By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס”ד
Discovering the Holy Presence in The Holy Land
And You Shall Take a Fruit of Hadar… and Be Happy Before Hashem
Thanking God is one of the dominant themes of the festival of Sukkot, ‘our time of happiness’, for thanksgiving is key to achieving true happiness. One of the reasons Sukkot is so connected to happiness is because Sukkot commemorates the tabernacles/clouds of Glory that were used on Israel’s journey to the Land of Israel. This ‘dwelling’ of Israel used even in the Diaspora on the way to the Land of Israel highlights how one can already begin ‘connecting to the holiness of location/dwelling’, i.e to the Holy Presence of the Land, even ‘on the way’ to the Holy Land in the Diaspora. This realization that one is connected to the Holy Land even in the Diaspora gives one great joy, for ultimate happiness is in the Holy Land and especially in the Temple of Jerusalem, on which it says ‘and you shall be happy before HaShem your God (in the Temple) seven days (of Sukkot).
One of the ways we express this thanksgiving is through the Hallel of Sukkot. This Hallel is unique in respect to the waving of the Four Species during its recitation. Not only this, but also Hallel, the corpus of psalms of thanksgiving and joy, takes on extra meaning on this holiday, since Sukkot is the “Time of our Rejoicing.” These two unique aspects of Hallel during Sukkot can be both explained by the fact that the waving of the four species is especially attached to joy and thanksgiving (“hallel”) in our title quote pertaining to Sukkot. In addition, we should note that the term “before Hashem Your God” is interpreted by our Sages to mean that the waving of the four species for all seven days of Sukkot is only Biblically obligated in the Temple, the Holy House where we are especially “before Hashem”. This concept remarkably draws connections between the House of Hashem and the “temporary house” of Sukkot, the Sukka. Indeed, the minimum dimensions of the Sukka in halacha are learned from ark in the Temple, in order to determine how high must the Sukka be in order to “invite” the Holy Presence into our Sukka, just as we make the Holy Presence rest in the Temple. Therefore, when the Holy Presence is in our midst, that is the greatest joy of all. Indeed, one of the ceremonies conducted in the Temple which displayed this elated stated of joy there was Simhat Beit Hashoeva, the Water Drawing Ceremony. According to our sages, not only water was drawn during this ceremony but also Divine inspiration, Ruah Hakodesh (Yerushalmi Suka 5, 1). Our Sages teach that also in general rejoicing is key to the perception of Divine inspiration, Ruah Hakodesh, and prophecy. In a similar way, the Sukka can mean to “see with Divine inspiration”, just as our Sages interpreted Sarah Imeinu’s name “Yiska,” which they interpreted to mean “see [“socha”] with Divine Inspiration” (see “Kad Hakemach” which explains Sukka in this way).
The whole Land of Israel is called in the Talmud Hulin 92b the “House of Hashem,” meaning that the whole Land of Israel is the abode of the Holy Presence in general. Therefore, living in the Land of Yisrael is also conducive to the Divine sight (see Midrash Tehilim 105) we discussed in context of the Sukka, the “holy temporary house.” Hebron is our key connection (‘hibur’) to the Land of Israel, and also buried in Hebron is “Yiska”/Sarah, who “saw” the Divine level of Maarat Hamchpela and asked Avraham to buy it before she died (Tanhuma Hayei Sarah). This is Hebron, our Beacon of Vision and Joy.
One time, I (a disciple of Rabbi S.B Ashlag – founder of Yeshivat Maarat Hamachpela Ashlag) ascended a ladder to take out Rabbi Ashlag’s decorations from storage, and I pondered to myself: “why hassle so much to decorate the Sukka, for we are commanded to sit in the Sukka for only seven days?” Suddenly, for no explainable reason, I heard Rabbi S.B Ashlag calling me to descend the ladder. Rabbi Ashlag said to me: “You should know that there is no difference between seven days and seventy years, for “man’s life is like a passing shadow”, and on the contrary it is better to toil upon a Sukka of seven days than a man’s own house where he will live seventy years, for one’s house one leaves in the world below, but in parallel to the Sukka one builds there is a supernal Sukka built in Heaven that stands there eternally… This is the meaning of “man’s life is like a passing shadow”, which means that seventy years of man are like the shadow of the Sukka – by one day in the Sukka one can rectify ten years…” G.O