This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
This holiday is named after the commandment of living (or at least eating and sleeping) in a 'Succa' (a hut with only branches and leaves for a roof) for seven days beginning the fifteenth of ‘Tishre’.
Like all the Jewish holidays and commandments, Succot and the Succa are connections within the creation (time and space) to the infinite Creator.
But here is something unique:
Succot is the only Jewish holiday that does not commemorate a date upon which a miracle occurred.
For example; Pesach is the date the Jews left Egypt, Shavuot; when we received the Ten Commandments, Rosh HaShanna; when man was created, Purim; when we were saved from Haman etc. The only exception is Succot.
Succot reminds us that G-d protected the Jews with clouds of 'glory' for the entire forty years they were in the desert.
The Rabbis have explanations why G-d wants us to celebrate when we do but all agree that no special miracle happened on the fifteenth of Tishre.
Why is Succot different?
Here is another strange fact; Chabad Chassidim do not sleep in the Succa; they claim it makes them spiritually 'uncomfortable'.
Although according to the Shulchan Aurach, (Aurach Chiam 640:4) it is permissible to refrain from sleeping in the Succa for this reason, but usually Chabad Chassidim are renowned for their self-sacrifice regarding the commandments.
Even the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself, while he was living in Paris (before he was Rebbe) just after the German conquest, actually risked his life a few days before Succot for a commandment. He traveled alone through the war zones and over dangerous borders to Italy to buy an ‘etrog’ (a citrus fruit used in the 'Mitzva' of 'shaking the Lulov') because there was none in Paris that fit his qualifications.
Why, then, when it comes to sleeping in the Succa, is Chabad different?
Here is a story that will help to explain.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe rarely left Crown Heights. In fact he seldom left his headquarters in 770 Eastern Parkway. But it so happened that once the Rebbe had some problems with his eyes that required a check-up.
A doctor, who happened to be a religious Jew, was contacted and a special appointment was made after working hours for the Rebbe to visit his office.
The examination required that the doctor put drops in the Rebbe's eyes and, because the drops took several minutes to begin their effect and the Rebbe had to sit and wait, the doctor sensed that it was a golden opportunity to ask the Rebbe a question that had been bothering him.
The Rebbe agreed and the Doctor asked.
"Rebbe, I've traveled around the entire world and everywhere I go I see Chabad houses and Chabad representatives working day and night helping Jews.
"I mean, their dedication is really amazing. They live in the worst conditions, have great difficulty getting Kosher food or teachers for their children or a million other things that religious Jews need, and sometimes they even endanger their and their family’s lives, I mean they live in some places of the world that are not always Jew friendly.
"So my question is; if they are doing so much …. Then why hasn't Moshiach arrived yet? Why hasn’t he come?
The Rebbe looked up at the doctor very seriously, hesitated several seconds and answered. "I have the exact same question and it doesn’t allow me to rest.
"But one thing I can tell you" the Rebbe continued, "is that I don't let the my Chassidim (followers) rest either. I don't let them sleep at nights"
The next story is about an ex-basketball manager who became a 'baal tshuva' of the Rebbe. The story is a long and interesting one but one episode is very relevant to us.
The Rebbe took a special liking to him and once told him that he should get more sleep.
“But Rebbe,” he replied “You also don’t sleep very much.
Look at how black your eyes are. Why do you worry about me? You should worry about your own health."
The Rebbe looked at him and smiled “My job is to worry for all the Jews in the world, and that keeps me awake nights. But your job is to listen to me and get more sleep.”
From these two stories we can learn something about sleeping.
But first, why do we sleep? The Rebbe once asked this question in one of his discourses. Why did G-d create man in such a way that he has to sleep? Isn't it is a bit strange that we waste a third of our lives in a semi-comatose state?
He explained that without the change of sleep and then waking, life would be one continual state of consciousness and man would never be aware of the fact that drastic, incomparable personal change is possible. But now, after we wake from sleep, we sense that perhaps we can ‘wake up’ again; that we can 'jump' even higher, namely from normal consciousness to a knowledge and awarness of the Creator.
And this is exactly the topic of the Succa; as the sentence says (Lev. 23:42-43) 'Sit in Succa seven days…. in order that you should KNOW etc.'
This topic of knowledge is unique to Moshiach (see end of Rambam) because he will bring about that 'The world will be filled with the KNOWLEDGE of G-d.'
In fact, the Succa, more than any other commandment, symbolizes the days of the Moshiach.
We ask in our prayer after eating all the meals of Succot “May G-d re-establish the fallen SUCCA of Dovid" (i.e. the Reign of Moshiach)
We also pray in every evening prayer (and twice in the Sabbath prayers) that ' G-d spread His SUCCA of PEACE over us'; (which also refers to Moshiach when there will be universal peace. (see the end of Rambam)).
Another clear connection between Succot and Moshiach is how the Holiday of Succot deals uniquely with the gentiles as only Moshiach will do (as we say thrice daily in 'Alenu').
In the days of the Temple a total of Seventy oxen were sacrificed in the course of the seven days of the holiday in order to bring blessing to the 'Seventy' nations of the world. And our reciting of those sacrifices in the daily Succot prayers simulates that blessing.
Similarly the HafTorah for the first day of Succot (Zacharia 14) tells us that in the days of Moshiach all the Gentiles will come to Jerusalem to celebrate Succot.
Also the holiday of Succot featured the 'Water drawing' ceremony which again refers to Moshiach when the G-dliness will fill the world like WATER. (See end of Rambam)
So that answers our first question; The reason Succot does not celebrate any particular date or miracle is because it, more than any other Jewish Holiday, commemorates the coming of Moshiach. And the arrival of Moshiach is supposed to occur any and every moment.
The reason Chabad doesn't sleep in the Succa (it seems to me) is.
The job that the Chabad Rebbe's have assumed, more than any other leaders in the history of Judaism, is to prepare the world, begining with the entire Jewish people, for Moshiach.
Moshiach is the goal of creation; he and only he will reveal the true Oneness of the Creator to the entire creation but it all depends on G-d's chosen people (in fact that is what they were 'chosen' for).
And, as we saw in the above stories, when trying to bring Moshiach there is so much work to do that there is no time to sleep.
On the other hand, after Moshiach arrives there will be no NEED to sleep. The changes will be so great, awareness of truth will be so incomparable and people will have such a drive for G-dliness that there will be no need for sleep to teach us to change ourselves.
So in any case, sleep and the Succa (at least as far as it symbolizes Moshiach) just don't go together. And because Chabad is so consumed with the goal of bringing Moshiach it is specifically THEY that don't sleep in the Succa.
The reason that Succot occurs when it does is because hopefully we will be so pure-minded after the intense prayers and soul searching of Rosh HaShanna and Yom Kippur that we will realize the awesome lesson this holiday is teaching us.
May HaShem reveal His true peace upon the entire world, raise the fallen Succa of Dovid and give us all a Chag S'meach with...
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.