Sukkot/Bereshit
 


Parshat Bereshit & Sukkot          15-23 Tishrei 5765              September 30-October 9, 2004              Vol.14 No.4


In This Issue:

Ely Winkler

Ariel Caplan

Avi Levinson

Shlomo Tanenbaum

Halacha of the Week

Rabbi Chaim Jachter

 

 

The Real Simcha of Sukkot
by Ely Winkler

On Shabbat Chol Hamoed, we have the custom to read Megillat Kohelet, said to be written by Shlomo Hamelech. The choice to read this Megillah on this holiday full of happiness stirs up many mixed emotions. There are four other Megillot in Tanach to read, but we choose this one. The central element is found in the Pasuk which asks, "Mah Yitron Leadam Bechol Amalo Sheyaamol Tachat Hashemesh," (Kohelet 12:13) what is man's purpose in this world? The Pasuk then answers, "Sof Davar Hakol Nishma; Et Haelokim Yirah Veet Mitzvotav Shmor Ke Zeh Kol Haadam," (ibid.) that our purpose is to fear God and keep his Mitzvot. However, this is a seemingly contradictory theme to the Simcha we're supposed to feel on Sukkot. Why do we choose to read this very intense, almost depressing Megillah on this joyous holiday?
The tension between the commandment of happiness and Kohelet's negative evaluation of rejoicing is also seen in a bitter exchange between David Hamelech and his wife Michal in Shmuel II 6:16. The queen criticizes David's dancing as the Aron Kodesh was being brought to Jerusalem, comparing it to the behavior of the servants. David responds that since he was rejoicing "before Hashem" not only was the way he conducted himself appropriate, but that he felt compelled to even go further in the future. Was David or Michal correct? Should the king have held back from his Simcha or continued to dance because this was accepted appropriate before Hashem? Are the words of Kohelet meant to limit our happiness on Yom Tov or should we continue to rejoice before Hashem?
An explanation was offered by R' Aryeh Leb from the Pasuk of "Vihayita Ach Sameach," "and you will be only joyous" (Devarim 16:15), in order to show that there is no real conflict between the Torah and the Simcha of Sukkot. He suggests that the word "Ach", "only," implies to a limitation in one's happiness on the holiday of Sukkot, to hold one back for overindulging in the obligation to be joyous on this holiday. Sefer Kohelet works together with the word "Ach" to serve as a reminder that we have the obligation to be happy, while still observing Torah and Mitzvot. It would appear that Simchat Yom Tov is a symbol of the two dimensions of the human being, the spiritual and the physical. While separating these areas might not be what we want, when we do that, at least there are times when we can be assured that we are engaged in the proper spiritual pursuits. Chag "Ach" Sameach!

Co-Dependents 
by Ariel Caplan

At the beginning of his section on Hilchot Sukkah, the Tur asks: Why is Sukkot celebrated in the month of Tishrei? After all, it commemorates God's sheltering us in the Ananei Hakavod, the Clouds of Glory, in the wilderness, but that began in the month of Nisan, the furthest month from Tishrei! He answers that if Sukkot were to occur in Nisan or thereabouts, people would not recognize that what we are doing is a Mitzvah; rather, they would attribute it to the warm weather that allows people to sit outside. Instead, we sit in our Sukkot when cold weather is beginning, so others will see that we sit outside not because of the weather but because we want to fulfill a mitzvah.
However, one must wonder why we care what others think our motives are. Of course, there are some cases in which the purpose of the Mitzvah is to publicize an event, with reading the Megillah and lighting the Menorah being prime examples. However, Sukkah is not one of these Mitzvot. It thus seems illogical to say that there is an aspect of the Sukkah that is designed to inform the public that we are, in fact, fulfilling a Mitzvah.
The first step in understanding the Tur's answer is understanding another explanation of why Sukkot occurs when it does. Rashbam explains that Sukkot falls out during the harvest season, when a farmer finally sees the fruits of a year's hard labor. It is at this time that he is most susceptible to thinking that he alone is responsible for accomplishing everything that he has. He may forget that Hashem has helped him every step of the way. Sukkot is a time when we leave our strong, permanent dwellings and live in houses covered with the flimsiest of materials. The lesson Sukkot imparts to us is that we are as dependent on Hashem year-round as we are while living in a fragile hut.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch amplifies this idea by pointing out that while the walls, which separate people, can be made out of any material we choose, the covering, which separates us from God, is always made of the same brittle materials. Similarly, we may have houses of different types and strengths, but in the end, we are all separated from Hashem by a very thin layer. No matter how many fences we put up or security systems we install, we also need Divine protection to be truly safe - can a full-size team of armed guards stop an earthquake or tornado?
Rav Hirsch adds a very interesting point in that the Sukkah must be large enough to accommodate a person and his table, representing the fact that both our safety (demonstrated by one's person) and our sustenance (demonstrated by the food on the table) are dependent on Hashem's mercy. God can send rain that spoils the food or sunshine that ripens fruit. If one truly understands the symbolism of the Sukkah, one can avoid thinking that "Kochi Veotzem Yadi Asah Li Et Hachayil Hazeh," "My strength and the might of my hand gained me all this wealth" (Devarim 8:17). Instead, one will see the Hand of God in his successes.
If this is the case, we can now see that Sukkot is a time when we demonstrate our trust in Hashem to grant us safety and success. But this cannot merely be an idea important to us, that we express for ourselves; rather, it should be a demonstration of faith to the public - in other words, we must publicize our performance of the Mitzvah of Sukkah. This point can be clarified by the famous statement of the Chachamim that the Lulav, Hadasim, Etrog, and Aravot represent the four types of Jews: those with Mitzvot but no Torah, those with Torah but no Mitzvot, those with both, and those with neither, respectively. On Sukkot, we gather all four types together. It is clear from Chazal, then, that Sukkot is a time of inclusion, when we try to bring in all Jews. On Sukkot, we realize that our Avodat Hashem is incomplete unless everyone is included. Therefore, we want to make it very clear to everyone that we are doing the Mitzvah of Sukkah so that they, too, can become involved.
Perhaps we can say that there is even more significance in the placement of Sukkot almost immediately after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. According to Kabbalistic literature, Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot, is also the day when the decrees for the new year are executed. Hence, we have until the end of Sukkot to change our fate for the new year. On Sukkot, we try to include everyone in our Avodat Hashem because a Jew does not exist in a vacuum; we are judged both as individuals and as a nation. When we involve others in the Mitzvah of Sukkah, we are displaying that we all know that God controls our welfare and our destiny. This is especially important because Sukkot is the time when we are judged regarding rainfall for the coming year (Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 1:2). Since rain is essential to the growth of food, we are effectively being judged as to whether we will have sustenance. In order to merit God's help in acquiring our sustenance, we must all display our belief that He is the sole provider. Thus, it is only through a united acknowledgement of our dependence on Hashem that we can be successful in our final appeal.

Testing, Testing
by Avi Levinson

One of the primary topics of Parshat Bereshit is Adam Harishon's one commandment from Hashem, the famous instruction not to eat from the Etz Hada'at. In "Michtav Mayeliyahu," Rav Eliyahu Dessler asks an obvious question: How could it be that Adam Harishon failed to keep this commandment? He had nearly everything he could want, and yet he wanted the one thing he could not have! Rav Dessler answers that Adam did not commit his sin by accident or without intent. Adam knew what he was doing and what the consequences would be - and yet he still ate from the tree! According to Rav Dessler, Adam reasoned to himself, "If I commit this Aveirah, I will get an internal Yetzer Harah, which will try to force me to sin. When I still obey Hashem's will even then, my reward will be far greater, since there will be an internal force trying to stop me!" Hakadosh Baruch Hu, however, disagreed. He knew, in His infinite wisdom, that the Yetzer Harah cannot be underestimated. Adam thought that if he had the test of an internal inclination towards evil, he would still do Hashem's will, meriting greater reward. Hashem responded that Adam, though correct in theory, was not correct in practice. Once an internal force of evil exists, doing Hashem's will is something no one can be sure of. One never knows when he will slip.
This point is well illustrated by two other cases in Tanach. The first is the Parsha of the Yefat Toar. This is the case described in Parshat Ki Tetzei of an opposing army sending women to the front lines of a war to entice the Jewish army. The Torah provides a way for the Jewish soldier in this situation to marry such a girl sent by the enemy. Let us stop for a moment and consider who this Jewish soldier really is. The Torah tells us in Parshat Shoftim that to be a Jewish soldier, one must be unafraid (see Devarim 20:1-9). Rashi there brings a Machloket from the Gemara as to what "afraid" means. Rabi Akiva says the man whom the Torah excuses is afraid of warfare, whereas Rabi Yose Hagelili argues that he is afraid Hashem will let him die in battle because of his Aveirot. According to Rabi Yose Hagelili, then, any soldier who has actually made it to the battlefield must be righteous enough to be unafraid of Hashem's punishment in war. It is strange to think that this is the soldier who is so easily enticed in the case of the Yefat Toar! Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb comments that this comes to illustrate the point made above. One can never be sure, when it comes to a test, whether he will be able to conquer his Yetzer Harah.
The second example from Tanach is that of David Hamelech and Batsheva. The Midrash says that David asked Hashem why his name could not be included in the first Berachah of Shemoneh Esrei, next to the Avot. Hashem responded that all the Avot had proven themselves by passing difficult tests, but that David had not. David therefore asked Hashem to send him a test, so that he could pass the test and merit to have his name in Shemonah Esrei. When it came to the test, however, David failed. He did not resist his Yetzer Hara, and sinned in the Batsheva incident. This highlights the point that even great Tzaddikim like David Hamelech can never be sure of conquering their Yetzer Hara when put to the test.
The lesson for us is obvious. If our ancestors could not be sure of withstanding tests, how much more so we, who cannot approach their level, must be extremely careful to avoid situations which might lead to sin. As Adam Harishon and David Hamelech learned the hard way, it is not in our best interest to look for tests. As we pray every morning, may Hashem withhold the tests altogether, thus enabling us to keep His Torah and Mitzvot to the fullest.

In the Image of Hashem?
by Shlomo Tanenbaum

In this week's Parsha, the Torah says (1:26): "Vayomer Elokim Naaseh Adam Betzalmenu Kidmutenu Veyirdu Vidgot Hayam Uveof Hashamayim Uvibehema Uvechol Haaretz, "And Hashem said, 'Let us make man in our image, resembling our likeness, and it will rule over the all the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and the animals, and the whole earth.' " Many Mefarshim have different explanations of what "in our image, in our likeness" means. After all, how can we have the same image as Hakadosh Baruch Hu? Moreover, why does the verse say in the plural, "Let us make man"? It should have said, "I will make man"!
Rashi explains that Betzalmenu, "in our image," means "with our mold." He then explains Kidmutenu as the ability "to understand and to gain wisdom." Our abilities to think, to ponder questions, to make decisions, to add knowledge to previous knowledge, and to gain understanding are all gifts from Hakadosh Baruch Hu that separate us from the rest of creation. Have we ever stopped and thanked Hakadosh Baruch Hu for the wonderful ability to think, to just formulate ideas in our heads without any action at all? This is something to be thankful for!
The Siftei Chachamim, a sefer written to clarify Rashi, explains that one cannot possibly say that "in our image" refers to Hashem's shape or form, because Hakadosh Baruch Hu has no shape or form. However, Rashi explains that Pasuk 27, which says that "Betzelem Elokim Bara Oto", "In the likeness of His image He created him," really means, "that mold that is prepared for him has the semblance of Hashem." The Siftei Chachamim resolves the apparent contradiction and explains that the Rashi in Pasuk 27 means that when the Prophets saw Hashem, the mold of Adam had a resemblance to what they were shown of Hashem.
The Ramban comments that by no other creature does it say "Naaseh," "Let us make." In Creation, Hashem made the concept of all other creations on the first day, and only later in Creation did He create its purpose and its physical attributes from that foundation. He then gave the power to the earth and waters to bring forth the creatures, as it says: "Let the earth bring forth animals (Totzei)." and "Let the waters bring forth fish (Toztei)." However, by man it says "Let us make" (Naaseh), meaning that the earth will provide the body, while Hashem will give man his life-force, his soul. That is why it says "Naaseh," "make," in the plural, because both Hashem and the earth will have a hand in man's creation.
This is also the way that the Baal Haturim understands this Pasuk. He says that Adam, "man," is a contraction of dust, blood, and bile. Ramban adds that in Hebrew, the root of "Betzalmenu," "In our image," is Tzelem, shape and form, which hints that man is similar the earth in its physical appearance and makeup. The root of "Kidmutenu," "In our likeness," is Demut, resemblance, which means that the everlasting soul, which is the source of man's wisdom and understanding, and which does not die or become extinguished, is similar to the heavens. He concludes that we are the only creature in creation that Hakadosh Baruch Hu had a direct hand in making. Hashem even breathed some of his Shechinah into our bodies, as is indicated in 2:7.
The Meshech Chachmah explains that "In our likeness" refers to man's absolute free choice. When man makes a choice, it is much different than when an animal makes a choice. Man has different paths to choose from, like a fork in a road. He is able to choose either one, and it is not determined by his nature or instinct. Man is able to totally ignore his instincts. Moreover, if man sees that his decision was not beneficial to him, he is able to change his ways and choose to take the other path in the future. In addition, man is able to look into the future to see the consequences of his actions. In contrast, when an animal has to choose between two paths, it will make its "decision" based only on its instinct, not on free choice. When the animal makes that decision, it can never examine the results and decide the other way in the future. Lastly, but most importantly, an animal is not able to see the consequences of its actions; this contrasts man, who makes his decisions with much thought and planning. Has anyone ever seen an animal think about what its next step will be? Of course not, because instinct forces the animal to behave a certain way and take a specific course in its next step. Man does not take a single step unless he has a reason for it. The concept of free choice is similar to Hashem because Hashem has total free choice (which, of course, He uses to do good).
The Chrisha (Chidushei Rav Shlomo Ashkenazi) explains that the word Betzalmenu comes from the Hebrew word Tzel, meaning shadow. One's shadow is almost an exact replica of one's image. How does this relate to Hashem? He explains we are the physical manifestation of Hakadosh Baruch Hu's spiritual qualities.
Our physical attributes mimic Hashem's spiritual attributes; we are the shadow of Hashem's perfect attributes and qualities. Hashem's spirituality has physical bearings and parallels in us. For example, when it says in the Torah that Hashem took us out of Egypt with a strong arm, we can understand it because the spiritual quality of a strong arm is manifested in our arm. Because of these parallels, when we bring spirituality into this world through our physical bodies, we are bringing Hashem's perfect qualities into this world. The Chrisha then clarifies that the reason why it says "Naaseh," "make," in the plural is that we have to make ourselves into the image and likeness of Hashem, as this does not jsut come about by itself. Who are the people involved in man's creation; who makes him into an image and likeness of Hashem? Hakadosh Baruch Hu and man himself. If we do not work on ourselves, we will never become an "image of Hashem."
One could fill an entire sefer with explanations of what "in our image, in our likeness" means. However, there is more to the explanation of the words than just what they mean and refer to. The search for an answer is the search for an explanation of what makes humans so special in Creation. Most people do not realize how tremendously important they really are. We are incredibly fortunate to have these gifts, and without them, man would just be another animal in creation, having no goal in life, living and dying without knowing what is happening around it. People do not realize how incredible and uplifted man is in Creation. It is a terrible tragedy to waste and destroy these gifts by ignoring them and not using them for a higher purpose.
Jews in particular have great spiritual potential. We were given a means by which we can uplift our wisdom to spiritual heights more than any other human, namely the Torah. The Midrash says that the world was created only for a place that is able to use and learn the Torah, and we Jews are the means by which the Torah is learnt. Think about it: if we are learning Torah by using all of our special gifts, we are fulfilling the purpose of Creation! This is the reason why if there are no Jews learning Torah every at any given moment, the world will be destroyed. Why is this? If the world was only created to learn the Torah, then when no one is learning, there is no point to creation.
The Sforno comments that our intelligence is different then all of nature in that it exists without any medium or material at all. It is separated from matter and is totally metaphysical. When a person thinks and delves into the future, it is completely above nature and solidity.
The Sforno asks why in Pasuk 27 the Torah says "Betzelem Elokim," "In the image of Elokim." He answers that Elokim implies perfection, which was above Adam's level. Man's special gift of thought are only an image of perfection, because he has not yet perfected his wisdom. If he perfects his wisdom by using it to attain love and fear of Hashem, the Master of the universe, then it will be complete and perfect. It will endure forever, even after his body ceases to function. However, if we do not attempt to achieve these levels of love and fear of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, our gift of thought will remain as unused potential. We will remain as we were before we were created and endowed with these special gifts, and we will end in destruction and emptiness, as it says in Tehillim: "Man in his greatness who does not seek (understanding), is like the beasts which perish." Everyone has the potential, but it will all remain mere potential and not achievement of great spiritual heights if we ignore our purpose.
How does one attain fear and love of Hashem? The Gemara says that Torah study brings fear of heaven. The Vilna Gaon once remarked: "The Torah is oil and the Mitzvah is a lamp. Without the oil (Torah), the lamp goes out." The Zekan Beto says that if people knew how much Hakadosh Baruch Hu loved them and how much he desired their Avodah to him, people would run to perform His will. People would never think of doing something wrong, even something that might only border on misdeed. Let us hope that we will use our treasured advantages and gifts productively in our service to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and not (Chas Veshalom) waste them, and may Mashiach come speedily in our days.

 

Halacha of the Week
The Mishna Berura (639:2) writes that since the holiness of the Sukkah is so great, one should strive to maximize the amount of time we speak about the holy matters in the Sukkah and that one should certainly make an extra effort to avoid speaking Lashon Hara in the Sukkah.

 

THE ENTIRE KOL TORAH STAFF WISHES YOU A CHAG SAMEACH!

 

Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief:  Ely Winkler, Willie Roth
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editors: Jesse Dunietz
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This week's issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored in memory of:

Rachel Bat R' Nahman Krinsky

Yocheved Bat Elyakim Getzel Goldman

Miriam Bat Moshe Dovid Goldman

Chava Bat Moshe Dovid Goldman

Elyakim Getzel Ben Moshe Dovid Goldman
 

 

 

 


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