Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Fourteen Inspiring Teachings Regarding 4 Species and Sukkos

1 The Shem Mi’Shmuel, zt”l, provides an inspiring explanation of the why each person must take his own lulav, as we find in Sukkah 41. “Our sages explain that the four species allude to the four letters of Hashem’s Name. They also parallel the limbs of every Jew. Our esrog symbolizes the heart; the lulav is like the spine; hadasim are compared to the eyes; and aravos parallel the lips. The lesson here is that Hashem places His Name on every single Jew, not only upon the community as a whole. “This is why one cannot discharge his obligation with the lulav of his friend on the first day of Sukkos. After the heart-wrenching, self-searching teshuvah of Yom Kippur—the main element of our many viduim is our shame for having sinned—we are granted this special gift. In merit of our intense struggle, Hashem’s Name shines upon every single Jew and we are filled with the exuberance and deep joy of zeman simchaseinu.” [Shem M’Shmuel, Sukkos] 2 Rav Naftali of Ropschitz, zt”l, gave an intriguing insight into taking the four species on sukkos. “The Arizal revealed that both the word lulav and hadas have the same numerical value as chayim, life. This teaches us that through fulfilling this mitzvah one draws life. Not only that, our sages taught that, 'He who gives life will also give sustenance.' There are many other things without which one’s life is so deficient, that the sages compared the situation to being dead. One who is blind, has no children, and the list goes on--all are circumstances where one could say that life is hardly worth living, chas v'shalom. Taking the four species on Sukkos draws life in all its fullness into us and is a segulah to heal that which detracts from our joy in life.” Rav Mordechai of Nadvorna, zt”l, explained why he chose to use a very long lulav. “The Arizal explains that lulav is gematria chayim. It follows that a longer lulav is preferable, since this symbolizes a long life.” It is surely significant that the brochah is specifically al netilas lulav--"to take a lulav." The Beis Aharon of Karlin, zt”l, explains, “We can understand this in light of the mishnah in Avos: Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai said, I prefer the words of Rav Elazar ben Arach to yours, since what he said includes what all of you said. Rav Elazar ben Arach said that a good heart is the most important acquisition that a person can have. The very word lulav can be read as a contraction of lo lev—he has a heart. This means that a person takes heart and develops a lev tov. When a person has a lev tov, he is heartened and filled with vitality. In this manner he has the perseverance to fight his yetzer hora and will be victorious.” [Zera Kodesh; Ma’amar Mordechai, p. 136: 80; Beis Aharon] 3 The Sefas Emes, zt”l, gives an inspiring explanation of the lengthy hoshanos that we recite on Hoshanah Rabbah. “The Midrash states that aravos are compared to the Jewish people. Some Jews lack smell and taste: they don’t learn Torah or do good deeds. The Midrash also tells us that aravos allude to the lips. We see that those without Torah and good deeds know how to daven. The word aravah also means sweet, as we say ‘v’ha’arev na,’ in birchas haTorah. The intense prayers of these Jews are sweet to Hashem. In Sukkah 44 we find that it is called an aravah because its lip is chalak, smooth. This means that these Jews guard their tongues from speaking what is forbidden so their mouths are holy. “This is the meaning of the verse, ‘A prayer for the poor man who 'garbs himself.’ This means the destitute one who has no Torah or good deeds, and his prayers are his only spiritual garment in which he wraps himself like a tallis. Since Hoshanah Rabbah is designed primarily for such people, we offer abundant prayers. On Hoshanah Rabbah even such lowly people who are compared to aravos, can be uplifted and redeemed. Through their heartfelt prayers they will merit Torah and boundless joy on Simchas Torah.” [Sefas Emes, Sukkos] 4 The Sefer HaChinuch writes that even looking at the four species imparts joy to those who behold them. Rav Chaim Brim, zt”l, recalled, “The great Gaon, Rav Yechezkel Abramsky, zt”l, had a fascinating custom. During Sukkos his four species would be on display. He would place his lulav with hadasim and aravos in a vase filled with water which stood in the corner of his room. They were fanned out in such an elegant manner, like a monarch's bouquet that really drew the eye. His esrog was a large one from the type known as Yemenite esrog. It was completely clean and of a wonderful hue as it rested in its case which he left ajar. All who saw this were moved by their splendor and filled with sublime joy, just like the Sefer HaChinuch writes.” Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, learned an important lesson from how people handle their lulav and esrog. “It is worthwhile to contemplate the great care with which people handle their four species. They handle them as if they were precious jewels. It is clear that this is not merely to avoid a monetary loss. The Jewish people are holy and feel a deep obligation to treat their four species with respect since through them we fulfill the will of Hashem. “Yet we only fulfill a Torah mitzvah with our four species once a year, maximum. The rest of the days are rabbinic in origin. During a year when the first day of Yom Tov falls on Shabbos the entire mitzvah is rabbinic. Surely it is only fitting to deal with our fellows in a much more sensitive manner than we do our lulav and esrog. After all, there is no limit of Torah mitzvos incumbent on us when dealing with our fellow Jews. If we only cherish and respect each other as is fitting, we will accrue many more mitzvos than we do when taking our lulav and esrog!” [Zeman Simchaseinu, p. 19; Halichos Shlomo, Part II, p. 205] 5 When the Lev Simcha, zt”l, heard about the exorbitant prices of hadasim, he vowed to do everything possible to lower the price. He summoned some a number of reliable followers who were known for their ability to get the job done and asked them to buy up a great deal of esrogim, lulavim, and hadasim to ensure that the price did not skyrocket. The rebbe felt very strongly about this, even suggesting that, if the price remained high, each shtiebel should purchase a couple of sets of four species to be used by everyone and no one else should buy a personal set. It was about this time that the merchants began selling “closed sets” which were not too pricey but were perfectly kosher. Some were even mehudar. Not surprisingly, a number of sellers heard about the Gerrer Rebbe's move to keep the price under control and were very upset by this. They pointed out that one who picked his own esrog and paid a very high price would surely get a more mehudar esrog. Why not make allowances for the chassidim who could afford to spend? But the rebbe would not be dissuaded. “It says in the verse, ‘La’asos mishpat kasuv’—‘To do the written law...’ that means one should act as is determined to be proper, in accordance with the actual law. Only then, ‘Hadar hu l’chol chassidov’—'...All the species of the chassidim will be considered mehudar!” When his followers searched for a source for this surprising ruling they found it in the Sefas Emes based on Sukkah 34. There we find that an esrog is called pri eitz hadar because, unlike the other trees, the fruit and its tree tasted the same, in exact accordance with Hashem's command. We see that the main character of hadar is to follow directions exactly! [Libam Shel Yisrael, Part III, p. 137] 6 Rav Yehoshua Heschel of Alkosh, zt”l, inspired those who learned from him to yearn for perfection. “It is surely surprising that the Jewish people are so careful to pay a lot of money to procure the cleanest, most perfect esrog that they can. Why do they exhibit so much more self-sacrifice for specifically this part of the mitzvah? “The answer is that the esrog alludes to its acronym: emunah, teshuvah, refuah, geulah. We need to exhibit great self-sacrifice to get anywhere in these four essential areas. Although refuah alludes to healing, which appears physical, it also refers to healing the spirit. “A Jew must have profound emunah. He must believe that Hashem loves him and will answer completely when he intones the brochos thee we say thrice daily, in each Shemonah Esrei. For example: ‘V’hachzireinu b’teshuvah shleymah l’fonechah; 'Viha’alei refuah shleymoh;’ ‘U’goaleinu geulah shleymah.’ “We must realize that there are many levels of each of these requests. One can get a partial refuah or a complete one. The same is true of teshuvah, geulah and emunah. We can have a living, vital emunah regarding every detail of our lives, or a static, general emunah, which fails to really bring Hashem into our lives. “All of these essentials are hinted to in our esrog, which alludes to the heart as our sages explain.” [B’Levas Eish, p. 294] 7 Rav Tzaddok Hakohain of Lublin, zt”l, applies a teaching from Sukkah 38 with characteristic brilliance. “Our sages say that waving the four species in the four directions stops harmful winds, while waving them up and down protects from harmful dew. Although one who merely takes them in his hand discharges his obligation, this extra aspect of the mitzvah is very helpful. “In terms of avodah, harmful winds refer to negative desires. As we find, ‘All that is olah al rucho to do’--'Anything that the spirit (wind) moves him to do.' He waves them around to stop harmful tal, dew. This means negative ideologies and attitudes. The Torah is called dew in Parshas Ha’azinu because our understanding in Torah flows down to us from on high. Like gently falling dew, the Torah slowly but surely influences us for the better. Negative ideologies and attitudes correspond to this on the other side. Waving the lulav purifies one from this all negative ideologies which distance him from Hashem.” [Pri Tzaddik, Sukkah] 8 Once, several avrechim were with Rav Meachmen Mendel of Kosov, zt”l, examining esrogim. One of the young men was afraid that the esrogim might be grafted with other fruits, rendering them invalid. He wanted to cut open the fruit to see if the seeds resembled those of a true esrog, using the siman of the Magen Avrohom. But when they presented this suggestion to the rebbe, he objected. “The Zohar says that one’s esrog alludes to his heart. If a person is simple and we don’t see any problem with him, will we begin to examine him to determine if he is acceptable? Of course not. It seems to me that, this time, you should just leave the esrogim as they are.” When the chasidim saw that the Rebbe passed away that year, they understood that he meant to arouse heavenly mercy with this ruling. One Sukkos, the Divrei Yechezkel of Shinova, zt”l, was feeling very glad with his esrog. “I am elated that we managed to get a mehudar esrog.” “My esrog is nicer than the rebbe’s,” a member of his family crowed. “I think your esrog is invalid,” replied the rebbe. The man rushed to bring the esrog and showed it to the rebbe. After a quick examination, the rebbe showed that the pitom was cleverly attached with a needle. “But how did you know that?” asked the astounded man. “An esrog is a modest fruit. If a person comes to such arrogance from his esrog, it is most likely invalid.” [Nefesh Shmuel; Shefa Chaim] 9 The Vilna Gaon, zt”l, gives a characteristically brilliant explanation of the verses regarding the seventy bulls brought on Sukkos. “We find in the Zohar that, although there are seventy nations, the two main nations are Eisav and Yishmael. The other sixty-eight nations get their spiritual vitality through Eisav and Yishmael. We further find there that a seir izim alludes to Yishmael, while a seir symbolizes Eisav. Since we find in Sukkah 55 that the seventy bulls brought during Sukkos allude to the seventy nations, it follows that thirty-five are brought for Eisav and the same amount for Yishmael. “This is why in the verses delineating the sacrifices we find a seemingly curious change. On the first, second and fourth day, the sin offering is described as a ‘seir izim.’ But on the third, fifth, sixth and seventh day it merely says ‘seir.’ “If we add up the bulls brought on the first, second and fourth day, we will find that they equal exactly thirty-five. These bulls benefit the nations under benefit the nations under Yishmael, hence the sin offerings on these days are called ‘seir izim.’ “On the third, fifth, sixth and seventh day we also bring a total of thirty-five bulls. These bulls benefit the nations under Eisav. It is clear why the sin offerings of these days are only called ‘seir.’” [Chidushei U’Biurei Hagra, Sukkah] 10 Rav Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin, zt”l, gives an inspiring explanation of the special joy of Shemini Atzeres and how it affects the entire year. “It is certainly intriguing that we learn the joy of the night of Shemini Atzeres from the words: ‘v’hoyiso ach somayach.’—‘and you shall be only joyous.’ This imparts a profound lesson to those with understanding. Unlike Sukkos which is replete with special mitzvos for everyone to fulfill, Shemini Atzeres has no special mitzvah of its own besides being joyous. The special avodah of this day is to establish the deep joy that will exist forever, since the joy of one’s mitzvos forges an eternal connection to Hashem. ‘ “Yet we must understand that the joy of Shemi Atzeres is rooted in the gladness of Sukkos; it is the natural outgrowth of its particular holiday joy. This is clear from the Midrash which reveals that on Shemin Atzeres we process and establish the joy of Sukkos in our hearts. This means that on Shemin Atzeres we internalize the profound delight of Sukkos so that every day of the coming year is blessed with a little bit of its bounty. We recharge our vitality and simchah on Shemini Atzeres which has repercussions for the next year. This is the culmination of zeman simchoseinu.” [Pri Tzaddik, Sukkos, 7, 17] 11 In the work Zer Zahav, we find the great importance of always being happy. “In Sukkah 50 we find that the celebration of the drawing of the waters was called simchas beis hashoeva based on the verse, ‘U'shavtem mayim b’sosson mimayanei hayeshuoh.’ Tosefos there brings the Yerushalmi that it was called the ‘joy of drawing’ since during that time they would draw ruach hakodesh by virtue of their joy--the Shechinah only rests upon a person who is joyous. He brings that the Yonah HaNovi first attained prophecy during this festival and owed his level to it. “We see the greatness of Torah and mitzvos performed joyously. The verse concludes that they drew from the waters of deliverance. This teaches that through keeping and learning Torah joyously one draws down every necessary yeshuah, be it physical needs or good middos and madregos. We learn the awesome importance of joy in avodah.” [Zer Zahav, Sukkos] 12 Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, explained the special avodah of simchah during the simchas beis hashoevah. “In Sukkah 51 we find that whoever didn’t see the simchas beis hashoevah never beheld joy. The anshei maaseh and chassidim would dance with lit torches while singing praises to Hashem. The question here is well known: were only the chassidim and anshei maaseh obligated to rejoice? Every Jew had this obligation. If so, why does the gemora single out the dancing of the chassidim and anshei maaseh? Didn’t every Jew dance? “The answer lies in understanding the fundamental difference between the rejoicing of the chassidim and anshei maaseh and those who were not on this level. Only the chassidim and anshei maaseh danced to bring joy to others. A regular person danced primarily to gladden his own heart. Complete joy is only when one is thinking about uplifting others.” [B’Chol Nafshecha, p. 385] 13 Regarding the details of the sukkah, Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, explains, “The sukkah alludes to the clouds of glory that protected us in the desert. The desert is a completely desolate place, which symbolizes distance from Hashem. The clouds of glory sanctified even such places, destroying all negative influences, as we find in the Zohar. “This is why we build a sukkah specifically after the period between Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. When we do teshuvah, we can conquer part of what is outside the usual bounds of holiness. Our repentance influences the world and brings even those who are outside of the realm of holiness closer. We leave our house—the usual place of sanctity—and go out into the world, expanding the bounds of holiness. “This explains why the verse tells us that s'chach consists of refuse of one’s vineyard and granary. S'chach symbolizes that we have transformed our refuse, our sins into merits. Through the special holiness generated during aseres yemei teshuvah we uplift even the furthest sparks. Hashem is with every Jew, surrounding him with kindness. “This is why a sukkah does not require a mezuzah. A mezuzah is placed at the doorway to one’s home to keep out negative influences. The sukkah, by its very nature, subdues these influences so that it does not require a mezuzah. “This explains why specifically a sukkah will protect from gehinom in the time to come, as we find in the verse. The spiritual source of the sukkah is the place where sins are transformed into merits. Because of this, one’s sukkah protects from gehinom.” In light of the above we can understand why the Rebbe of Tosh, shlit"a, often recommends learning meseches Sukkah as a segulah to save one from all suffering. His grandfather told him about this, declaring that Sukkah was his "olam habah maseches," the tractate he learned by heart for the next world. He would learn it in depth every single day. We find a similar concept in the words of the Maharam of Lublin zt”l, upon completion of his novellae on Sukkah: “Completed maseches Sukkah with assistance from on High. He should save us from all pain and difficulty, from all panic and confusion.” We also comprehend why learning Sukkah is a segulah for escaping machlokes, as Rebbe Nachman reveals in Sefer Hamiddos. It engenders holy unity, the opposite of machlokes. When we focus on the real tachlis, most meaningless machlokes simply dissipates. [Toras Nosson; 77-79; Avodas Ha’avodah; Sefer Hamiddos] 14

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