This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Succot , is the happiest holiday of the year.
In our prayers we call it "Our Time of Joy."
One of the reasons for this is that, more than any other holiday it hints at the promised Messianic era (which is long overdue and should take place with the arrival of Moshiach now) when "The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d" (Isaiah 11:9) and "our mouths will be filled with joy" (Psalms 126:2).
Indeed an essential aspect of the commandment of sitting in a Succa is to remember and think about how G-d took us from Egypt, is surrounding and protecting us even now (Lev. 26:46). That should make us happy!
Furthermore, we get a taste of this when we eat and live in the Succa. This brings the all-encompassing sanctity of the Commandments into even the most mundane things in our daily lives. Something like the way Moshiach will fill the world with G-dly knowledge.
Another reason for happiness, but it requires some thinking, is that on this holiday we take four types of vegetation and UNITE them; A lulov (central palm branch) Esrog (special citrus fruit) Hadas (Hyssop) and Arava (plush willow branch). And each of four types individually symbolizes unity:
(In the Lulav and Hadasim all the leaves are united. The Etrog unites all the seasons as it grows all year and the Arava is called Achvana meaning brotherhood); just as Moshiach will unite the world to serve the Creator in joy. (HaShem Echaud UShmo Echad) (Rashi on Deut. 6:4).
When you think that such unity can be expressed even in plants; that plants are important to G-d, it makes us, as humans, feel even more worthwhile!
And the Succa hints at unity and peace as we say in our prayers ‘ Succat Shlomecha’.
Furthermore; in the days of the Temple seventy oxen were sacrificed throughout the seven days of the holiday to give peace blessing to all the (seventy) nations of the world just as in the days of Moshiach "All mankind will serve G-d with one goal etc." ( Zefanya3:9 ) )
Joy! Unity! Peace! Blessing! Moshiach! These are all made available to us on Succot. But how can we really experience all this when the world around us sends very negative and even totally opposite messages.
To understand this here is a joke and two stories.
First the joke: A Rabbi once got on a subway and saw a member of his congregation avidly reading the neo-Nazi newspaper Der Shturmer.
"Yankel!" the Rabbi walks over to him and whispers angrily, " Are you nuts!??! What are you doing?? How can you read that anti-Semitic garbage!?!"
Yankel looks up at the Rabbi and says,
" Ehhh? Garbage? Rabbi, I love to read this! It makes me feel fantastic! in the Jewish newspapers all I see is terrible things happening with the Jews: accidents, bankruptcies, misfortunes, division and total confusion.
“But here in Der Shturmer it says we Jews have all the money, all the success, all the power, we're united to conquer the world!! It makes me feel great!"
In other words, if you want to be happy you have to search hard to find something to be happy about. But there are options other than Der Shturmer.
So how can we really experience the Joy of Succot? And how can we draw it out for the entire year?.
This can be explained by a two stories, the first I heard from Rabbi Naftali Estulin of Los Angeles.
Once there were two brothers who were both Chabad Chassidim and both ran Torah institutions. One lived inIsrael and the other in Los Angeles.
It so happened that the one in Israel was in desperate need of funds and, with no other option, he called his brother and told him he was coming to try to solicit donations. He asked him to prepare a list of potential donors in L.A. with a sentence after each name saying what he likes or what he is like and arrange a driver to take him around.
His brother readily agreed and in a week or so the brother from Israel was in L.A. dressed in his best suit on his way to the people on his brother's list.
At each address the driver would escort him to the door of the home and when the person would answer the door the driver would return to the car.
Everything went smoothly till they arrived at the home of Mr. M.
Mr. M. opened the door, and as soon as he saw the Rabbi began yelling.
"What, another parasite? Don't you guys have anything better to do? You don't work! You just go around begging money from those who do! I worked fifty years for my money… how long do you work? Fifteen minutes? Your mother and father were probably also robbers just like you! Etc. etc."
The driver began pulling at the Rabbi's coat to urge him to return to the car and leave but, surprisingly, the Rabbi didn't seem to mind the curses. Exactly the opposite! He calmly motioned for the driver to return to the car and wait.
After some five minutes of cursing, Mr. M. was worn out. He paused for a few seconds, asked the Rabbi what he wanted and as the Rabbi began explaining, invited him into his home.
Ten minutes later the Rabbi exited the house smiling, returned to the car and told the driver to proceed to the next place.
The driver was in awe. "Rabbi, you are a holy man!!! The way he cursed you…. And you didn't lose your temper at all!! Why, I myself wanted to punch him. Rabbi, Tell me, did he give you any money?"
"Thank G-d," The Rabbi answered, "he gave very nicely. But don't suspect me of being a holy man. I just read my brother's note…. Here have a look."
The Rabbi held out the list his brother had given him and said. "Just read what my brother wrote."
The driver took the list and read aloud.
"Mr. M; he'll yell at you for ten minutes and then give you a thousand dollars."
In other words, don't pay attention to the world … but rather to the letter that explains us.
And that letter is the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (and the Chabad Rebbes before him.
They say that we are now CERTAINLY in the days of Moshiach. If we don't see it immediately we have to just treat the exile like the Rabbi treated Mr. M.: just ignore it and understand it's only a veil to cover the good and the good is CERTAIN to come.
Indeed, our faith in the good makes it come more certainly and swiftly (If the Rabbi would have gotten mad or pessimistic he never would have gotten the donation)
So the 'trick' to reveal this hidden good is … joy! As the Chassidic saying "Think good …. And it will BE good."
The second story I heard recently from Rabbi Shabtai Slavatitski the Rebbe's representative in Brussels, Belgium that illustrates this.
Once a man had a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe and voiced a complaint.
Rabbi Slavtitski didn't give the name of the man but it seems clear that he was an admirer of Chabad.
"Rebbe, the work your Chassidim do throughout the world bringing non-religious Jews back to their roots is wonderful. But something bothers me.
"Why is it that the first thing you learn with them is a book called The Tanya (Chabad Chassidic explanation of Judaism based on Kabalistic principles) !
"These people know nothing about even the basics of Judaism and the first thing you teach them is a lot of mystical ideas about souls and Moshiach?! You should begin with teaching them how to keep the Shabbat or the Five Books of Moses… or even better… how to read Hebrew!
"Why" he concluded, "it's like taking a naked man and giving him a tie. It's ridiculous!!
The Rebbe waited a few seconds and answered.
"If you put pants on a naked man he might think he needs no more, but when you put a tie on him at least then he knows he's naked."
So also here.
By getting a taste of Moshiach in the holiday of Succot we sense we are missing something.
And that something is the secret of Jewish Joy.
Chassidut teaches that Joy is the natural state of the soul. Joy comes from certainty in the ONLY thing that really IS certain and unchanging…. G- d's love for us.
The entire world may turn over but HaShem's love for us never will stop. And when we have a sense of G-d's greatness, power and goodness; that He creates and provides for us …. We become happy!!
And an even greater happiness is that we can actually 'repay' Him!!
Just as the Succa encompasses so too we begin sense how HaShem's incomprehensibe GOOD also encompasses us. The only way to feel joy is when we live above 'logic' and contact our soul.
In other words; Only when we realize how naked we are can we truly rejoice with who we really are and what we really have.
And this brings us a to a greater joy "Simcha Shel Mitzva", that we can repay G-d by doing the commandments (which are likened to putting on clothes Tanya Chapt. 4)
Or as my teacher Rabbi Mendel Futerfass once said, "Joy comes from trying to make G-d great…….. and depression comes from trying to make yourself great."
So the Commandment of sitting in the Succa is like the fancy tie; the finishing touch first. The touch of Moshiach that brings humility, awareness and - joy!! And the taking of the Lulov and Esrog is like getting dressed… becoming a partner with the Creator.
So when we shake the Lulov or sit in the Succa this year let's be thankful and look forward to dancing with Moshiach in REAL Holy Temple in Jerusalem with all the Jews together in REAL JOY!
It just takes a bit of faith, and courage but in fact …… one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and the entire world will rejoice with …..
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