When the Torah commands us to take and wave the four special species on the Holiday of Succos, the Torah states, “You shall take on the first day, a beautiful fruit – Esrog etc.”
The Talmud gives the following enigmatic answer, “The first day” does not refer to the day of the month, rather, it refers to, “The first day of the reckoning of sins.”
The question is quite obvious, isn’t it most likely that one tripped up and transgressed during the days between Yom Kippur and the Holiday of Succos, so why is Succos, which is observed five days after Yom Kippur, considered the first day of reckoning of sin?
There is an absolute depth and intelligibility to all statements of our Sages. Our commentators with their keen and sagacious wisdom, illuminate and unearth the meaning of our Sage’s concise cryptic statements.
I came across the following interesting explanation: When the Torah finishes describing the first day of creation, it states, “It was evening and it was day – Yom Echad – day one.” The Medrash teaches us that the Torah did not say “the first day” rather, it said “day one” hinting at a very special and holy day of the year, Yom Kippur.
If the first day creation is connected to Yom Kippur, it follows that five days later refers to the sixth day of creation when Adam and Eve were created and on which day they sinned by eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge.
The upcoming Holiday of Succos begins five days after Yom Kippur, thus the first day of Succos aligns itself to the day that Adam and Eve sinned by eating its forbidden fruit.
We now have a clue why the Talmud refers to Succos as the ‘first day of the reckoning of sin.’
The reckoning of sin does not necessarily refer to the sins we commit. Rather, it reflects and reverts back to the first sin that was committed by mankind – Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden Tree of knowledge.
The Talmud teaches us that there is an opinion that fruit of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge was an Esrog!
The Torah instructs us to take and wave an Esrog on the ‘first day,’ so that the Mitzvah we perform with the Esrog will rectify and repair the damage caused to mankind by the original first sin of eating from the Esrog.
The Torah relates that the first sin of mankind introduced death to the world; this also allowed an ability and capability for future sins to transpire.
G-d gave us a Torah, which contains 613 Mitzvos. When broken down, there are 365 don’ts and 248 do’s. Interestingly, the don’ts correspond to the 365 sinews in one’s body and the do’s correspond to the 248 limbs in one’s body.
When one observes the Torah and its Mitzvos it serves to strengthen that particular limb or sinew of the body.
Each of the four species that we are commanded to wave on Succos, has a shape of a particular vital and crucial organ of our body. The Aravah – willow – is contoured like a mouth. The Hadas – myrtle – has the outline of an eye. The Lulav – central palm branch – is formed like a spine. The Esrog – citron – is shaped like a heart.
By combining these species together and fulfilling the Mitzvah of Lulav, these particular organs of our body are physically or metaphysically strengthened, boosted and enhanced by its performance!
This is a glimpse in the life of a very special person who had a tremendous impact on my life and on the lives many others. She was born in Lille, France in 1940 to the most wonderful parents. She had an older sister and a younger brother.
After her mother’s death in 1949, although she and her family had moved back to France and had been reunited with the rest of her mother’s extended family, her father decided to move his young family to the United States where they could receive a strong Jewish education. This was a tremendous undertaking because he did not know anyone in the States.
They settled in the upper West Side of New York City with the two girls attending the Samson Rafael Hirsh School in Washington Heights and their brother was lovingly cared for by a wonderful couple, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Adler in Scranton, PA.
This young and pretty girl was soft spoken, fun and artistic. At the age of 19 she married a top student of the Jacob Joseph Yeshiva, who had already been ordained as a Rabbi. Her groom was born and raised in the Lower East Side of New York City. After marriage they settled in the Borough Park section in Brooklyn where they raised a family of eight children.
She used her artistic and creative talents to beautify Mitzvos; for around the house and for others. She had a knack to bring out the best in others for she sincerely cared for others and through her efforts she was successful in introducing more than 30 couples together for marriage.
She adored her husband and he adored her. Her children can never recall a heated discussion or even an argument. Quite amazing!
She was a lot of fun and had the ability to turn awkward and sticky situations into something humorous and never harbored ill feelings towards others. For instance, when she would reflect upon the times that she was mistreated in the foster home in Switzerland, she would never express any bitterness; rather she would relate it in a way that was laughable and comical. Many years later, the then elderly woman who cared for her in Switzerland came to the States for a visit. She was invited and was treated with the greatest honor and respect. When she was asked by her children how she was able to show such kindness to a person who apparently did not deserve it, she replied, “I lived there, was cared for, and there was a roof over my head. For this I have to show my deepest appreciation.”
She was a Pre 1A teacher in a local girls school for many years, and up to this day, her students, who are by now married with families of their own, still hold on to her most creative projects and with memories of her goodness. She gave her all to her students. Her sincere love for G-d and for Judaism was apparent in the way she spoke, prayed and carried herself. She was extremely kind and had a special inner and outer warmth and the most beautiful smile.
She adored her family and imparted to them a feeling of serving G-d with joy and with happiness. Nothing seemed to be a chore. There was always a sense of excitement that permeated her home with the approach of the weekly Shabbos or the festive Holidays.
She did not have long years but she had long days. She passed away in 1985 at the young age of 45 but she made each day and moment count and utilized it to the fullest. She chose to keep her illness very quiet; only her family and close friends were aware of it over the two and a half-year period. She did not want to burden others with her plight. She had a firm belief in whatever G-d does is for the good. Many hundreds of people attended her funeral, and eulogies were held in honor of her memory, on Sheloshim – the thirtieth day after her passing.
During the week of Shiva upon her passing, a man in his twenties came to visit the family and sat quietly in the back of the room. Although he was shy, he related the following incident to her husband, “When I was 9 years old, I went to the sleep away Camp where you are the Rabbi. On visiting day… I had no visitors…and you know how uncomfortable that can be…Your wife noticed me and took me over and brought me to the concession stand and bought me delicious treats and had me spend the entire day with her and your family. I will never forget how special she made me feel.”
I am proud to say that this beautiful person was my dear mother.
Malka bas Yehoshua Aharon
Whose 26th Yahrtzait is on Shabbos
Wishing you a most joyous Succos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family