthropist asked. “No,” he said. “Baruch Hashem, He has given me everything I could ever need.” The two men looked at each other and looked at the man and asked, “Do you mind if we ask why you are crying?” “You see,” the man explained. “Last night I married off my last child. I came here to thank Hashem for all He has given me throughout these years. I can’t help but cry when I think of Hashem’s kindness.” This is true Hakarat Hatov. If we stopped and thought about how much Hashem has given us all these years, surely we would be moved to tears as well.

May we all truly appreciate all the good that Hashem has bestowed upon us, our families, and our community. May we have plenty of simcha on this holiday and all days in the future. And may we have a clear Torah understanding of our obligation in this world so that we can all earn a special place in Olam Habah! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom and Tizku Leshanim Rabot!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Discussion Points:

  • Do we feel that we owe all that we have to Hashem and do we have the proper Hakarat Hatov for all that He has given us?

  • How does sitting outside in our flimsy Sukkah make us feel Hakarat Hatov to Hashem?

Le’ilui Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

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