Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pre-Sukkos Thoughts - The Sukkah and the Egel

Although I would normally blog on the R' Frand shiur from this evening, there was no live R' Frand shiur this evening on TCN and there were problems with the feed or the Rav who was substituting for R' Frand. Rather than leaving the blog without a vort for shabbos, I am attempting to repeat a vort heard from R' Eli Mansour as recorded on This vort was uploaded in 2009 and links Sukkos and the Egel. Same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce the vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the maggid shiur.

R' Mansour began by quoting the Vilna Gaon who explained the meaning of the Atta Bechartanu which is said in the Shalosh Regalim Shemoneh Esreh. The beginning of this portion of Shemoneh Esreh - has three statements - Atta Bechartanu - You have chosen us, Ahavta Osanu - You love us and V'Ratzisa Banu - you have been appeased by us, or forgave us. The Vilna Gaon explains that the first phrase - corresponds to Pesach, the second phrase correlates to Shavuous and the third is related to Sukkos.

R' Mansour observed that the Atta Bechartanu as connected to Pesach is obvious - Hashem chose us and took us out of Egypt. The second phrase - Ahavra Osanu as connected to Shavuous is also obvious - if you love someone you give them a gift and on Shavuous we received the Torah. But what is the connection between V'Ratzisa Banu to Sukkos?

R' Mansour then gave an introduction to the concept of Sukkos by stating that we sit in the Sukkah to remember the Anane HaKavod - the Heavenly clouds which accompanied and protected the Jews in the midbar. R' Mansour even mentioned that according to an unnamed rabbi there is a requirement to remember the Anane HaKavod before making Kiddush in the Sukkah.

R' Mansour then asked - but when did the Jews leave Egypt? They left in the spring which is when the Pesach holiday takes place. But then we should be having Sukkos two weeks after Pesach and before Shavuous. So why is it celebrated in the fall?

R' Mansour gave what he called the simple explanation which is that the spring is comfortable time so there would not be all that out of the ordinary to sit outside in the Sukkah. For this reason we do not sit there in the spring. But R' Mansour hinted there was more to the question.

R' Mansour next talked about the other two things which accompanied the Jews in the desert - the manna and the well of Miriam. R' Mansour explained that although people know that the manna tasted like whatever a person desired, the water of the well was miraculous in that it tasted like whatever the person wanted. If a person wanted to have Merlot with his steak, the water of the well would accommodate. But where is the commemoration of the water? We remember the manna and the way that it fell (being sandwiched by two layers of dew with a double portion on Friday) by having something under and over the two loaves of challah on Shabbos. But how do we remember the water?

R' Mansour began his answers by quoting the Chida who states that after the Egel, Moshe saw the Jews were Paruah - they were uncovered because Hashem had removed the Anane HaKavod after they sinned with the Egel. Moshe then broke the luchos on 17 Tammuz before going back up to ask for forgiveness on 18 Tammuz. Moshe then comes back down on 10 Tishrei (Yom Kippur) and has the new luchos with him - a sign that Hashem has forgiven the Jews. But forgiveness does not mean that all has gone back to the way it was - the relationship was still strained and the clouds had not come back. 

On 11 Tishrei Moshe announced - we need to build the Mishkan. In order to build the Mishkan, Moshe made an appeal for funds. The Jews then collected for two days - 12-13 Tishrei. And then something odd happened - Moshe announced on the 14th of Tishrei - we have enough money - no more donations are needed. So on the 15th Hashem said - I see that you are serious about making up so I want you back as it were and I am giving you back the Anane HaKavod. This is why we celebrate the holiday in Tishrei - because Hashem forgave us and returned the clouds to us. The Sukkah is a rememberance of Hashem returning the clouds - things are like they were once before.

This is why there is a mitzva to be happy - Zman Simchaseinu - we are happy that Hashem has taken us back. We see this in the pesukim of the Torah. R' Mansour noted that Sukkos is mentioned in Mishpatim and Re'eh. When mentioned in Mishpatim it is called Chag Ha'asif - the holiday of harvesting. However, in Re'eh it is called Chag HaSukkos. Why the change? The Meshech Chachma explains that before the sin of the Egel - the holiday was a happy time because they collected the crops. But after they worshiped the Egel the Sukkah was added to the holiday because the Anane Kavod came back.

This is also why the holiday of Sukkos is bunched together with Yom Kippur. We just got forgiveness from Hashem, but we also want to feel close with Hashem and know that he wants us back, The holiday of Sukkos is Hashem inviting us to come back and have dinner with him.

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