Raboyseyee and Ladies:
Exhale! With the blessings of the RBSO, we’re all still here, alive and well. Seemingly, we’ve been spared; at least for now. Don’t take that as a license to go out and start a brand-new slate of avayris, chazir that you are. The RBSO is zicher watching and has you on a short leash; He can change His mind anytime.
Tomorrow evening, seemingly in the rain, we’ll be celebrating the joyous yom tov of Sukkis, which avada you all know begins four nights after Yom Kippur ends. It’s a holiday when we celebrate protection; avada we all know that protection is good, if you chap. And if you do, protection is avada and avada vichtig (critical). What’s pshat? Avada you recall, or at least should, that the RBSO gave the Yiddin full protection as they left Mitzrayim (Egypt) and for the 40 years that they were valgering in the midbar. As an aside, the heylige Ois will be visiting Mitzrayim in the coming weeks; perhaps he’ll find some riches the Yiddin may have left behind when they left 3,336 years back. On Sukkis, we commemorate the protective “Clouds of Glory” surrounding the Yiddin. It also commemorates how the Yiddin lived in temporary dwellings during that same time. We leave the safety and security of our houses and put ourselves under the direct protection of the RBSO and lehavdil (to differentiate) the Chinese who manufacture the great majority of Sukkis and Sechach that are imported and sold all over this country.
Speaking of rain, shteltz zich di shailo (the following question arises): Is rain always considered a curse on Sukkis? Weren’t we always taught that mayim (water) is a siman brocho (sign of blessing from above?) What’s pshat? Can water be both a curse and a brocho? Avada the answer depends on who you ask. The RambaM, The Ritva, and The Meiri (seemingly all had the same first name) write that rain is taka a curse but only on the first night of Sukkis when there is a specific mitzvah to eat in the sukkah that we cannot fulfill due to the rain. On the other hand, the Bikkurei Yaakov argues that the first night of Sukkis is the only time when rain is not considered a curse, as it increases the reward (and the dry cleaning bill) we receive for persevering and eating in the sukkah despite the inclement weather. The Ois and eishes chayil are hosting a few people tomorrow night, let’s see how they feel about going out and into a wet sukkah. Shoin. The Aruch HaShulchan cites an opinion that rain is only considered a curse in the land of Israel but here in golus (Diaspora,) rain is gevaldig. The Chemdas HaYamim posits that rain is only considered a curse if it starts just when you get home from shul, ober not so if the rain began erev yom tov like it’s supposed to tomorrow here in the 5 towns and continues into yom tov. Got all that? Veyter. The bottom line: when is rain a curse on the first night? Ver veyst?
It’s also a holiday where we Yiddin – as mentioned several times over the past fourteen years- celebrate Christmas in October by placing tinsel, colorful lights and other hanging things, mostly made in Hong Kong or in China, all over our Sukka’s to fulfill a mitzvah from the heylige Toirah where the RBSO told us to dwell in a sukkah for seven days. It all started out with this one commandment. “You shall sit in Sukkot for seven days; all citizens of Israel will sit in Sukkot. In order that your generations shall know that I enabled the children of Israel to dwell in Sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt, I am the L-rd your G-d” (Vayikra 23:42-43.) Of course the Yiddin had no idea what all this meant, but many centuries later, when the codifiers of the heylige Mishna and Gemora sat down to argue over pretty much everything, they also codified an entire Tractate of Gemora which they aptly named Sukkah and in which they discuss every minute detail of its observance. From architecture to interior design, all can avada be found in the Gemora where we also learn about its height limitations and of course the role that decorations play.
Leave it up to the early Toirah inspired entrepreneurs to figure out what all this really meant: big business! Over the years, Sukkis have become works of art and their structures and designs worthy of architectural digest. Today’s Sukkahs come in canvas, fiberglass, wood, glass and other materials. Some make a living from this holiday and relax the rest of the year. They come soft and hard. Sechach options include bamboo, evergreens, slats of wood sewn together, and more. They range in price from a few hundred to many thousands. The mostly made-in-China sukkah gisheft catapulted the Chinese economy past that of the United States. Decorations have gone from the simple paper and colorful rings kids made in school -for the 15-20k of yearly tuition we paid from 3 year nursery through kindergarten- to silk screened walls of the Kiddush, also, of course, made in China. Where in the Gemora does it tell us that China is so closely related to our Yom Tov of Sukkis? Nowhere! Is the day of Art Scroll being printed in China far away? In fact, unbeknown to most of you is this factoid: these days, a great many seforim are in fact printed in China! Givald!
The heylige Gemora (Succah 10a) tells us that one should decorate his Sukkah with “decorated cloths, and hang nuts, almonds, peaches, pomegranates, grapes, wheat, wine, and oil.” How all that morphed into Christmas and other holiday décor, ver veyst, ober the Ois suspects it has something to do with money, cheap goods made overseas, and an entrepreneurial spirit imbued in Yeshiva bochurim who had imagination and drive.
Some say that the first sukkah was built by our zeyde Avrahom Oveenu who sat in his tent, with the flaps folded up on all four sides, so he could welcome weary wayfarers (guests) from every direction. Gishmak mamish! We are taught that all male adults and boys who are past the age of bar mitzvah are required to “laysheiv” (dwell or sit) in the Sukkah for the prescribed seven-day period. Women and girls are exempt from the mitzvah or commandment to dwell or sit in a Sukkah, although, if they prefer to eat or sleep in a Sukkah, they are certainly permitted to do so. Try telling your wife to serve you in the sukkah and then eat alone indoors; let the Ois know how this works out for you.
Efsher you’re wondering why we celebrate Sukkis in the fall. Didn’t we leave Mitzrayim in the month of Nissan (typically April?) Guess what. The same kasha bothered The Tur Oirach Chaim (825) who taka asks it. Nu- do you realize what progress you’ve made these past years reading the weekly posts from the heylige Ois? Mamish impressive: Pat yourselves on your respective backs. Asking the same kasha as the Tur? Ober he was The Tur and he also had an answer which goes like this: The month of Nissan is in the spring when it is customary for people to dwell in cottages and sit in the shade of huts. At that time of year, who would notice us doing something unique as everyone’s in the hut? How would they know that we dedicated Yiddin are doing so just to fulfill the RBSO’s commandment? Therefore, the Toirah commands us to build our sukkah in the month of Tishrei, when the rains set in and everyone leaves their cottages to return to their homes and to thank the RBSO for hovering over us with protective clouds. Ober, in reality, this doesn’t work out too well because as soon as it’s raining, we’re all back indoors. Mistama (likely) you all know that on the first night, rain notwithstanding, we are commanded to wait for some period of time before having the meal indoors, but practically speaking, if it’s raining, it’s a washout and indoors we all run. Efsher Sukkis should be moved to the spring?
Says the heylige Toirah (Lev. 23:39): “But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the Lord seven days; on the first day shall be a shabbis, and on the eighth day shall be a shabbis. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a beautiful tree, date branches, a branch of a leafy tree, and willows of the brook and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” Asks the Midrash Tanchumah, “Why is it called the first day, indeed it’s actually the 15th day of the month? Answer: The verse refers to it as the ‘first day’ because it’s the first day of the counting of new sins. On Yom Kippur the Yiddin fast and daven and of course do t’shuva (repent.) On the first day of Sukkis, the people take their fully adorned lulovim and dance in praise before the RBSO; He forgives them and says, ‘I will erase all your previous sins and start counting new sins from this day forward.’ The Medrish Tanchumah says that the first day of Sukkis is called “Rishon L’Cheshbon Avoinos, “the first day that the RBSO starts to count our avayrois since doing Teshuva on Yom Kippur.” Nu, mistama you’re wondering azoy: hey, what about the avayrois we committed in the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkis? Let’s get real: did you wait? Veyter! Do the newly minted sins not count? Did we get a freebie? Wouldn’t that be nice? And mistama you’re saying…”if only the Ois would’ve sent this Toirah out a few days earlier”…. You’re mamish still giferlich. Says the heylige Gemora (Yuma 86b) that when we do teshuva ma’yirah (tshuvah out of fear), “Zidonois Na’aseh K’Shgogois” meaning that the RBSO downgrades our intentional avayrois to accidental ones, those without intent. Perhaps the forerunner of the plea deal system, the first ever downward departure (for those in the know) and does not punish us. However, when we do tshuvah mayahava (tshuva out of love for the RBSO), “Zidoinois Na’aseh K’Zichuyois” (our sins become our merits): we get a second level downgrade of the sin. And just like that, our avayrois turn into mitzvois. Well- blow me down! Such is the power of Tshuva May-Ahava. Says Reb Levi Yitzchok MiBerdichev (aka: the Kedushas Levi) azoy: that on Yom Kippur we do tshuvah out of fear. Avada we’re frightened stiff, want to live, want to prosper and are willing to do anything and say anything. As proof, we swing live chickens over our heads, share a mikveh with a few degenerates looking for a cheap thrill, shtupp suppositories where the sun doesn’t shine, even refrain from texting, and spend kimat the entire day mumbling words we don’t understand while beating our chests a few hundred times and punishing our bodies. Our fate hangs in the balance. The RBSO ignores our avayris and we get a pass. Sukkis, on the other hand, is a Yom Tov of simcha and great joy. It’s a time when we do tshuvah out of extreme love for the RBSO. In fact, we are instructed to ‘be happy’ on this holiday. Weather permitting, we sit in the sukkah, enjoy mouthwash in the morning and Yom Tov showers, both in and out of the house. And since we’re doing all this loving, our old avayrois are now turned into mitzvis. Are you following all this? Good! Let’s go veyter.
Therefore, when Sukkis starts and we do teshuva may’ahava, the RBSO takes out all the avayrois that he “threw away” after Yom Kippur when he forgave us and starts to count them again. Why? Ober, since these are now mitzvis, the RBSO wants to recount them in order to credit us for these “mitzvis”. Is that beautiful or what? Says the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (529:2): “A man is obligated to be happy and good at heart on the festivals, he, his wife and children and whoever is around him. How does he make them happy? To the kinderlach (the minors) he gives roasted grain and nuts. He buys the women garments and jewelry, according to his means (or level of guilt.) And he is obligated to feed the strangers, orphans, widows as well as other poor people.”
And how does he make himself happy? Taka an excellent kasha. Never mind you chazir, I should not have asked. Ober the answer is quite simple. Ershtens (firstly): had he behaved properly, he would have no reason to be buying the eishes chayil (wife) any jewelry, instead he’d be giving her nuts as well, if you chap. Sadly, we all know that most men taka make themselves happy only too often. Or worse, find themselves in a situation rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid) with a happy ending, if you chap, and now it’s payback time. We are commanded to be happy and if we can’t be happy at home, efsher finding happiness outside is not so giferlich? Ver Veyst! Nu, let’s not get lost in this schmutz, we are mamish but days past Yom Kippur and the slates for some of you are relatively clean. Some taka ask why the Shulchan Oruch deals only with everyone else’s happiness and not his own. Answer: Nothing makes a person happier than making others happy. Beautiful!
On Sukkis we are also commanded to take a lulav and esrog together. “On the first day you shall take the product of the beautiful (hadar) tree, branches of palm trees, thick branches of leafy trees, and willows of the brook and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days” (Vayikro (Leviticus) 23:40). On this day and others, we avada like to compare size, girth and circumference. Does mine shokel (shake) more than yours?
Some say that when the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) stood in Yerusholayim, the Yiddin used the lulav and esrog only on the first day. Only the Kohanim who served in the Beis Hamikdash used these for the rest of the holiday. This, of course, didn’t sit well with the lulav and esrog growers. Who was going to invest close to, or over one hundred dollars, for a set they could only show off for one day? They protested vehemently. And following its (The Beis Hamkidash) destruction, the rabbis, who mistama got a healthy cut off the top, taka decreed that all Jews should wave the lulav and esrog all seven days as a remembrance of Temple days. Talk about greasing the palm. Says the medrish (Vayikrah Rabba 30:12), azoy: these items are symbols of the importance of unity among different types of Yiddin. The bringing together of the “arb’ah minim” (four species) on Sukis, represents the notion that all of the Yiddin (Jews) are one, and should be viewed as such, regardless of their level of commitment to Judaism. Of course, this isn’t reality or close to it; when was the last time you saw unity among Jews? In most instance, if you hated someone before Yom Kippur, you still hate him!
Chag Somayach- a Gittin Shabbis and Yom Tov-