Succos - Parshas V'sos habracha

This week we celebrate the holiday of Sukkos. This Shabbos, being the Shabbos of chol ha'moed, we will read a special Sukkos-related reading from the Torah, instead of the regular parsha of the week. On the eighth day (outside of Eretz Yisroel on the ninth day) we will read V'zos Ha'bracha and complete the Torah. On the next Shabbos, we will begin the cycle again by reading Breishis. This week we will try to draw some lessons from V'zos Ha'bracha and from Sukkos.

"V'zos ha'bracha asher bairach Moshe Ish Ha'Elokim es Bnei Yisroel lifnei moso - And this is the blessing that Moshe, the Man of Elokim, blessed Bnei Yisroel before his death.(33:1)" We know that whenever a passuk begins with 'and', there is a connection to the previous passuk. In the last passuk of Ha'azinu, Hashem tells Moshe that he will see the Land of Israel from across (the Yarden), but he will not enter the land.

The Ohr HaChaim explains that this shows us the incredibly high level of Moshe, the Ish Elokim. Moshe was told that he wouldn't be able to enter Eretz Yisroel. Instead of sanctifying Hashem's name to the fullest by speaking to the rock - he hit it. Although it was the constant complaining of Bnei Yisroel that had pushed him to that point, he bore no animosity in his heart. Immediately upon hearing, right before his death, that his dream of entering our Holy Land will be denied, he is nevertheless prepared to bless Bnei Yisroel to the fullest.

Moshe gives each tribe its individualized b'racha. Each tribe and each individual has his intrinsic b'racha. His abilities, his strong points, his personality, the unique qualities that only he can add to the world. This world can be compared to a symphony orchestra. Each instrument with its musical notes, some higher than others - some lower, some louder - some softer, combine to give the full and complete harmonious sound. So too, each individual must realize his b'racha and add his unique note to the symphony of kavod shamayim - sanctification of heaven - here in this world.

One of the most famous examples of combined strengths is the partnership of Yissachar and Zevulun. Yissachar was 'yoshev ohalim', he dwelled in the tents of Torah, dedicating himself totally to the study of Torah. Zevulun was 'líchof yamim yishkon'. While being involved in the commerce of shipping goods, he was dedicated to the continued study of Yissachar, ensuring his Torah learning and the future leaders and teachers of our nation.

"Smach Zevulun b'tzaysecha v'yissachar b'ohalecha. (33:18)" Rashi explains that Moshe was telling Zevulun to rejoice and succeed when going out to business and Yissachar, succeed in your studies. The medrash explains that Moshe was telling Zevulun that he will rejoice when he leaves this world. Why? Because Yissachar is in your tent. You have an integral share in all of his reward. He is in your tent.

How does a person draw the strength to sacrifice things that he wants in order to dedicate himself to this symphony of kiddush Hashem - sanctification of Hashem's name? Perhaps the answer can be found in the lessons of Sukkos...

The gemara in Avoda Zara (2.) foretells a fascinating event. In the time to come, Hashem, holding a Torah scroll, will pronounce that all those who dealt and contributed toward Torah should come to receive their reward. Unabashedly, Rome will step forward. "How did you deal in Torah?", they will be asked. "Marketplaces were constructed, bathhouses were built, gold and silver were amassed, and all was in order for Yisroel to learn Torah", they'll report. "Fools of the world!", Hashem will thunder, "all that you did was done for yourselves! Marketplaces were constructed to have a place for your prostitutes, bathhouses were built for your own pleasure and silver and gold are all mine!"

Ultimately, they will plead with Hashem to give them a chance to fulfill a commandment. Hashem will assent and send them off to fulfill the mitzva of succah which they will go and build. Hashem will then have the sun shine in its full intensity. Unable to take the heat, they'll give their succah a good strong kick and exit! Hashem will then laugh at them. The gemara asks that even Jews are exonerated from the mitzva of sukkah when they are 'mitztaer'- in a state of severe discomfort! The gemara explains that they were exonerated from the commandment but there was no reason for them to give the sukkah a kick!

The Brisker Ruv asks how will they have the audacity to demand reward for helping our Torah study! Furthermore, if they won't be making a trustful claim, why will Hashem call them fools as opposed to liars?!

He explains that, in fact, they'll have a real claim and they aren't liars! In the time to come, they'll have the clarity of perception to realize that everything they did was in fact to help Klal Yisroel! That clearly wasn't their intentions, but that was the ultimate outcome of their efforts. A wealthy person may build a mansion for his own pleasure. The real purpose of that mansion might be that, 100 years later, a tzaddik will pass by and need the shade of the mansion's remaining half wall. In reality, Hashem put the idea of the mansion into the head of the rich person for that tzaddik. Reward, however, is only given based on our intentions, not how our actions played into the hand of Hashems master plan. To demand reward in such a case is foolish. They aren't liars - just fools!

Another question that can be asked is why Hashem specifically chose to offer them the mitzva of sukkah. Additionally, Chaza"l say that sukkah is equal to all of the mitzvos. Why is that?

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l writes that the deep-seated realization of the temporary, fleeting nature of this world is a crucial foundation for the proper fulfillment of mitzvas. Spending money to fulfill a mitzvah or losing money to avoid a sin is easier for a person who lives with the principle that 'you can't take it with you'. The knowledge that this world is simply a corridor leading into the palace allows one to enjoy both the pleasures of the corridor and the palace.

This, he writes, is the lesson of the sukkah. At the time of harvest, when a person is feeling secure and self-sufficient with all that he has, he is commanded to leave the relative security of his permanent abode and to move into a 'diras arai', a temporary one. This is in order to teach that this whole world is nothing more than a sukkah, a temporary abode. By recognizing that, we can dedicate ourselves and our actions to Him during our stint here in this world. Regardless of our intentions, our actions will be contributing to Hashem's master plan. We must be willing partners of this orchestra of mankind.

How can one reach this level? Only by progressively dedicating himself to Hashem. A 'mitztaer' is exempt from the mitzva. If one accepts too much before being ready, if one is a 'mitztaer', then he must slow down. At the same time, he is 'mitztaer' that he can't fulfill the mitzvos. He wants to be there but has not quite arrived yet.

Hashem offers the mitzva of sukkah to the nations. Can they accept a mitzva and a lifestyle which reflects this understanding of the world? He'll have the sun shine at its fullest. This world and its pleasures are compared to the sun... pleasurable at first, but too much of it... pass the Noxzema! They immediately are angered - how can we be expected to give up on the things we want! They exit the sukkah with a kick. Not 'mitztaer' over their inability to fulfill, but rather, 'mitztaer' over having been asked to!

The degree that we absorb the mitzva and lesson of sukkah will determine the level upon which we will live and observe all of the mitzvos. It equals all of the mitzvos! If a person was moving to a foreign country with a stopover on the way, it would be a serious confusion of priorities to spend time studying the language of the stopover country! All emphasis would be placed on the language and culture of the place where he'll be remaining.

May the transience of the sukkah help us focus on our 'diras keva', our permanent abode.

Wishing you a joyous and meaningful Sukkos and a wonderful Shabbos.

Yisroel Ciner

Rabbi Ciner's email address is ciner@sefer.org

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