Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Succos 5634 Fifth Ma'amar

Each of the three holidays, Pesach, Shavuos and Succos relates to a different aspect of serving God.  Pesach is associated with serving God by controlling our physical desires.  Shavuos is related to the spiritual, uplifting our souls and Succos relates to serving God with things that are not inherently a part of ourselves such as our assets.

On Pesach, the holiday that commemorates our redemption from Egypt, we were also redeemed from our evil inclination.[1]  Shavuos, the day on which we received the Torah, our souls were uplifted.  Chazal[2] teach us that our souls were in fact so uplifted at the actual receiving of the Torah that when we heard God speak, our souls left our bodies.  Chazal learn this from the pasuk in Shir HaShirim (5:6), "... נַפְשִׁי יָצְאָה בְדַבְּרוֹ .../… my soul departed at His word …"  On Succos we leave our homes and live for seven days in a temporary structure[3] in order to teach us to rely upon God instead of our wealth.

The Sfas Emes sees a hint to these approaches to serving God in the pasuk, "וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה' אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְךָ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶךָ/You shall love God, your Lord, with your entire heart, with your entire soul, with all your wealth." (Devarim 5:5)  Each of the three ways we are enjoined to love God, with our hearts, souls and wealth, parallels one of the holidays:

בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ/With your entire heart – The letter "ב" appears twice in the word for heart, an apparent redundancy.  Chazal learn from the extra letter that we are to serve God with both our good and our evil inclination, both of which reside in the heart.  This parallels Pesach, the holiday on which we were freed from our evil inclination.

בְכָל־נַפְשְךָ/With your entire soul – This parallels Shavuos, the day on which our souls were uplifted.

בְכָל־מְאֹדֶךָ/With all your wealth – This relates to Succos since it is on Succos that we leave the apparent security of our homes to dwell in a hut. 

In the same vein, the Sfas Emes notes another connection between the holiday of Succos and our wealth.  During the nation's forty year sojourn in the desert after leaving Egypt, Chazal teach us that we were protected from the elements by the "clouds of glory".  There is a school amongst Chazal[4] that holds that our succah commemorates these clouds of glory.  There is another school that holds that our succah commemorates actual huts that our forebears used in the desert.[5]  The clouds of glory and wealth have similar characteristics.  Both provide us with security.  Significantly, both are external to ourselves.[6]  Both are extraordinary displays of God's love for us.

The Chiddushei HaRim related the three holidays, Pesach, Shavuos and Succos to the three negative character attributes, envy, lust and desire for honor.  Envy relates to our physical bodies, lust to the spiritual and honor is external to us.  The Sfas Emes explains:

Envy - Pesach relates to overcoming the physical barrier that separates us from God.  When we envy what someone else has or has achieved we are strengthening that barrier.  Envy affects our physical bodies, "... וּרְקַב עֲצָמוֹת קִנְאָה/... and envy causes rotting bones." (Mishlei 14:30) 

Lust - Shavuos relates to uplifting the soul.  Lust, as well, relates to the soul.  When we overcome our lusts, our soul is positively affected is uplifted.[7] 

Honor - Finally, Succos is the holiday on which we display our trust in God rather than in our physical assets.  Honor, like our assets, is external to ourselves.  It is not an inherent part of us.

God gave us the holidays as tools to help us to come near to Him.  Each holiday has a unique motif in this regard.  The motif of Succos is serving God through those things that are not inherently part of us such as honor and our assets.  The first step is to realize that honor and our assets are not a part of us and do not define us.  The second step is to not allow respect or the lack of it, physical wealth or the lack of it affect us.  How?  By cultivating the belief that it is not respect from others or physical wealth that provides us with security, and happiness.  Rather it is God who provides us and everyone with all our needs.  

[1] Whenever there is a Divine revelation, the evil inclination is necessarily weakened.  See this ma'amar of the Sfas Emes on Pesach for more on this.
[2] Shabbos 88b
[3] Succah 2a
[4] Sifra 17:11
[5] Interestingly, it is the former school that is brought in the Halacha.  In fact, in order to perform the mitzvah of dwelling in the Succah properly, we are required to consciously intend to dwell in the Succah as a commemoration of the clouds of glory. (S.A. Orach Chayim 625:1 and Mishna Berurah ibid. 1)
[6] Regarding wealth being external to ourselves the Maharal writes a fascinating commentary on the Mishna in Avos which asks, "Who is wealthy?" and answers, "He who is happy with his portion."  Why is this the appropriate answer?  Why is the answer not some measure of physical wealth?  The Maharal answers that Chazal are teaching us characteristics of people that are inherent.  Physical wealth, however, is external to a person, here today, gone tomorrow, and can therefore not be the correct answer.  That physical wealth is external to us is exactly what the Sfas Emes is teaching us here.
[7] See Mishlei (13:19), "תַּאֲוָה נִהְיָה תֶעֱרַב לְנָפֶשׁ/Lust broken is sweet to the soul."  The Vilna Gaon explains that one who overcomes his lusts, even though he is in pain during the test, afterwards he is very satisfied.  It is "sweet to his soul."

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