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11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Sukkos, Time for Splendor

Based on the Sichos of Morenu veRabbeinu HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Shlita
Prepared by Rabbi Shlomo Furst

Succos is unique among yomim tovim in the degree of simchah that Hashem expects us to achieve. The Rambam at the end of Hilchos Lulav writes about the Simchas Beis Hashoevoh: "Although it is a mitzva to rejoice on all the moadim, on chag haSuccos in the Beis Hamikdosh there was an additional simchah, as it says `You shall rejoice before Hashem, your G-d for seven days.' "

The Rambam explains that the Simchas Beis Hashoevoh was limited to "only gedolei chochmoh, roshei yeshivas and Sanhedrin, chassidim, zekeinim and anshei ma'asseh . . ." The Rambam tells us that those who could play musical instruments played, those who could sing sang; there was dancing, clapping and much more. In contrast, Rambam writes that everyone else "would come to watch and listen. . . ." Why were these accomplished individuals the only people privileged to join in, and what were they so happy about?

The Rambam tells us the reason: "The simchah that a person enjoys in doing a mitzvah — and the ahavas Hashem [that he develops because he knows Hashem is the One] Who commanded them — is an avodoh gedoloh."

The Maggid Mishnah elaborates and helps to explain the Rambam: "It is not proper for a person to do mitzvos because they are compulsory [that is, through feeling] compelled and forced to carry them out; rather, [even though] he is obligated to do them [he nonetheless] rejoices doing them."

In other words, the fact that we must carry out the Will of our Creator should not stop us from serving Hashem be'ahavoh. On the contrary, knowing that Hashem Yisborach, the Ribono Shel Olom is our kind and merciful Master, and He commanded us to do His mitzvos for our benefit, should be a source of inspiration to help us serve Him with simchah and ahavoh. Consequently, as the Maggid Mishnah continues, when a person does mitzvos in this way, "he considers negligible the efforts he spends to accomplish them. He understands he was created for this — to serve his Creator, and when he does what he was created for he rejoices and is glad . . ."

In conclusion, the Maggid Mishnah explains the difference between this true and genuine simchah and false, fleeting satisfaction: "Other types of simchah are dependent on pointless things that do not endure. But simchah through doing mitzvos, limud HaTorah and chochmoh is genuine simchah."


In our tefillos for Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur, we pray for the Geulah Shleimoh, be'ezras Hashem, may it come speedily in our days. We also pray for simchah in Eretz Yisroel and sosson in Yerushalayim and that we will be able to rejoice as well.

In the Siddur HaGra — Ishei Yisroel, the commentary Siach Yitzchok explains the difference between sosson and simchah: "Sosson is a more readily perceived outward expression of joy, and this [sosson is specifically] in Yerushalayim more than in the rest of Eretz Yisroel."

The simchah was so genuine that, as the Siach Yitzchok cites Chazal: "Anyone who did not see the Simchas Beis Hashoevoh, never saw simchah in his lifetime" (Mishnah Succah 5:1). Thus, there is specific reason why we pray for simchah in Eretz Yisroel and sosson in Yerushalayim.


The Beis Hamikdosh was, and will again be, located in Yerushalayim. The Beis Hamikdosh is a source of joy, a unique joy that originates from ruchniyus. The excitement, the great outward showing of joy, all the song and dance that surrounded the Simchas Beis Hashoevoh, were a result of ruchniyus. Simchah as intense and heartfelt cannot be contained. Genuine simchah cannot stem from physical gratification. True and enduring simchah results from true and enduring achievements.

Sosson requires ruchniyus, a true and eternal inspiration. Torah and mitzvos produce an inner gratification and honest enthusiasm so strong that the simchah must surface for all to see and enjoy. Therefore, only those who actually achieved such heights of sosson, the external display of joy which came from the wellsprings of their neshomos, could honestly partake in the grand public display of true simchah, the Simchas Beis Hashoevoh.

Why, however, was this particularly on Succos? On Shavuos, Hashem gave us the Torah. On Pesach, Hashem redeemed Klal Yisroel and we became His nation, prepared to do His bidding. Both of these great days have enough good reasons to kindle true simchah in our hearts. Why is it that these days do not also require the great obligations of simchah that Succos does?

The answer lies in understanding the mitzva of succah. The first omud of the gemora Succah cites the posuk, "Seven days you shall dwell in succos" (Vayikra 23:42). The gemora goes on to explain that the Torah is commanding us: "Tzei midiras keva vesheiv bediras aroiy — leave our permanent homes and live in temporary dwellings."

One way of understanding this mitzvah — bederech mussar — is that on Succos we leave our homes, the places we are most comfortable and pleased with. This allows us to separate ourselves from gashmiyus, from Olom Hazeh, and then we can best understand and realize our true goal in life: to draw closer to ruchniyus. Thus, by learning to use this world properly, we will acquire Olom Habo.

However, the gemora Succah (28b) paradoxically commands us to dwell in the succah as we normally live, by bringing our finest utensils and furniture along with us into the succah! Based on this gemora, the Shulchan Oruch (Oruch Chaim 639:1) instructs us, "To live in the succah by day and by night in the same way that one lives in his house during the rest of the days of the year."

By surrounding ourselves with the trappings of Olom Hazeh, how can we ever draw closer to ruchniyus?


On Shabbos of chol hamoed Succos we read Koheles. The often repeated message of Koheles is that everything in this world is pointless — and even more than pointless, everything is absolutely wasted — haveil havolim hakol hevel.

This message helps us realize what the Ramchal writes about in the first perek of his sefer Mesillas Yeshorim, " . . . it is impossible for any intelligent person to believe that the purpose of man's creation is for living in Olom Hazeh. . . ." After all, as the Ramchal asks, "What is life in this world? [Just] all kinds of suffering and sicknesses, grief and difficulties — and after all this, death?"

But how can this message have its greatest impact if it is dulled by living in our succah filled with luxuries?

The realization that this world is futile is one thing, but to know that everything is absolutely haveil havolim hakol hevel is a chiddush that only Shlomo Hamelech can teach us. Hashem Yisborach blessed Shlomo Hamelech with superb wisdom and fabulous wealth. As king, he had every aspect of the world at his disposal — and he had the wisdom to use everything to its exact perfection. Shlomo Hamelech's conclusion, his Koheles, teaches us that whatever we do in life will amount to haveil havolim hakol hevel, a heap of useless waste — if we are not extremely careful.

The Seforno explains what both haveil and haveil havolim mean: All things that have been created, if not used for a positive purpose to warrant their existence they are called hevel. But if something is used for a much worse, negative purpose than what it was originally created for, it is called haveil havolim.

In other words, all of Creation, if it does not contribute to the perfection of the Tzelem Elokim amounts to a heap of useless waste, and the perfection of our Tzelem Elokim will be measured by amount of yiras Shomayim which we achieve in this world.

The final warning of Koheles begins with, "Sof dovor hakol nishma, es ho'Elokim yiro ve'es mitzvosov shmor ki zeh kol ho'odom" (Koheles 12:13). The gemora Brochos (6b) questions how yiras Elokim is to be considered the sum total of our lives. Rabbi Elozor quotes Hashem Yisborach's explanation, "Says HaKodosh Boruch Hu, `The entire world was created only for the sake of this [yiras Elokim].' " If we do not realize this, think about this, and live for this, then our lives amount to waste and Creation is useless — haveil havolim hakol hevel.


Chovos Halevovos writes in the second chapter of the ninth Shaar: "All that advances civilization adds to the destruction of seichel." Meaning, the more the world progresses, the more damage occurs to our ability to reason properly. In light of this, how can we surround ourselves with luxuries in the succah and still achieve a degree of yiras Shomayim?

In order to answer this question we need to deepen our understanding of what Hashem expects of us when we are commanded to leave our homes and live in our succas for seven days — Tzei midiras keva vesheiv bediras aroiy. The word keva aside from meaning permanent also means routine. Rabbi Shimon teaches us: "When you pray, do not make your prayer keva — routine . . ." (Ovos 2:13).

Even though we always repeat the same words in our daily prayers, we need to pray to Hashem Yisborach to be merciful with us and we must honestly ask Hashem to supply our needs. We cannot pray only because we are compelled. If we pray because we just want to fulfill our obligation, we miss the whole point of prayer. Each time we pray we need to renew our enthusiasm and pray to Hashem with a fuller and more willing heart. This requires thought and preparation.

Likewise, the seven days of Succos afford us the opportunity to leave our "diras keva," our routine place and our routine way of life. However, in order to do this in the best and most complete way possible, we must take our finest belongs along with us. This will help us evaluate how we think about Olom Hazeh — the best of Olom Hazeh. Hopefully we will come to the proper understanding of how Hashem Yisborach has only given it to us in order to achieve yiras Shomayim! If so, then the world has purpose and the world can achieve perfection.


When we enter the succah for the first time, we offer a unique prayer to Hashem Yisborach, "May it be Your will . . . that the Shechinah dwell among us . . . and in the zchus of our fulfillment of the mitzvah of succah . . . may the ziv kevodecha surround us . . ."

Ziv is a radiance, a perceptible splendor. What exactly are we praying for, and why specifically on Succos?

Chazal teach us, "When a tzaddik is in a city, he is its ziv — its splendor. He is its hodor — its glory. When he departs, splendor leaves and glory leaves" (Midrash Rabbah, Parshas VaYeitze 68:1).

The commentary Yefeh Tohar explains that within this context, ziv means, "The illumination that results from Torah and chochmoh, since, `A man's chochmoh brightens his face' (Koheles 8:1)." The very special chochmoh of Torah has the potential to put a special shine on a person's face!

When Moshe Rabbenu descended from Har Sinai with the Luchos, his face radiated brilliant rays of light. The rays were so powerful that Klal Yisroel could not directly look at their brilliance. Although gleaming rays of light beamed forth from his face, the posuk testifies, " . . . Moshe did not know . . ." ( Shemos 34:29). Moshe Rabbenu's inner excellence, his chochmoh, was so perfect that it became physically manifest and observable — clear as day.

The gemora Sotah (49a) teaches us, "With the death of Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai, ziv hachochmoh vanished from the world." There was a very unique aspect of Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai's chochmoh that caused the brilliance of wisdom to rest with him while he was alive and then to vanish from the world along with him.

The gemora (in Succah 28a) describes the shleimus of Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai's Torah. He knew all Mikro, Mishnah, Talmud, halochos and aggodos, dikdukei Torah and dikdukei sofrim . . .and much more. Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai learned every aspect of Torah, and this shleimus expressed itself in the world as ziv hachochmoh. When he died, he took his ziv, his light, the light of his Torah, with him.

When a person learns Torah properly, with pure motivations, it is evident to all, as Chazal say, "Words of truth are recognizable" (Sotah 9b). We recognize when a person learns Torah beshleimus. We see the external manifestations of his learning lishmoh and be'emes. We perceive the ziv radiating outward, which creates an exceptional and distinctive aura. This is because Hashem Yisborach bestows chein, a magnificent splendor to those who learn Torah wholeheartedly and beshleimus. It can happen to anyone.

The Midrash Tanchuma (Parshas Mishpotim 5) describes how Onkelos left Rome, leaving behind his people. He came to Eretz Yisroel, converted and began to learn. After some time, Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua discovered him. They saw the change on his face, and exclaimed to each other, "Onkelos is learning Torah!"

This is what Chazal speak about in the gemora (Succah 49b), "Anyone who has chein — know that he is a yirei Shomayim, as it says in the posuk, `Hashem's chesed is constant and eternal for those who fear him' (Tehillim 103:17)."

Yiras Shomayim makes a noticeable impression. This chein is a result of the outward radiance, the ziv, the special splendor, which is reserved for those who learn Torah — a splendor that anyone can see.

When Hashem Yisborach blesses us with chein it is real, it shows and is seen, as the posuk states, " . . . you will find chein and seichel tov in the eyes of Hashem and man" (Mishlei 3:4). There is nothing fake or artificial about it. It is genuine. Chochmoh, the true wisdom that comes from Torah, gives life. As the posuk says, "Chochmoh enlivens its owner" (Koheles 7:12).


The way we learn also shows up on our faces. Once, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai noticed Rabbi Yossi's face and saw that something was lacking. Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Yossi, "Go and correct your appearance, for something is missing." Rabbi Shimon saw Rabbi Yossi after he began to learn with simchah and said, "Rabbi Yossi, you are sholom . . . and your appearance is sholom" (Zohar, Parshas Vayakhel).

HaKodosh Boruch Hu allowed the Tzelem Elokim within Rabbi Yossi to express its true excellence, brilliance and perfection. Thus, when Rabbi Yossi began to learn with simchah his physical appearance changed. Consequently Rabbi Shimon could finally say to him, "You are now sholom before HaKodosh Boruch Hu."

The posuk in Tehillim (111:10), "Reishis chochmoh — yiras Hashem . . ." is generally understood to mean that the beginning — the source — of wisdom is yiras Hashem. "Reishis" usually means "the start or source of something."

The Chossid Yaavetz explains "reishis" with a different and novel connotation. Within the context of this posuk, "reishis" means: "that which is praiseworthy and that which is the purpose of it." Therefore, according to the Chossid Yaavetz, the posuk is teaching us that the purpose and praiseworthy goal of wisdom is yiras Hashem.

So, we can now better understand the meaning of our prayer to Hashem Yisborach, "May it be Your will . . . that the Shechinah dwell amongst us . . . in the zchus of our fulfillment of the mitzvah of succah . . . may the ziv kevodecha surround us . . ." When we prepare to fulfill the mitzva of succah, we pray for the privilege of dwelling in the presence of the ziv haShechina for seven days. Dwelling in the succah enables us to come to a clear, unmistakable understanding of the essence and purpose of life.

The seven days we spend in our succas provide us with the unique opportunity to give serious thought to our lives while surrounded by the best and finest gashmiyus that we have. A succah is a thatched hut, and when we sit inside the shade of the succah we are protected from the sun's burning rays. Just as the succah protects us from the outside heat, the succah also shields us from the strong external influences of the outside world. When these outside influences are dimmed, then we can begin to appreciate the radiance of the Shechinah.

In the succah we can experience the influence of ruchniyus; a source of truthful, genuine and eternal inspiration and meaning. Therefore we ask to dwell with the ziv haShechinah. There is no greater simchah in the world!

Ziv haShechinah, as the Ramchal refers to in the first chapter of his sefer Mesillas Yeshorim, is "true pleasure and the greatest delight of all pleasures that are obtainable." Based on Chazal, the Ramchal explains that the whole purpose of life, the reason for being alive in this world, is only in order to allow us the opportunity to delight in Hashem and enjoy the radiance of Hashem's ziv haShechinah. And the place which is most suitable for that is Olom Habo.

On Succos the ziv haShechinah also radiates outward. The Tur in Orach Chaim, siman 625 writes about the mitzvah of succah. "Even though we were taken out of Mitzrayim in the month of Nisan, we are not commanded to make succas in that season. This is because since it is in the summer and it is customary that everyone makes a succah for shade, it would not be noticeable that we are making them because it is a command of our Creator."

Therefore, the Tur continues, "We are commanded to do it in Tishrei, the seventh month, which is the rainy season. Then it is the custom of everyone to leave their succas and dwell in their homes. Then, precisely then, we leave our houses and dwell in the succah. With this, it is noticeable to all that what we are doing is a command of the King."

The ziv haShechina is noticeable when we fulfill the mitzvah of succah in the proper way and in the proper time.

We pray to HaKodosh Boruch Hu that in the zchus of our sitting in the succah, if we all do it lesheim Shomayim, we can then enjoy the ziv haShechinah, and that the ziv haShechinah shine upon us and may it radiate outward for the whole world to see.

No other time do we have such a splendid, grand opportunity to leave our homes and show the world that we are doing this mitzvah for Hashem Yisborach. The world will then understand that Klal Yisroel is unique in fulfilling the Will of the Creator. Our joy in fulfilling this mitzvah should be more than simchah. It should be sosson. Consequently, we will be privileged to be surrounded by the ziv haShechinah in our succas, in Olom Hazeh and in Olom Habo.

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