(Torah Portion Ha’Azinu) Invisible Visitors
Less than a week after experiencing a spiritually inspiring and uplifting Yom Kippur, we celebrate the Holiday of Succos. Our joyful spirit on Succos indicates the confidence we have that we were atoned for and inscribed in the Book of Life.
In this week’s portion, the Torah describes many ways that G-d provided for the Jewish Nation. One description says, “He encompassed them.” This is a reference to the protective Clouds of Glory that encompassed the Jews throughout their travels in the desert. It is also a reference to the commandment that literally surrounds a Jew, which is the Mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah – hut.
There is more to a Succah that meets the eye. Yes, it appears as a simple dwelling with a shady roof of detached branches, however, in reality, it is a special and holy dwelling.
Our Sages point out the Gematria – numerical value of the Hebrew word Succah is 91, which is also the numerical value of the written name of G-d (26) plus the value of the way we pronounce His name Ado-noy (65), (65+26=91).
We are all familiar with opening our front door and welcoming an unseen guest at every Passover Seder – when we lift our cups of wine and welcome Elijah the prophet.
Succos is no different; over the course of the holiday we welcome seven unseen – yet well known guests.
The guests (Ushpizen) are: Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaacov, Moshe, Aaron, Yosef and King David.
Tradition tells us that each night of Succos one of these guests enters the Succah accompanied by the rest of the group.
I was thinking that perhaps there is a specific connection between these great leaders and the Mitzvah of Succos.
When Avraham was healing from his circumcision and wished to entertain guests, G-d sent three angels disguised as people. The Torah relates that Avraham ran to them and tended to their needs. It was an extremely hot day, and Avraham instructed them to rest under the shade of the tree. Our Sages tell us that Avraham’s descendants merited the Mitzvah of Succah because of this gesture.
At that time the angels informed Avraham and Sarah that they were going to be blessed with a son – Yitzchok. Thus Yitzchok’s birth is connected with Avraham’s gracious deeds.
After Yaacov met his hateful brother Aisav, the Torah relates that he came to a place that was called Succos and settled there. He even built succos to protect his flock.
An interesting note: Yaacov only felt confident with meeting Aisav after his son Yosef was born, knowing through prophecy, that Yosef’s descendants would eventually defeat the evil forces of Aisav.
The Talmud relates that after the Moshiach comes, Aisav’s descendants will claim that they too want to serve the Almighty. The Almighty will give them the Mitzvah of Succah on a very hot day. After some moments it will become too stifling and they will leave the Succah and on the way out they will kick the Succah – a gesture of disgust.
On the day the Jews left Egypt, the Torah relates that they were simultaneously and miraculously lifted from Ramsees to a place called Succos, which was 120 miles away! Reb Tzodok Hakohain points out that they actually built temporary Succos for their protection in this location. As we know, Moshe was the leader of the Nation at the time.
The Torah relates that the Holiday of Succos was given to us so that we remember the Clouds of Glory that G-d protected the nation with throughout their travels in the desert. This miracle was given to them in the merit of Aaron – for we see that when Aaron died, the clouds disappeared.
Finally, the Temple in Jerusalem is called Succas Dovid, because King David purchased the Temple land and built its foundation. In fact, in grace after meals during the holiday of Succos, we insert the following: “The Compassionate One! May He erect for us David’s fallen booth.”
Enjoy the Holiday and all the guests!
Wishing you a most enjoyable and festive Succos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family