Succos Inspired

Rabbi Moshe Gersht
Mosaica / 225 pages

Succos Inspired, as its name implies, is full of inspirational divrei Torah relating to Sukkot. It contains fifteen chapters that are divided into four units. Each unit focuses on a particular theme of the holiday. For example, the first unit is an extensive discussion on the meaning of the Clouds of Glory and their connection to Sukkot. One of my favorite pieces in this unit was the fascinating connection between the famous dispute on whether one should engage in full time study, or rather, work in order to make a living (the dispute between Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Ishmael) and the different interpretations of the symbolism of the Sukka (the dispute between Rabba and Rava).

The second unit focuses on the mitzva of dwelling in the Sukka. The third unit is on the arba minim, with some especially neat teachings on the arba minim that I am seeing for the first time. And, finally, the fourth unit “The Soul of Succos” is a ‘variety’ unit, including entries on Shemeni Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

The essays are spiced with other related teachings and welcome tangents, as well. There is much emphasis on simcha, unity and ahavat yisrael that Sukkot has to offer. Here’s an excerpt that can be "given over" at the Shabbat or Yom Tov table:

The Tur says that the chag of Succos is related to Yaakov Avinu:

Avraham Avinu: Our pillar of chesed corresponds to the human action of resembling Hashem. Avrahams forte was kindness, representing the right hand, the dominant side through which our actions are performed. The verse says Avraham comes from the words av hamon goyim, meaning the father of many nations. All nations (Jewish and non-Jewish) have the ability to express their creativity and potential.

Yitzchak Avinu: Our depiction of avoda and self-nullification corresponds to emuna and awareness of Hashem. Yitzchak was offered as a sacrifice and was found praying in the fields. He is likened to the left hand, as it is weaker in its ability to express ourselves. It is in this weakness that Yitzchak found his strength recognizing that we are weak without Hashem and our power comes from that connection. Yitzchak comes from the word schok, to laugh. With his perspective, he was able to laugh at his yetzer hara and the physical world that attempts to pull us away from our mission.

Yaakov Avinu: The face of Torah and truth. He spent his youth learning Torah and his life living by its principles. He represents the middle path the balance between human ingenuity and simple faith in Hashem. He specialized in fusing the two worlds together. When he learned Torah and performed the mitzvos, he connected the will of Hashem to the actions of a person by way of the material world we live in. The Torah is the vehicle that connects the heavens and the earth. Yaakov is spelled YudAkev. The letter yud represents the world of spirituality. The Midrash says that Olam Haba was created with the letter yud and Olam Hazeh with the letter hei. Akev means heal, the very bottom of the body. Yaakov had the ability to connect the worlds of the heavens to the very bottom of the earth.

Avraham and Yitzchak are like the walls and the sechach:

Just like Avraham Avinu, the walls of the succah represent our ability to contain and express Hashem in the world.
Similar to Yitzchaks view of reality, the sechach symbolizes our capacity to recognize that Hashem is always watching over us.
Together, the characteristics of Avraham and Yitzchak create a succah that forges a balanced relationship between the two. It is for this balance that Succos corresponds to Yaakov Avinu, the balance between both dimensions.

This book may very well be the first English language, exclusive Sukkot reader, that focuses on hashkafa, rather than halacha. The essays are interesting and well-written. The author promised us a book that will inspire us for Sukkot, and he has delivered.

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