This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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The holiday of Succot is the only holiday in Judaism that doesn't celebrate a particular historical date.
Even Rosh HaShanna and Yom Kippur commemorate the dates Adam was created and when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies.
Rather Succot commemorates G-d's constant protection of the Jews with 'clouds of glory' all the forty years they wandered in the desert. Something we must remember each time we sit in the Succa.
But surprisingly, in our prayers make no mention of this! Rather Succot is called 'Zman Simchatenu" The holiday of Joy.
What have we got to be happy about on this holiday in particular?
To explain, here is a story I heard from a tape recording of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hecht.
Yosel was a simple Jew but he was honest. That's why every year he was chosen to be the one to buy the 'special' Etrog and bring it back to the little town where he lived.
There were other Etrogim in town but the 'special' Etrog was the one that everyone contribute to the whole year until a large enough sum was gathered to buy something 'special' from the nearby city for Succot.
It was almost a two day journey each way but those few days of travel in the woods, buying the Etrog and bringing it back made him really glad that he was alive.
This year it seemed that even his horse was happy plodding along the dirt road through the forest in the cool afternoon shade, Yosel recited Psalms by heart then, in the distance, something caught his eye. It seemed to be a person jumping up and down. With a flick of the reigns he sped his horse until he saw all the details.
It was a Jew, standing by the side of the rode next to his fully-laden wagon holding his head and weeping aloud like a baby.
"Hey, what's wrong?" shouted Yosel. "Why is a Jew crying?"
The poor fellow just pointed to the ground in front of his wagon and wept even louder. There lay his horse, still as a stone, tied to the carriage with one leg in the air; a truly pitiful sight.
Yosel immediately understood. This unfortunate was also on his way to the market and now without a horse he was stuck, this was probably his income for the next few months.
"Come with me" offered Yosel. "My wagon isn't nearly as big as yours but you can put some of your things in."
But as the words came out of his mouth he knew it wouldn't work. His horse wasn't strong enough to pull a laden wagon and even so, everything left behind would certainly be stolen. The fellow would loose his wagon and the remainder of his goods as well.
"Look" Yosel said, "How much do you need for a new horse?"
Suddenly the man stopped crying, looked in amazement at Yosel as though he was some sort of apparition, took a handkerchief from his pocket, dried his eyes, held up five fingers and rasped, "Five hundred rubles".
Yosel took the 'special' money out of his pocket, held it up and said, "Here it is, jump in! We can make it to the market in a half a day; you can buy a horse there, ride it back here and make it back to the market again before tomorrow morning. You can repay the loan later."
They rode like the wind and in a few hours the Jew had just finished shaking Yosel's hand in the marketplace, jumped on his new fresh horse and was off like the wind to save his wagon.
But as he faded into the distance so did the smile of satisfaction on Yosel's face. Suddenly he realized he was alone and except for the 'Mitzva' he just did, all he had in his pocket was twenty rubles. What would he do now?
He couldn't return empty handed and face the crowd. Who knows if they would agree with his giving their money for such a charity? Who knows if he would really get the money back? He helped one person but disappointed a hundred. He was a simpleton! A fool! He began to become depressed.
But suddenly he thought to himself. "Hey! What possible good will come from being sad!? Exactly the opposite; The Baal Shem Tov says that 'Sadness is the doorstep to all sins' and even more; 'If you think 'good' things will be good.'
Yosel rubbed his hand over his eyes to 'wake up, and began singing a happy song to himself. A little dance; a few spins to change his mood . and it worked. He felt great! He said a prayer to G-d, kept humming and began walking in the marketplace till he got to the Jewish section.
It didn't take long to realize that twenty rubles would buy an Etrog that looked something like a potato. No no! That would never do. But he didn't loose hope.
Suddenly he saw a large group of people gathered around one man. He approached and was startled by what he saw. An Etrog as large as one can hold in one's hand, as brilliantly yellow as the sun and spotlessly clean! It was magnificent. He had never seen anything like it in his life. In fact it brought tears to his eyes!!
Selling price... One thousand rubles!!
He began to turn away but then. What! What was that he heard? A raffle? Yes!! It seems that because no one had such a large sum the owner decided to make a raffle: Fifty tickets for... twenty ruble's each!! That way at least someone would have this Etrog for Succot.
Yosel bought a ticket. His name was written on a piece of paper placed in a hat, a child was called from the crowd closed his eyes stuck his hand in and...
Everyone in the crowd shook his hand! No matter who won everyone would have done the same thing. Yosel clapped his hands, thanked HaShem, spun around, did a few summersaults, kissed everyone within reach, brushed himself off and thanked HaShem again for his wonderful luck.
He spent the night in his wagon and, after his morning prayers he set off back home; even more joyous than when he came. But he was in for a surprise.
About half-way back he saw in the distance, standing by the same place as before, the same Jew jumping in the middle of the road waiving his hands like a madman.
Again he snapped the reins, his horse quickened his pace and in minutes he again reached him.
"Oy! Am I glad to see you!" the wide-eyed Jew yelled with open arms and a huge smile on his face.
"What is it this time?" Yosel asked.
"A miracle! An open miracle!! When I came back with the new horse I found that the old one. the one I thought was dead .. Wasn't dead!! He must have just been tired or something, but there he was standing there eating grass!
"So I hitched both horses up to the wagon and in no time I made it to the market and sold all my goods in just a few hours at a nice profit. Then I sold the new horse you bought me and raced out here last night so I could intercept you on your way back home and now here you are!! Here! Here's your money back!!!
So Yosel got a 'special' one thousand ruble Etrog for only twenty rubles, got all his money back and helped another Jew in need all because of his simple joy. If he would have thought too much he might not have even begun by loaning the money.
And this is the lesson of Succot, especially of the Succa:
To realize that HaShem alone is creating us, providing our needs and protecting us from all sides constantly... for free! [As the Talmud says "Can one sheep be surrounded by seventy wolves (for almost 2,000 years) and still exist?"]
And that this is the ONLY way one can begin to have real joy in life.
Therefore the first mitzvah we do on Succot is to sit in the Succa at night. Because the foundation of life is the joy of being alive.
But there is a higher type of Joy; when we realize that we can pay HaShem back by doing His will. And this is the message of the Lulov and Etrog; a deeper more personal type of Joy. That is the next commandment we do the next morning. The Joy of serving HaShem.
But all this joy will be revealed totally only in the days of Moshiach (which the Lubavitch Rebbe says has already arrived if we just open our eyes). All that is lacking is the joy and positive thinking to accept it. That is why the Rebbe said it is so necessary to be informed about Moshiach and to all we can to reveal him.
This is the real message of Succot; to give us the joy to receive...
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