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Heavenly Embrace (Sukkos)

Oct 21, 2009 by Rabbi Moshe Lieber

The Yom Tov of Succos is called Zman Simchaseinu. Rambam writes that there was a special simcha in the Beis HaMikdash, the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah, which celebrated the drawing of the spring water that was poured on the Mizbaiach on Succos. Clearly this mitzvah of pouring water is deeply related to the essence of the Yom Tov of Succos. Let us probe a little deeper in order to access the meaning.

 

Although Succos commemorates the succos or clouds of glory that accompanied us when we left Egypt we do not celebrate Succos in the spring but rather now after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Vilna Gaon explains this change in date.

When Klal Yisrael committed the sin of the Golden Calf the clouds which had accompanied them were taken away. On Yom Kippur Moshe Rabbeinu brought down the second set of Luchos a sign that Hashem had forgiven us for the treason of the Aigel.The next day he announced that Jews should bring donations for the Mishkan and for the next two days they did so. On the 14th of Tishrei the artisans took stock of what was offered and the following morning on the 15th they began making the Mishkan and then the clouds returned. It is in commemoration of these clouds that we celebrate Succos now. 

 

These clouds carry a very powerful message about the nature of our relationship with the Ribbono shel Olam. In human relations we are often witness to two dear friends who find themselves victims of strife. They get into a bitter, sometimes protracted fight. One day they somehow come to their senses and decide to make up and affect some type of rapprochement. While they are now on talking terms and have even forgiven one another, the relationship no longer has its old magic. The close bond and even love and shine are no longer there.

 

On Yom Kippur the Jewish people were forgiven for the sin of the Aigel. When Hashem returned the Clouds of Glory and had us begin building the Mishkan He effectively signaled us that He was not merely forgiving us; He wanted to rekindle the old romance with the same intensity that it had before the sin.

 

Rabbeinu Yonah interpets the words of David Hamelech in this vein. When Dovid repented he turned to Hashem in prayer “Return to me the joy of Your salvation” (Tehillim 51) .Restore the shining loving Face You showed me before I sinned, he begged of his loving Father.

 

Every year we cry our hearts out on Yom Kippur that Hashem forgive our disloyalties. On Succos, we find shelter under His soothing, comforting shade. In the majestic words of R’ Shlomo Ibn Gabirol “And if You seek out my iniquity I will flee from You to You and cover myself from Your anger in Your shade “.

 

The very structure of the succa conveys this message. The minimum amount of walls for a succa is two full walls plus a small fist sized third wall. The Beis Avraham of Slonim sees an allusion to the Hand of Hashem as it embraces each one of us in the succa. From shoulder to elbow is one wall, from elbow to hand a second wall, and the hand itself the fist-sized third appendage. The succa is His loving embrace when He whispers in our ear “Not only have I forgiven you; I hold you tight to Me with all the love I had for you before you created distance between us.

Succos is the celebration of a Father and His wayward child reunited in love.

 

The Midrash teaches that when Hashem made the firmament dividing between upper and lower waters, the lower waters complained. “We too want to be in front of the King”. Hashem appeased them by promising that they would be in front of Him on Succos when they would be poured on the Altar in the Beis HaMikdash. The pouring of the water is symbolic of the restoration of the distant to its old position of prominence in front of Hashem our King. We too experience this restored love and prominence as His children when He once again embraces us in the succa.

 

May we feel His gentle caress and respond to it with renewed love and dedication to Him.

 

A Freilichen Yom Tov

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