Succot - Lesson in Humility by Rabbi Herschel Solnica zt"l


            In Vayikra כב:מב() the Torah teaches us בסוכות תשבו שבעת ימים כל האזרח בישראל... - in Succot you must dwell for seven days, every citizen of Israel....  The לי יקרכ underscores that the use of the word האזרח, "the citizen," teaches us that the expectation of every Jew when he or she comes from work is to go to their comfortable home - i.e. their דירת קבע.  Instead Hashem commands us to go to the דירת ארעי  (temporary home) because על ידי ישיבת קבע ירום לבבו, going to one's comfortable home may lead us to haughtiness, and God forbid, וישמן ישורון ויבעט, and Israel got fat and revolted.

            It is for this reason that some of Chazal define Succot as representing the ענני כבוד, the heavenly protective clouds of the dessert.  This points to the fact that going into a Sukkah tends to be a cure for self-gratification and the serious malady of "self-worship."

            Rabbi Yissachar Frand in a beautiful דבר מוסר pointed out that we must cleanse ourself of the terrible sin of self-worship.  The Baal Shem Tov underscores this theme with a unique interpretation of the pasuk אנכי עומד בין ה' ובינכם.  The אנכי, the "I," the self-worship stands between God and us.  Rabbi Grumet added to this theme the idea found in Breishit (כב:טז), אכן יש ה' במקום הזה ואנכי לא ידעתי, "I realize that God is here because I stopped considering myself and my own needs."  Those who worship themselves are angry with anyone who does not cater to them.  Perhaps that is why אנכי is numerically is equal to אף, anger (אנכי=אף=18).

            Today's society is overly selfish with an unprecedented availability of money, cars, vacations, etc.  We are driven by all commercials to buy, to get, to consume,....  "Our" generation frowns on the institution of marriage and large families.  We are told to vote for a political candidate because he is the consumers best friend (NY Times Op Ed page).

            As God fearing Jews we must learn to give to other people.  We must re-learn to share with those who have less.  We say כרחם אב על בנים כן תרחם ה' עלינו, as a father has compassion for his children, so should God have pity on us.  We can't expect God's mercy unless we are merciful and we give up our self-worship.

            The true meaning of a Gadol, a great person, is one who cares for others. The Torah uses the expression ויגדל משה ויצא אל אחיו, "Moses grew and went out to his brothers."  The true meaning is he grew up because he went out to his brothers.  A Kohen Gadol is not called a כהן ראשון because he must be big enough to be self effacing and care for others, וכפר בעדו בעד ביתו ובעד כל קהל ה', If he prays for his family and all of Israel, he is worthy to be called Kohen Gadol.  Rabbi Grumet added to this theme beautifully by noting that at a Brit we state זה קטון גדול יהיה, "this small one will be a gadol."  This surely means that as a baby, a child cares only about himself or herself.  As he matures, he will become a Gadol, a greater person, by minimizing this self-worship.

            Before Hoshana Raba, we must learn this lesson from the holiday of Succot.  We must leave the unending concern of our דירת קבע and begin to realize that our lives are temporary as is the Succah.  This will help us mature and put us on the way towards becoming גדולים.

The Many Themes of Succot by Noam J. Davidovics

Clean Yourself First by Rafi Gasner