Friday, October 05, 2012

Succos 5634 Second Ma'amar

The two primary mitzvos of the holiday of Succos are dwelling in the succah and taking the lulav. What is the connection between these two mitzvos?

The Sfas Emes explains that the succah represents God protecting us. God spreads His canopy over us, “הַפּוֹרֵס סוּכַּת שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ/He spreads His canopy of peace upon us.” (Evening prayer on Shabbos and Yom Tov)  We leave our “secure” homes to live for a week in a temporary dwelling in order to show that it is God who protects us, not our secure home. Whether we deserve it or not, God wants to protect us just as a father wants to protect his son. In fact, God relates to us as His children, “בָּנִים אַתֶּם לַה׳ אֱ־לֹהֵיכֶם .../You are children of God, your Lord …” (Devarim 14:1)  This is obviously a great kindness that God shows us.

For our part, the children of Israel also want to connect with God and come close to Him. We want to accomplish His will so that we deserve His protection rather than being the beneficiaries of God’s total kindness. Taking the lulav represents our accepting God’s benevolence. “וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם ... פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים .../Take for yourselves … the fruit of the citrus tree, branches of palms …” (VaYikra 23:40)  The extra word לָכֶם/for yourselves implies that we take God’s benevolence to ourselves.

Why does the lulav particularly represent God’s benevolence? The word לוּלָב/lulav has the same gematria – numerical value – as the word חַיִים/life. By taking the lulav we are showing God that we want to receive true life from Him. In Tehillim we find, “תּוֹדִיעֵנִי אֹרַח חַיִּים שֹׂבַע שְׂמָחוֹת .../Make known to me the path of life, the satiating joys …” (Tehillim 16:11)  Recognizing that true life comes from God filled David HaMelech with joy and satiates us as well.

The succah represents more than God’s protection, though. It also represents da’as/knowledge as we find regarding the mitzvah of succah, “לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּ ... כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַׁבְתִּי אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל .../In order that they may know … that I settled the children of Israel in huts …” (VaYikra 23:43)  The pasuk uses the word “knowledge” in order to hint that God gives each Jew knowledge through the mitzvah of succah.  
The Sfas Emes takes this concept a step further and declares that the knowledge of the entire year stems from Succos. Succos is the last holiday of three major holidays, the shalosh regalim. The word for holiday that is used here is regel which literally means foot implying that the entire year stands upon the base of these holidays.

The Sfas Emes explains elsewhere that da’as/knowledge represents applying our spiritual wisdom and understanding in our everyday lives.[1] By taking the lulav we accept this attribute of da’as/knowledge into the depths of our hearts.

The mitzvah of succah represents God’s protection, enlightenment and gift of da’as/knowledge. The mitzvah of taking the lulav represents our internalizing these gifts. May we merit it!

[1] The Sfas Emes may be alluding to chochma/wisdom, bina/understanding and da’as/knowledge. Each of the shalosh regalim would then represent one of these midos with Succos representing the last midah of da’as/knowledge. See Sfas Emes Naso 5631 First Ma’amar.

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