THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
SUKKOT'S SUBLIMINAL SUBLIMITY
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A. SUKKOT IN PERSPECTIVE-- FRIENDS AGAIN.
B. A SYNOPSIS OF THE SUKKOT TORAH READINGS, WITH MANY CITES & INSIGHTS.
C. THE HAFTARA.
D. THE CHOL HAMOED SHABBAT READING.
E. THE SHABBAT OF SUKKOT HAFTARA.
F. SIMCHAT BAIS HASHOEVA.
G. KOHELET-- HOW TO AVOID SUNSTROKE.
H. GOD IS PLEASANT.
I. SUKKOT & NATURE.
J. ESOTERIC ESROGIM.
K. PLANTS AR' US.
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YK = Yom Kippur, RH = Rosh Hashana
A. SUKKOT IN PERSPECTIVE-- FRIENDS AGAIN
Rav J. Soloveichik portrays God as a great friend, whose kindness and goodness I, the sinner, have betrayed. Later, I realize how terrible I've been, how wonderful she was, and how much I miss him. But I can't pretend that nothing has happened; I painfully recall every detail of my betrayal, regret it, and resolve to change. I must confess and apologize; only then can we celebrate our renewed friendship.
So Israel mourns its betrayal of God's mission for 3 weeks every year, culminating in Tisha B'Av. In Elul, we raise our consciousness of God's all-encompassing friendship and kindness, and our unique role as His Chosen Folk, Messenger to Mankind-- "I'm my Beloved's and He's mine". RH is its climax, the Day of Awakening Absorption in God, THE King. 6 Days of Soul-searching Selichos then lead the Jew to the Day of Accounting, Inventory, Confession, and Purification-- YK. Heart-rending tears are part of it; otherwise, crying, as washing my face, would be forbidden (Avigayil Fogelman)! In East European prayer houses, they used to worry if someone wasn't bawling on YK-- in today's temples, they wonder what's wrong when someone cries!
Only after YK, can Israel rejoice with God, as a bride, for 7 days of Sukkos-- unresolved guilt engenders depression (Rav D. Ebner). So God places joyous Sukkot in Tishrei (23:41), right after awesome RH & YK! Seriousness and return to God and oneself lead to true joy, the opposite of sin-engendering silliness (Hirsch). Only then, on Sukkot, is Israel, His firstborn Kingdom of Priests and Holy Nation (Ex. 19:6), its Divine Image restored, fit and ready for its mission-- to bring universal man back to God, himself, and Eden So, on YK, the high priest first had to make atonement for himself and his family, then for all Israel. When he would emerge, his face would radiate what man once was and still can be-- a true Divine Image (before he drifted away from God and began to resemble a monkey-- Gen. Raba 24:6; devilution generates devolution). Thus on RH God also judges His universal Creation, soon to be redeemed by a redeemed Israel. YK's readings close with God's universal message to Yona-- He cares about Nineveh and Las Vegas too. The finale is Sukkot; Israel brings 70 bull offerings-- it's mission is to bring all 70 nations (basic cultures) close to God and His Providence; so judges of the Sanhedrin had to be know the 70 languages-- rabbinic judges should speak at least one foreign language (Rav Lau's fluent English, youthful vitality, and ecumenical activism should have great universal impact if he gets ample access to the media-- presenty he gets only 5 minutes for the high holidays and 5 minutes for Pesach on Israel's decadent pagan TV.
As YK recedes, our power to help others diminishes; one less bull is sacrificed daily on Sukkot. Ohr Hachayim forecasts gradual weakening of the power (bullocks) of other cultures (cf. USSR), while the lamb, Israel, retains its number-- 14-- all seven days. 7, symbolic of merger of heaven and earth, e.g. in shabbat and the sabbatical year, represents Israel; the 7 sheep are brought on other holidays, when even the 7 bullocks have disappeared (only 1-2 are brought). The double portion of sheep on Succot includes that part of Israel, hidden among the nations, which gradually emerges, via converts to Judaism. So O.H. views marrying a captive pagan woman in war (Deut. 21:10) as return of a lost and captive holy soul to soulful Israel, a truly good deed. The physical symbols of Sukkot-- the 4 species and the sukkah-- herald restoration of nature to its Messianic and Edenic perfection.
But Rav Dovid Hartman rejects this Jewish universal mission, tikkun olam, calling it "triumphalist"; his esteemed collegue, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, z"l, expounds his similar views in Judaism, Human Values, and the Jewish State (Ch. 10, The Religious and Moral Significance of the Redemption of Israel): "The idea that the people of Israel has been endowed with a capacity for instructing and guiding all of humanity has no basis in authentic Jewish sources, and played no role-- at least no more than a marginal one-- in the consciousness of generations of Jews who assumed the yoke of Torah and Mitzvos. This idea was fabricated by the heretics-- from the Apostle Paul to Ben Gurion-- who meant to cast off the yoke of Torah by substituting for it a faith in an abstract 'vocation'. The Jewish people were not given a mission; it was rather charged with a task-- the task of being servants of God ("A Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation"). To transform religion and religious faith from a task and obligation into an endowment and destiny is to degrade them". In both the high holiday prayers and Alenu, Leibowitz notes, it is God who will bring all nations back to Him in unity, not Israel.
I disagree-- I take the term cohen or priest to refer to a religious guide and leader; just as the descendants of Aharon teach and lead the rest of Israel, so Israel is the priest-people of the nations. But Leibowitz takes cohen to mean only one very dedicated to God, regardless of whether he leads others; but a serious objection to their position is the Bible itself-- many verses do indeed proclaim Israel's mission quite clearly, especially in Isaiah 2, where Isaiah proclaims that all nations will come to the land of Israel and to the people of Yaakov to learn about God, especially on Sukkot-- "for from Zion shall go forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem". Leibowitz tries to minimize this chapter's great impact by pointing out how the surrounding chapters condemn Israel's straying from God and Torah, as today; but he ignores both many Biblical verses and many traditional teachings that Israel WILL eventually repent, return to God, and THEN impact upon the entire world. Many people fall into silly atheism and agnosticism, doubting God's existence (and, ipso facto, meaning, logic and purpose in our universe), because they doubt that He cares about what they do and their destiny; so these great Torah teachers, upset at premature and superficial messianism, throw out the baby with the bathwater and deny our ultimate dream-- in doing so, they deprive Judaism and the State of Israel of a most noble and inspiring goal.
Only God and the Jews remain on Shemini Atzeret, Simchas Torah, without any physical symbols-- they just quietly enjoy each other's presence and vibrations ("groove" in teenglish); only those closest to the bride and groom (and the loneliest) remain after the food and band are gone.
Rav. G. Fleer: Determining one's path and goals precedes self-evaluation and plans. RH focuses me on two essentials-- 1) God, the essence of all existence: His absolute kingship, His concerned constant awareness and providence, and His past and future revelation to mankind, via Israel-- malchiyot, zivhronot, and shofarot. We bless Him, "Who's given us a Torah of Truth...". 2) my own deepest and strongest awarenesses and yearnings-- we conclude the blessing: "and Who's PLANTED eternal life WITHIN US (for us to water and nourish)... a source of blessings are You, God, Who is giving (every moment-- NOW too!) the Torah". Once these essentials are internalized, excruciating self-examination follows, climaxing on YK-- are our deeds and thoughts consistent with our rediscovered reality, with its demands for a life of true greatness? It's very hard to make the necessary sacrifices, the major changes and adjustments, to achieve a desired great goal. Tho we can't change too much too fast, we demonstrate exemplary behavior during this period; we show ourselves and others our allegiance to ideals, tho they may still be beyond complete realization in our daily lives. We try, at least on Sukkot, to live a life in connection and harmony with both God and nature.
Both the Torah and Haftara readings of RH deal with most women's greatest urge-- to bear children-- see The J.P. Magazine, 8/13/93, Having Our Baby-- C. Schrag portrays the huge efforts and emotional nightmares of those who have fertility problems (call TAF, 03-5225176 for help). Sara and Chana, true "mothers of all life", also strive that their children be leading links in the historic chain of Israel's mission-- to raise God- and self-awareness among mankind, to "rebirth" humanity (come to Yehuda Lave's rebirthing classes in the Jewish 1/4); they both perpetuate Avraham and herald Messiah. Great Jews come from great Jewish mothers.
A major Sukkot theme, reflected in the sukka, the 4 species, and the Torah readings, is blending nature with its Creator and His Torah-- we close YK by proclaiming 7 times (corresponding to the 7 heavens-- Tos., Ber. 34a): "God (of infinity), He's (also) the Lord (= 86) of Nature (hateva, = 86; cf. 1K18:39)"; celebration of life-giving harvest is to be infused with keen awareness of its Kind Generous Giver, generating true joy. Harvest seasons are intertwined with joyous historic holidays of rendezvous with Divinity & Infinity. Both bonding of animals with their mothers and their later sacrifice reflect God's Will.
THE SUKKA reminds us of Israel's honeymoon with God in the hostile desert (of cruel history-- there must be more shade than sun in the sukka), and of Divine clouds hovering over them (= eventual redemption; stars must be visible thru the sukka roof-- Rav Riskin); God's protection against forces of evil, when the Jews seem most vulnerable (e.g. 1948, 1991 and Purim), climaxes in the pre- Messianic battles of our Haftarot. Then God will raise up David's fallen "sukka"-- the 3rd Temple, preceded by the rediscovered tabernacle. Discomfort, e.g. rain, exempts one from Sukka-- but those truly great stay, experiencing no discomfort when surrounded by God's glory (The Berditchever). The sukka is a symbol of peace, for it is open-- to the elements of nature, to the heavens above and, foremost, to guests, far and near (Rav Avigdor Hacohen). As we invite guests to our sukka, not only do we do a good deed of kindness and spread holiday cheer, but we also imitate God Himself, the Ultimate Model Host, Who constantly feeds, clothes and houses all His creatures; we thus develop our own Divine Image. Rav Zevin lucidly expounds the holiday laws in "The Festivals In Halacha".
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B. A SYNOPSIS OF THE SUKKOT TORAH READINGS
On the 1st day , we read Lev. 22:26- 23:44. Newborn animals are only fit for sacrifice after 7 days of bonding with their mothers (cf. circumcision & bonding-- see our Tazria study), who may not be slaughtered on the same day (the father may be-- Rashi, per Hulin 78b, vs. Sefer Hachinuch, Ibn Ezra; cf. modern notions, e.g. patrilineal descent and the Lamaze Lie: "He's having the baby too"). A Thanksgiving Offering must be pleasant to the offeror and consumed in one day (no stale religious experience?) AND YOU SHOULD GUARD MY COMMANDMENTS AND DO THEM. I AM GOD AND YOU SHALL NOT PROFANE THE NAME OF MY HOLINESS (by defective sacrifices, ugly ritual objects, shoddy Israeli government, etc.), AND I SHALL BE SANCTIFIED IN THE MIDST OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL (die, rather than profane God's Name). I AM GOD WHO SANCTIFIES YOU AND BRINGS YOU OUT OF EGYPT TO BE YOUR LORD-- I'M GOD (see our Emor study).
CH. 23 deals with sacred time, holydays, when Jews may not do certain physically creative acts, e.g. writing and sewing. These intimate periodic meetings with God, per the lunar calendar, are determined, with some discretion, by the Sanhedrin; but Sabbath, first of the holy days, was fixed by God Himself at Creation. The holy days are described as days of sacrifices, but the details of only those accompanying the Pesach omer offering and the 2 Shavuot loaves are given. Specific commandments are given for each holiday. An omer of the first barley is offered, with sacrifices, on THE DAY AFTER THE SABBATH, i.e. the 2nd day of Passover-- commemorative holidays are also called sabbaths and sabbaths are called holidays; Sabbath Creation and Revelation meshes with historic festival re-Creation and Revelation, Jewish history. We must learn God's ways from His Torah, from His Laws and Acts of Creation and Nature, and from His Laws and Acts in History. We discussed the study (and lack of study) of Jewish and general history in our Haazinu study; but most great Jewish historians of the 19th century, tho quite erudite and intelligent, lacked traditional Jewish knowledge and perspective, and thus failed to see God at work in history, to sense sacred time in all times. From the late 19th century onward, Jewish historians, who were grounded in Torah, began to write and teach from a truly Jewish perspective. See our Let's Learn! studies, I:1-5.
New grain may be eaten only after the omer is brought. Barley is fodder, food of the poor; it represents the simple survival of the Jews, The Exodus. 49 days, 7 weeks, are counted daily until the next holiday, Shavuot, which is nameless here; 2 CHAMETZ (leavened) first wheat loaves are offered with Shavuot sacrifices, and given to the cohen. Wheat is the food of developed man, who can accept God's Torah at Shavuos. Ch. 23 stresses only the natural, not the historical, aspects of the holydays (Exodus is mentioned only in the appended mitzva of dwelling in a sukka). The Karites' claim that "(the morrow of) the Shabbat" is the first Shabbat after Passover, ignoring our Oral Tradition from Moses, destroys the fixed 49 day 7 week connection between Exodus and Sinai. Gleanings and field corners are to be left for the poor and stranger-- I AM GOD YOUR LORD. The 7 week omer period and RH are introduced by separate Divine communications; RH is called a "memorial of blowing" here (rather than "a day of blowing", as in Num. 29:1), i.e. internalizing the message of the shofar, remembering it being blown at Sinai, and that a great shofar will be blown with the Messianic return of the Jews to Israel; it is also a hint of RH which falls on Shabbat, when we just "remember" shofar, talk about it, without blowing it, per Rabbinic decree-- lest a Jew carry his shofar in an area with no surrounding eruv-- the eruv, a fence, wire, etc., renders the enclosed area one domain, where carrying things on Shabbat is permissible. On Shabbat RH, one fulfills the Torah's command to follow the rabbis, taking precedence over its command to blow shofar.
YK is introduced by name, unlike RH; it's a day for self-affliction, fasting and atonement. One afflicts oneself on the 9TH DAY, from "eve to eve" to celebrate this SUPER-SABBATH. Besides the law of adding a bit from the 9th day to the fast, this may be a hint of the rabbinic mitzvah of feasting on the 9th, an "affliction" for a sensitive soul, contemplating the awesome 10th. RH is called only a "SABBATH", not a SUPER-SABBATH. God then commands 7 days of Sukkos, a joyous harvest festival; the 8th is an unnamed holy day of convocation. The 1st and 8th days are work-free sabbaths. The Jew must take HIS esrog (citron), and lulav (palm), myrtle and willow branches together on the 1st day (the rabbis added the other 6 days outside the Temple). If Sukkot falls on Shabbat, rabbinic law prohibits such taking, lest one carry the 4 species on Shabbat. Intercalate the lunar calendar with the solar seasons, that Sukkos fall at harvest time and Pesach in spring, blending the natural and supernatural. All male citizens must dwell-- eat and sleep-- in sukkos booths 7 days, commemorating the similar Exodus experience: (for) I AM GOD YOUR LORD (man's only true "home" and sanctuary). Moshe taught everyone the relevant laws as each festival approached (Torat Cohanim, Emor 17:12). Some say that only Israel's leaders must learn about each festival 30 days in advance; they then teach the folk just before the holiday (e.g. in the Jerusalem Post).
EACH DAY, we read about Sukkot's burnt offerings in NUMBERS 29; on day #1, we bring 13 young bullocks, then one less each day-- a total of 70; each day, 2 rams and 14 lambs are offered, plus meal and drink offerings, an atonement goat, and daily burnt offerings. Unlike Passover, we have no other Torah Readings on Chol Hamoed, the Intermediate Days, except on Sabbath. Why not?
C. THE SUKKOT HAFTARA is ZECHARIA 14
The prophet depicts a terrible war against Jerusalem (1948?)-- half the city will go into captivity. God will be revealed in battle against Israel's enemies, on a day which shall be neither day nor night (today?); at evening there shall be light; living waters shall go out from Jerusalem (God's modest beach won't draw protests). Per Malbim, Jerusalem will move south, down by the riverside, his explanation of the future scenerio of Ezekial (40, 45, 48), when Jerusalem will be 25 mil south of the 3rd Temple (see Artscroll's A-1 Eisenman Ezekial; Rashash implies that the temple itself will relocate north to "the head of mountains", probably Har Chatzor, the highest mountain in the Jerusalem area, near Ofra and Bet El; that would also explain why Yaakov calls the Temple site Bet El in Vayetze). THE LORD WILL BE KING OVER ALL THE EARTH. ON THAT DAY GOD WILL BE ONE AND HIS NAME ONE... AND JERUSALEM SHALL BE SECURE. Israel's enemies, fighting each other, will be destroyed (we wish our cousins, Iran and Iraq, Hamas and PLO, great success against each other!). All nations shall worship and sacrifice at the Temple each Sukkos, a precondition to their blessing and prosperity. No merchants will sell sacrifices (Malbim; pots, per Rashi), for all will be freely donated (free 4 species and Torah teaching too?).
D. ON SHABBAT CHOL HAMOAD SUKKOS (as on Pesach), WE READ EXODUS 33:12-34:26.
God just promised Moshe and Israel His forgiveness and the SECULAR Zionist dream-- financial and military success-- after the sin of the Golden calf; but God's special presence, the RELIGIOUS Zionist dream, , won't yet return to Israel's camp; all the Jews mourn-- Moshe won't move on until God agrees to restore His Presence, the sign of Israel's special grace and unique role (not Jaffa oranges and Gottex bathing suits-- vs. Hartman and Leibowitz supra?). Moshe yearns to know God's ways and see his glory, for his own sake and Israel's; God likes both he and them, and agrees to pass all His goodness before him and proclaim His Name (Essence)-- He's gracious and shows mercy to whom He desires. Moshe's put in a cleft "near God" where-- YOU'LL SEE MY BACK, BUT MY FACE SHALL NOT BE SEEN (33:23). We may sometimes understand somewhat why God did something in HINDSIGHT, but cannot PREDICT His actions with FORESIGHT-- so no one knew if the Oslo agreement would be a dream or a nightmare. In any event, it certainly should not freeze the normal development of Jerusalem, such as the new tunnel from the wall, which hurts no one and adds another tourist attraction to Jerusalem-- despite paranoid reactions of the Arab community, which arrogantly eliminated all references to the Temple Mount as such, after assimilated Moshe Dayan gave them control of the site.
Moshe reascends Sinai alone and hews 2 new tablets. God passes by, revealing Himself: "GOD, GOD, THE LORD, MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER, WITH LOTS OF LOVE AND TRUTH. KEEPING DEEDS OF LOVE FOR THOUSANDS (of generations). FORGIVING SIN, REBELLION, AND ERROR. HE DOES NOT CLEAR THE (unrepentant) GUILTY AND KEEPS THE SINS OF THE FATHERS IN MIND (Rav L. Jung) RE THEIR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN FOR 3 & 4 GENERATIONS" (whose particular life challenges may reflect their ancestral backgrounds; 34:7)... Moshe quickly worshipped and again asked God to forgive Israel, to take them for an inheritance, and to walk in their midst. God promises a covenant with unheard-of miracles, in view of all nearby peoples-- IF Israel makes NO COVENANT with idolators (NOT the Arabs) and destroys all signs of idolatry in Israel (Should the Israel and Biblelands Museums resurrect buried idols?). Otherwise, the Jews will intermarry and worship idols.
Every Passover, in spring, Jews must refrain from leavened products of 5 basic grains for 7 days (Prof. Y. Felix speculates as to their identity in Nature, Man, and the Bible-- he excludes oats!). All first born domestic animals are God's; first born humans are to be redeemed, donkeys redeemed or killed. Shabos must be kept, even in plowing and harvest times. Shavuos celebrates the first wheat harvest. Sukkos, the ingathering festival, occurs at the "turn of the year" (autumn); all males must appear before the Lord God thrice yearly at the agricultural festivals; their wives, homes, and kids will be safe. Leaven must be removed before the Passover sacrifice, which must be completely eaten by dawn. First fruits are brought up to God's House-- they symbolize Israel's mission, to elevate all physical-sensual aspects of life, integrating them with one's Divine qualities. No kid may be seethed in its mother's milk (perpetuating RH's motherhood messages?).
E. THE HAFTARA is EZEKIAL 38:18-39:16
Ezekial speaks of God's angry, terrifying and earth-shattering Revelation when He leads the Israeli counterattack against Gog, whose soldiers will fight each other (cf. Zech. 14, the Arab nations)-- AND I'LL MAKE MYSELF GREAT AND SANCTIFIED AND BE INTIMATELY KNOWN IN THE EYES OF MANY NATIONS; AND THEY'LL REALLY KNOW THAT I'M GOD. God will then entice Gog to try war again (Malbim)-- Ezekial is to prophecy his fast downfall. His 3rd attempt is his last-- see C. Then his land, Magog, will be destroyed and his dead will be buried for 7 months; their weapons, useless in the Messianic era, will be a 7 years' supply of fuel (see Yer. Sheviis 4:8; will oil drop to $1/barrel?).
F. SIMCHAS BAIS HASHOEVA
On Sukkot, water is added to the usual sacrificial libations, n'sachim, of fine flour, oil, and wine, in the AM daily burnt offering-- an oral teaching from Sinai (Ta. 3a, Suk. 34a); Saducees rejected it. Faithful Jews sang and danced in ancient Jerusalem during Chol Hamoed, affirming and celebrating this unique libation-- YOU SHALL DRAW WATER WITH JOY (Torah, spiritual water, will also be a great joy, rather than a bothersome burden, when we shape up-- Is. 12:3). As Hakhel, Simchas Bais Hashoeva today is only a commemorative custom-- there's no Temple, no libations. How unfortunate: ONE WHO HASN'T SEEN THE (real) REJOICING OF THE WATER-DRAWING HAS NEVER SEEN REJOICING (Suka 51a).
We find water libations at Mitzpa (1S7:6), re David (2S23:17, 1 Ch. 11:17-8), perhaps also re Yaakov (Targ. Yon., I. Ezra on Gen. 35:14). THE HOLY ONE BLESSED BE HE SAID: "POUR WATER BEFORE ME ON THE FESTIVAL, THAT THE YEAR'S RAINS BE A BLESSING FOR YOU" (R. H. 16a). We see God's Providence and kindness in water, and then dedicate this basis of life back to Him; then we deserve the rain for which we pray at the end of Sukkos. Torah is compared to water. After unsuccessful attempts to curb levity, by keeping either men or women outside the Ezrat Nashim, where they celebrated, balconies were built for the women; holiness and propriety are difficult to maintain amidst massive public celebrations, e.g. Yom Atzmaut. Quiet meditative synagogue services aren't analagous. If, however, one takes the traditional view-- that the synagogue and yeshiva are social institutions to tame and spiritualize the wild male, then women are not primary participants. If these are family institutions, e.g. temples of modern non-traditionalists, why not have women head them too? Women teachers of Torah should be called Rabbi, Rab-bit or Professor; "rebetzin" describes only their role as Rabbis' wives. Per Gilder (Sexual Suicide), somes realms must be left to males to balance woman's innate superiority in birth and nurturing, e.g. career, defense and public leadership; otherwise they'll leave society. "= pay for = work" may be fair re the women involved, but destructive of social balance.
The drawing of water also brings down God's Holy Spirit, which accompanies great joy-- Talmud Jer., quoted in Tos. Suk. 50b. So God's presence descended on Yona the prophet when he came to the festival (Tal. Jer. 5:1); there his wife, a "woman at the Wall", successfully advocated female participation (Eruv 90b). A Sadducee priest (Hasmonean King Alexander Yanai per Josephus, Ant. 13:13:5) once poured the water upon his feet in disdain; the onlookers stoned him with their Esrogim (Suka 48-- cf. Mea Shearim)! The Tosefta (Suk. 3:4) adds that they broke off a corner of the altar in their holy vengeance, invalidating all further service, until it was repaired!! Were angry violent religious protests as counterproductive then as now?-- it's God's altar which winds up broken, when religion is used to excuse aggression. The zealous are often just jealous (cf. ugly attacks upon Rabbis Schneerson, Steinsaltz and Riskin).
G. KOHELET (Ecclesiastes)-- HOW TO AVOID SUNSTROKE
We read Kohelet, King Solomon's spiritual autobiography, on the intermediate shabbat of Sukkos-- if there's none, we read it on Shabbat in Israel, on Shemini Atzeret in "unclean" (other) lands. Solomon seeks transcendant eternity amidst our so limited lives "under the sun" (reincarnation is highly disputed); Kohelet balances the joyous Sukkot harvest festival, when vegetation, including our 4 species and our sukkot covering, enters winter's temporary death. He may have read it on Sukkos, after the sabbatical year; all then came to Jerusalem to hear the king read the Torah and preach wisdom. It contains several High Holidays seasonal themes, e.g. DEATH, the transient nature of all earthly experience-- here today, gone tomorrow; Shlomo labels all "a fleeting breath" (1:2-4), especially a human lifespan, howbeit "long", compared to the age of our universe, even to that of a very old tree. Thus Ramban tells us to minimize the importance of this limited world; he was ascetic, like Rambam & Son, probably unlike Rashi (see our Naso study).
Ch. 1 stresses that naturalistic philosophy gives no meaning to life; man must seek out the supernatural; per Ch. 2, one must nevertheless rejoice in her portion downstairs (The RH-YK-Sukkot cycle). Ch. 3 deals with the problem of apparently unavoidable evil in our present existence (cf. Haazinu and the recent terrorist masacres in Jerusalem); Ch. 4 expands 3:18-- secular Man remains a beast; dog eats dog in his "civilization" (cf. Gen. 20:11, medical and dental costs, Badatz vs. Belz). Ch. 5 explores greed, Ch. 6 the sources of happiness. Ch. 7's a guide to repentance, how to be good. Ch. 8 probes faith, Ch. 9, wisdom. Despite widespread oppression, the theme of Ch. 10, Ch. 11 proclaims that life is beautiful (cf. lush fields and forests near the concentration camps). Ch. 12 concludes that man's joy must be guided by His commandments, which channel it toward optimal happiness, elevating him from the beast. We can't explain the universe, but can sense the presence of all-knowing Elokim in it (from KOHELETH, LIFE & ITS MEANING, LEIMAN, $10 from TOP).
'TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY? Sukkos, the harvest festival, when nature begins its fall-winter sleep, reflects Kohelet's theme; indeed, harvesting itself is an act of "murder", killing vegetation so beautifully growing (cf. cut flowers on graves). Those who protest taking animal lives for corn beef cheerfully slay soybeans for tofu (some Easterners eat only the seeds of plants, thus destroying only future life-- cf. abortion); plants are alive too, perhaps sentient (see Tompkins, The Secret Life of Plants); should animal lovers eat many chickens?-- each fowl bought and consumed signals the computer to raise another; they can't make it on their own!
This happy thanksgiving harvest season is also the best time to absorb this sad message, without becoming depressed and/or non-functional-- when one's cownection with God and eternity is at its strongest, right after YK, he can experience the brevity of all existence, yet remain secure. The very gathering of seed, buried until springtime's "revival of the dead", broadcasts another great truth-- death too is temporary. My sukka's roof once grew from the earth, but is now detached and dying-- so must man transcend his earth-roots, while not forgetting earth, his body's origin and ultimate physical destination. While celebrating the vitality of nature, our willows and myrtles die before our eyes, as the leaves of our sukka roof fade and fall. The 2 focal species, lulav and esrog, last much longer, but not so long. A truly natural garden should contain dead and dying plants too, and some weeds (plants we don't like or use yet), tho we struggle to keep all life (except weeds, mosquitos, etc.) alive and strong as long as possible, especially our own bodies (cf. heavy smoking and nervous constant eating, escapes from tension and sadness-- gradual suicide; smoking is banned at Yeshivat Hakotel; Rav Kook gently reprimanded Rav Arye Levine for needlessly plucking a leaf!).
We learn the impossibility of doing anything perfectly and permanently, in searching for chometz on Pesach and for "perfect" and enduring 4 species on Sukkot. After our huge efforts to erect a grand sukka, we leave it within a week. Inability to know our future, WHO WILL LIVE, WHO WILL DIE, the YK motif, is experienced every sukkos-- rain remains unpredictable. Yet we rejoice, despite the Sukkot Uncertainty Principle-- BEN ZOMA SAID: "WHO'S RICH? HE WHO REJOICES IN HIS (present) PORTION (tho he may try for more), AS SAID 'WHEN YOU EAT OF LABOR OF YOUR HANDS, YOU'LL BE HAPPY & IT WILL BE GOOD WITH YOU'-- YOU'LL BE HAPPY IN THIS WORLD & IT WILL BE GOOD FOR YOU IN THE WORLD TO COME" (Avot 4:1 on Ps. 128). L'Chayim! To Life!
The rapid switch from the ordeal of YK to the rejoicing of Sukkos, from hot summer to cool fall, echoes the transient mood of Ch. 3-- EVERYTHING UNDER HEAVEN HAS ITS POINT IN TIME AND ORDAINED DURATION (per R. Almasnino); A TIME TO GIVE BIRTH AND A TIME TO DIE... A TIME TO CRY AND A TIME TO REJOICE. So the 4 species, taken only together, remind one of varied human archetypes and different parts of the body, each with its indispensable PLACE in the whole. Even the esrog, representing the tzadik, the self-perfected man, is taken with the inferior species, tho not bound to them (and their lifestyle). Ben Azai used to say: "DO NOT DISDAIN ANY MAN, NOR DENY THE NEED FOR ANYTHING-- FOR YOU'LL FIND NO MAN WHO DOESN'T HAVE HIS HOUR, AND NO THING THAT DOESN'T HAVE ITS PLACE" (Avot. 4:3). Koheles is basically a happy and optimistic book-- true, there is no ultimate profit in all human toil UNDER THE SUN, the decaying world of photosynthesis; yet true gain, transcending the human condition, can occur-- if one connects herself also to that world BEYOND THE SUN (Rav S. Aviner), guided by its and his Creator, via Torah.
The book ends: KOHELES SOUGHT OUT WORDS OF PLEASURE AND UNADULTERATED WORDS OF TRUTH (12:10). THE END OF THE MATTER, ALL BEING HEARD-- HAVE AWE OF THE LORD (of nature) AND GUARD HIS COMMANDMENTS (laws of nature and Torah?-- cf. "Beautiful is study of Torah with ways of the earth"-- AVOT 2:2; Hirsch advocates a combo of agriculture and Torah), FOR THAT IS THE TOTALITY OF MAN. FOR GOD WILL BRING FORTH EVERY DEED IN JUDGMENT, INCLUDING EVERY HIDDEN THING-- WHETHER GOOD OR BAD. (12:13-14).
RAV Y. STOLLMAN (Minchat Yitzchak) asks why the rabbis hesitated to canonize Kohelet. They surely had appropriate Torah responses to Shlomo's skeptical forays. But they feared that readers would imitate Shlomo's experimental meandering, in quest of the sweet mystery of life and love; unlike him, they'd probably not wind up OK; even if they eventually did, they'd have a wasted life behind them, too burnt out to live properly (per Saadya, this explains why we must be commanded to observe mitzvos, tho the Torah is indeed rational). The rabbis finally concluded that most people would get Shlomo's ultimate message-- NOT to follow his own example!
A generation comes and a generation goes-- we develop technology by learning from those who went before us, adding our own contribution; so with values and spirit-- we must first master our inheritance from our ancestors and Sinai, then do our own thing. Robinson Crusoe, starting from scratch, achieves little, remaining primitive; so the most technologically advanced man can remain morally primitive, if he won't learn from the past-- a major argument for studying history.
H. GOD IS PLEASANT
The talmud suggests that the oleander bush would fit the Biblical description of "thick leafed tree branches", as well as a myrtle does (Suka 32b, Lev. 23:40). Indeed, even Solomon could not figure out how the traditional 4 Sukkot species, part of the oral law, can also be derived from the verses (Lev. Raba 30:15). Abaye and Rava use common sense to reject this logical alternative-- God would never use such a nasty plant! It's leaves sting and it's bitter and poisonous-- "All ways of the Torah are pleasant and all its paths peace" (Prov. 3:17, also a basis for not eating and sleeping in a physically or psychologically uncomfortable sukka, tho authorities differ as to how much discomfort is to be tolerated). (To turn the fast days into feast days,) "love peace and truth" (Zech. 8:19). Oleandar (planted on the highway near Ben Gurion airport) isn't "truth", as it causes death (Rashi-- perhaps any harm latent in nature, e.g. toadstools, isn't its "true" nature; God made all good). Two simple conclusions are: 1) we're doing something wrong if mitzvos aren't pleasant and 2) all mitzva objects and performances should be aesthetically pleasing-- Aharon's garments are "for splendor and for beauty" (Ex. 28:2-- see our Haazinu study; so we've gone over to bigger type and a double sheet for these studies, despite the doubled cost and work involved).
So we add salt or other condiments to tasteless bread, unless it's already spiced, or we prefer it unspiced; the reason?-- so that we can thank God for His tasty bread with a full heart (Sh. A. 167:5-- see Ber. 40a, M.T. Blessings 6:3); we should set salt on the table as a sign of God's covenant, per Bet Yosef and Rama-- the Rav's Shulchan Aruch views this table salt as a reminder of the sacrifices, and as magical protection against Satan's accusation, that Jews waste time after ritually washing their hands, while waiting to bless God for the bread!!! (this doesn't make sense to me-- presumably, good Jews think about God and Torah, or hum a nice holy Shlomo tune, while waiting). Kabbalists, non-authoritative in Jewish law, recommend dipping the bread in salt 3 times; but that would be against the aim of the halacha, if we don't like the taste of salt on our bread.
The soul needs an attractive environment, just as the body needs food and water-- Rambam; cf. Ber. 57b. Whatever is done for the sake of the good God should be from the good and the beautiful, e.g. oil for the altar and clothes for the naked-- Issurei Mizbaach 7:11 (no shmatas). Thus a black (small baby) esrog is invalid. Should pious Mea Shearim also be physically attractive, with parks? Does a dour environment produce dour or angry souls? Bnei Brak and Geula are much better.
I. SUKKOT & NATURE
The Jews normally dwelt in portable TENTS during their desert trek. More durable and convenient BOOTHS were built during harvest or for long stays at an oasis, when dates and palm leaves were harvested and processed. The Jew now gwes out to his sukka booth only AFTER the harvest is in, showing that he's doing it only to fulfill God's command (Tur O.H., 625). The etrog is a symbol of fertility; thus the nipple or stigma, part of the plant's female organ, a visible symbol of fertility, must not be broken off. Only in esrogim does it often stay attached to the fruit after ripening. Simple folk believed that eating it relieved barrenness, and helped one to bear MALE children (tho little girls are nicer and holier, women in the good-bad old days wanted to please their husbands and produce more wage earners). The esrog (pri etz HADAR) is also unique in producing fruit throughout the year; flowers coexist with ripe fruit, dwelling (ha-dar) together on their tree-- no generation gap. The willow of the brook symbolizes our dependence on water and on God, who supplies it. It is called hoshana (save us!), for the farmer now worries about the impending rain, without which the willow will quickly perish. The myrtle is a symbol of immortality and success (after our Y.K. self-struggle; it withstands drought, just as the Jew survives sin to repent). The lulav represents victory over our enemies, a prerequisite to a successful harvest-- Lev. Raba 30 (Nogah Hareuveni, Nature In Our Biblical Heritage, Neot Kedumim Ltd., Israel's Biblical Landscape Reserve).
In the merit of our YK fast, may we have ample food the whole year, and experience God's miraculous kindness. In the merit of leaving our homes for sukkot, may we all peacefully remain in them, as mini-temples, the other 51 weeks.
J. ESOTERIC ESROGIM
Belief in the following chassidic excursion by Yehoshua Persky (now a technical writer) is optional, not necessarily recommended! WARNING (per Rav Yichya Kapach, Z"tzl)!-- absorption in such realms can harm your happy healthy mental state and keep you from proven productive solutions to the many vicissitudes of life. Rambam (in his letter to the Jews of Marseilles) says that the Jews, despite their sins, could still have saved their Temple and homeland, had they sacrificially mastered military and political science, rather than wasting their time on nonsense like astrology! But sad unfortunate Ibn Ezra believed in astrology.
The Baal Hatanya writes: "No creature can grasp anything whatsoever of the essence of God, the Creator... there is then no true ... cleaving to Him. However, the life force of the esrog, for example, is drawn and descends from the very essence of the outer aspect of the vessels of nukva (rising feminine waters from below) of the Minor Visage of Atzilut, a state of Godliness-- Per Etz Chayim, all fruit are "in" Atzilut. For the 30 vessels of Atzilut descended into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah (Creation, Formation, and Action; they're the Ten Utterances by which the world was created), thru enclothment in the nukva of Asiyah, essence in essence. For the vessels of Atzilut become the soul of Asiyah, which is actually a state of Godliness. In Atzilut, 'He and the vessels are one', Emanator and Emanation (Tanya IV, ch. 20). By clothing the essence of soul in the essence of the vessels of nukva of Asiyah, the etrog came into being (cf. the birth of the blues). Thus when one seizes the etrog and waves it as the Halacha requires, he is actually seizing the life-force clothed within it, of the nukva of Atzilut; this is united with the Infinite Light, the Emanator, blessed be He" (Kuntress Acharon, ch. 4). So, tho one may not comprehend the entire Torah, he can become closer to it by actually grasping it and dancing with it on Simchas Torah.
YF: Why did traditional ashkenazic scholars oppose chassidut? Such concepts of embodiment of Divine Spirit in inanimate objects can lead to Calfian non-Jewish objectification of God (cf. the mystical properties ascribed to Shabbat food, red strings and the Wall by some Chassidim-- see Ascent #22); Vilna Gaon opposed prayers to even angels or other intermediaries, e.g. Friday night's refrain, Shalom Aleichem.
Creation can be divided into mineral, plant and animal worlds. A seed of an esrog is planted in mineral ground, to which God commanded: "Let the earth sprout forth... fruit trees" (Gen. 1:11). The life force contained in the ground is elevated to the level of an Etz Pri Hadar, the foremost of the fruit trees-- the tree itself tastes like the fruit; God indeed commanded earth to put forth such FRUIT TREES BEARING FRUIT, but it "disobeyed"-- most trees are only TREES BEARING FRUIT, with no taste of the fruit in the tree itself; thus esrog is a foretaste of an ideal world, where trees (means) will be as tasty and satisfying as their fruit (ends, goals); yet the esrog is NOT one of the 7 praised species! (see our Ki Savo study).
The seed again appears in the fruit, but it is actually the skin of the fruit which shines forth at the highest level (YF: cf. the higher vitamin content of the peel). By grasping the skin of the fruit, which has no blemishes or holes, a perfect vessel containing a perfect soul, we raise the life force of the fruit and ourselves even higher, connecting more directly to Hashem. We can't approach a unity beyond comprehension with our minds alone (vs. Rambam?).
K. PLANTS AR' US
Halacha recognizes distinctions of class and quality, even amidst the unity of mankind-- when binding the 4 Sukkos species together, the arava (willow), symbol of uninspired and ignoble man, is to be the lowest-- tho its grows quickly, it dries and dies first; higher is the hadas (myrtle)-- its fragrance symbolizes the aesthete, the orator, etc.-- it smells good, but gives no fruit; so the lack of truly good deeds, mitzvos, often characterizes those of beautiful expression (cf. artists' lives and "the falseness of charm and the transitory nature of beauty...", Proverbs 31:30); the myrtle dies next.
The lulav (date palm) is highest, and lasts longest, in the binding of the species-- giving fruit, but lacking fragrance, it represents those who live properly and do good deeds, tho uninspired and uninspiring. Innately higher, and surviving all the others, is the esrog (citron)-- yielding both fruit and fragrance, it represents the tzadik (righteous man).
Our myrtles must be m'shulashim, 3 leaves emerging from the same position on the stalk, thruout its upper portion (there are differing standards of the length so required); if the myrtles are highly fertilized or over-watered, the stalk with the first leaf will grow before the second and third leaves emerge, leaving a space between the 3 leaves in each set on the stalk; this criterion exists only re the myrtle-- perhaps that which represents fragrance must also be that most disciplined and structured in its growth-- cf. religious pop singers.
SUBLIME SUKKOT SUKKA SLEEP
A well-edited version of this article appeared in the Jerusalem Post Sukkot Magazine, 1996, Greer Fay Cashman editor.
2 Problems in Jewish law and life share a common Sukkot solution:
1) Sukkot is a strange paradox-- on the one hand, it is the holiday of the highest joy, of the fall harvest, of festive meals in the sukka, of simchat beit hashoeva; we say hallel every day and exalt in God's glorious gift of nature, waving the four species. On the other hand, paradoxically, it is also when we read Kohelet, where Solomon dwells upon the transient, bitter, and seemingly meaningless nature of so much of life. Amidst our joy in nature, we also experience the sad limits of life under the sun, the death inherent in all life, as our 4 species and plucked sukka schach (natural covering) wither and die before our eyes. The whole Jewish calendar is intercalated such that Passover must fall in the spring and Sukkot in the fall-- apparently a theme or leitmotif of the holiday is that of the fall season, following the harvest, when trees shed their foliage and nature begins its own long fall-winter sleep, akin to death, itself but a prelude to its spring-Passover revival. We'd expect the mitzvos of the holiday to reflect this theme. The requirement that our 4 species and sukka roof be made of detached, "murdered", dying plant life is indeed an example; but it should be experienced in our persons too. How?
2) We recognize God in every realm of life, both by words and deeds. We don't only thank Him for our food, but live the message that He's our Sole Provider, by refraining from certain foods, and sometimes from all food, at His command. Sleeping and awakening are also profound primal daily human experiences; besides being accompanied by extensive consciousness-raising prayers and blessings, we'd expect some specific mitzva involving sleep too. What?
Both problems are solved, when we explore Leviticus, where Jewish males are indeed commanded to "dwell", i.e. to sleep, eat and drink, in the sukka, for one week a year, on Sukkot (Lev. 23:42-3); we thus commemorate and re-experience Israel's post-Exodus trek in the desert; the verse closes: "... for I am God your Lord" (man's only true "home" and sanctuary). Females may (not "must") also live in the sukka, if they wish, with due credit; apparantly, whatever sukka is supposed to do for Jews is already found in Jewesses, or is unnecessary for their unique mission, or is achieved by other means.
The law of sleeping in the sukka is even stricter than that of eating and drinking there, tho the latter is far better known and observed-- light snacks may be eaten outside the sukka, while even a catnap must be slept in the sukka (see Sukka 25a, 26a, and the various Codes of Jewish Law, especially The Rav's Shulchan Aruch). Indeed, while we often dine in others' homes, we're more reluctant to sleep there, somehow more comfortable sleeping in our own beds, as we lose our self-control and our unconsciousness takes over, in the mysterious world of dreams. We're told to leave the illusory security and permanence of our homes, to eat and sleep in the sukkah; sleep itself is a foretaste of death, to be followed by awakening, while large festive meals, seemingly a life supporting gesture, also have the opposite effect-- they put us to sleep! (Rav Shlomo Aviner). Yet we don't completely abandon human protection, sleeping outdoors under the heavens, but must build a sukka and sleep in it, stressing both the need for human initiative and self-reliance and its limits.
But one should not dwell in the sukka, if its uncomfortable, e.g. cold and wet, unlike one's home, or if he has to do an important mitzva; some travelers are exempt (see Sukka 25f, 32b; Sefer Hachinuch #325). Some hassidic pietists, pupils of the Besht and Reb Levi Yitzchak, were impervious to such discomfort, amidst their religious ecstasy in the sukka-- they ate or slept there, despite cold, rain, etc. But most ashkenazic folks simply found it too cold and wet in Eastern Europe, and, later, in the East Sides of N.Y. and London, to sleep in the sukka; thus the most important aspect of dwelling in the Sukka, sleeping there, gradually sank into Ashkenazic oblivion, to be revived only today, as we begin our Messianic return to our warm holy homeland; even many not-so-observant Sefardim, who never left the middle East for colder climes, emotionally and physically, sleep in the Sukka as a matter of course.
A similar basic mitzva, beyond dispute, is to make an annual blessing thanking God for nature's "waking up", producing beautiful flowering fruit trees, each spring in Nissan-- the season when enslaved Israel "woke up", "flowered", and left Egypt, to produce its first fruits at Sinai on Shavuot. Here too pious, even learned, Ashkenazic Jews, in their cold European exile, where no fruit trees bloomed in Nissan, gradually abandoned the mitzva and forgot that the blessing existed, until our return to warm Israel; again, the average Sefardic Jew, who never left the Middle East, recites the blessing, without having to be reminded by the Artscrolls Siddur; but the Bostoner Rebbe took his congregants to the Boston Arboretum, where Japanese cherry trees bloomed in Nissan, to make the annual blessing.
An unusual Habad "tradition" generates much criticism from other Orthodox Jews-- Habadniks are extra extra strict re even casual eating in the sukka, which is permitted-- one doesn't ordinarily drink every coke at home, so he needn't do so in his temporary home (today many folks frequently eat even full meals out too; the previous rebbe wouldn't even drink water outside the sukka, even in bad weather); Habadniks also appreciate sleep-- one's never late for their minyanim on Shabbat! Yet most habbadniks, even in warm Israel, completely ignore the mitzva of sleeping in the sukka (the European origin of this practice, tho later transformed into mystical catagories, may be that one CAN eat in the sukka, tho uncomfortable, in bad weather, but simply CANNOT sleep there then, without constantly waking up). The Rebbe tried to justify this blatant lapse (rather than objectively questioning its validity, or attributing it to weather conditions in Eastern Europe) in his sukkot study (in hebrew, 5754), based on a way out application of the sukka's "discomfort dispensation".
The rebbe claims, following the Mittler Rebbe, that a mystical aura of Bina (sublime understanding) encompasses the Jew in the sukka; filled with ecstasy, he couldn't possibly sleep there; so Yaakov, per Rashi, exclaims that he wouldn't have fallen asleep, were he aware of God's special Presence at Bet El (Gen. 28:16). Since the holy man too must sleep on Sukkos, he must do so at home! He also cites Talmudic rabbis, who dozed on each other's shoulders, presumably not in a sukka, when they stayed up all night at Sukkot Simcha Bet Hashoava festivities. Even run-of-the-mill, less inspired, Chasidim are also exempt from sleeping in the sukka, as they'd feel terrible discomfort at being able to sleep there, at being unable to perceive the Divine aura, as did the Mittler Rebbe!!!!! In any event, the Rebbe adds, good hasidim imitate their rebbe!
I'm not convinced-- I slept in my sukka in cold Boston and, a fortiori, the Good Lord willing, will continue to do so in so much warmer Jerusalem! Here are some of my objections to the Rebbe Ztz"l's arguments:
1) Nowhere in Torah, Talmud, Midrash, the Codes or Sefer Hachinuch is such a mystical reason given as an excuse for ignoring the male mitzva of sleeping only in a sukka on sukkot. Even the "Bible" of Chabad, the Shulchan Aruch of Rav Schneur Zalman, its founder, makes males sleep, even nap, in the Sukka-- he mentions no such exemption; on the contrary, he adds that only the truly observant slept in their cold sukkot; he even urges his readers to build a sukka in which they can sleep comfortably with their wives, thus fulfilling 2 mitzvos at once (639:7f). Why defend a practice of later Rebbes, perhaps originally induced by bad weather and/or health, against the Baal Hatanya's clear ruling? Moshe, the Prophets, Talmudic rabbis, and the Baal Tanya certainly experienced whatever there was to experience in a sukka-- yet they slept there. 2) Yaakov simply states, per Rashi, that he normally wouldn't have slept in God's Presence-- but if God, via the halacha, told him to do so, rendering sleeping the only authentic way to experience Him, Yaakov would have certainly complied with zeal. 3) Why copy one's rebbe's actions, the basis of which doesn't apply to oneself. If the rebbe doesn't eat meat or fish on Shabbat (despite his desire to elevate them to become part of a Divine Image Jew), because of stomach troubles, why should his hasid copy him? The talmudic rabbi who adopted his rebbe's leniency regarding irregular haddasim, cited by the Rebbe, was simply showing others that this was permissible, not ignoring a halacha.
4) The Rebbe's general rule-- that one should do what one's rebbe does, and think what he thinks-- seemingly opposes basic religious principles, urging man to be both himself and unique, like God Himself; Rav J. Soloveichik, as Rav Shlomo Carlebach, wanted his pupils to draw their own conclusions as to their thoughts and actions, not to slavishly imitate him-- Rebbe Zusia is to be the best Zusia possible, not Moshe Rabbenu. Rambam (Guide) claims that individual Divine Providence applies only to human beings (a leaf or dog is more or less like any leaf or dog), and only to the extent that a man/woman is a unique independent being, not a pious groupee. 5) If hassidim are truly in pain that they can't sense the mystical Divine aura in the sukka, they should never enter it, even to eat and drink. 6) The fact that rabbis left their sukka to rejoice at Simchat Beit Hashoeva does not contradict the mitzva of dwelling in the sukka; the sukka's to be like your home, not your prison. The fact that they fell asleep on each other's shoulders a bit, involuntarily, doesn't mean that they'd deliberately, God forbid, sleep outside the sukka; they may indeed have slept in nearby public sukkot, like those at the Western Wall. Another possibility is that they slept a bit on each other's shoulders, rather than lying down to sleep normally, as they wanted to avoid the prohibition of napping outside the sukka, which would not apply to just sleeping a moment while standing up or sitting down. Likewise, eating very small quantities of food requires no blessing.
Rav Gedaliah Fleer fears the further alienation of Habad from mainstream Judaism, due to their non-orthodox stand on this halachic issue; the ties are already strained by their attempts to crown the rebbe Moshiach, even after his death-- this alienated many Jews from this great great leader (cf. "n-na-nach-Nachman", which should be countered with "n-no-no-Nachman", to protect Rav Nachman's deservedly great rep), while re-opening the Pandora's box of Christianity. This is true of any group or individual who strays from accepted historic halachic norms. But, when otherwise wise and great men seem to speak illogiclly, they may be responding to emotional pressure, e.g. to defend their faith, society or family. Tho they're greatly respected, their illogical views should be rejected. But those weak souls whose great rabbis must always be right (unlike Moshe) will indeed advance many complex, tho outlandish, arguments and citations, to prove their point.
The rebbe likewise rejected religious Zionism, Rav Kook's great vision of the beginning of the gradual growth of our redemption-- tho he might have inwardly entertained similar conclusions, religious Zionism was opposed by much, but not all, of the hassidic community, e.g. Satmar, Belz, Munketch and the Rebbe's predecessor, Habad Rebbe Shalom Dov Bear, circa 1912; Modern British Chassidic Rabbi Harry Rabinowitz has written extensively on Hassidic attitudes to the Zionist Movement and the State of Israel.
A chassid doesn't (openly) question his rebbe, or even consider that another great rabbi might understand certain issues better; so a rebbe doesn't (openly) question his predecessor, tho history has shown him wrong. Rav Joseph Soloveichik (in The Rav Speaks) criticized followers of pre-WWII misnagdic "gdolim", who perpetuate their mistaken anti-Zionism; they themselves would have realized their error, as did formerly anti-Zionist Munkatsh Dayan Y. Teichtal, had they survived. Rav Kook said that we must be most critical of our own rebbes' faults (everyone from Moshe on down has some), to avoid adopting them as our own. Great habad authority Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin did not accept the rebbe's halachic authority as a posek, ritual decisor, despite his truly awesome greatness; he disagreed with the rebbe's opinion, after the 6 Day War, that Jews must leave Jerusalem for the first day of Passover-- they'd be obligated to offer the paschal lamb today, per Rambam, since Israel was again in control of the Temple Mount and Old Jerusalem. Many accepted Zevin's view, rather than the rebbe's, tho quite a few left Jerusalem for Kfar Chabad for the first day of Passover. A few years later, the rebbe himself said that they could remain in Jerusalem, despite the Rambam, since Moshe Dayan had given control of the Temple Mount back to the Arabs (as related by Rav Uri Kaploun).
Zevin indeed ignores the above highly questionable Rebbinic Sukkot teaching-- in his famous work, The Festivals In Halacha, he too rules that even sukkot naps must be napped in the sukka. Habadniks need not view the rebbe as their posek, no matter how much they rightfully adore him. So Rav J. Soloveichik was not viewed as a posek, tho he was greater than Rav Moshe Feinstein in other realms. Rav Baruch Horowitz of Dvar Yerushalayim Yeshiva also found the Rebbe's reasoning very difficult, when I related it to him; he recalled that the Rabbi of Kfar Chabad itself, about 20 years ago, Rav Schneur Gorelik, ruled that its residents must, as all male Jews, sleep in the Sukka.
In conclusion, I urge all Jews, including Chabad, to observe the halacha and sleep in the sukka, a generally delightful experience in Israel, if it's not physically or psychologically uncomfortable to do so (e.g. sleeping in another's sukka). One reason I bought my own home in the Jewish Quarter was that it has adequate space for a sukka with bedrooms, and for a Yemenite esrog tree in the sukka, which yields several esrogim each year. May we all have sweet holy dreams in our sukkos this year!
P.S.S.S.-- A Post-Sukkot Sleep Study
After writing this article and includinmg it in my internet studies, I was greatly gratified to hear of many fine folks who began observing this basic mitzva as a result. While preoccupied with this issue on Sukkot last year, I decided to close our center and take off a few hours to visit my son and his family in Nechusha; while there, my daughter-in-law providentially returned some books she'd borrowed months ago, to write a paper on Chabad and Meessianism. As I scanned them, I noticed Letters by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vol. 1, Tishrei-Adar; immediately, of course, I looked up Sukkah in the index-- lo and behold, I found a letter written by the Rebbe Ztz"l himself, before his illness, on 7 Cheshvan, 5715, where he addressed the issue, as well as that of decorating the sukka, where I do identify with chabad tradition:
"Rabbi.... conveyed to me your question as to why it is not the custom of Chabad Chassidim to decorate the Succah, as well as to sleep in the Succah.
"This question calls for a lengthier explanation than this letter would permit. However, I trust the following points may suffice:
"I. Re Decorations
(1) Generally, a Mitzvah must be observed on its Divine authority (with Kabalat ohl) and not on rational grounds, i.e. for any reasom or explanation which we may find in it. An exception, to some extent, is the case where the significance of the Mitzvah is indicated in the Torah, and our Sages have connected its fulfillment with it. At any rate, only a qualified person can interpret it more fully.
(2) We have a rule that a Mitzvah should be performed to the best of one's ability, as the Rambam explains (at the end of Hilechoth Issurei HaMizbeach). This applies especially to the object of the Mitzvah itself, e.g. a Talis should be the best one can afford, an offering should be the most generous, etc.
(3) Unlike the Sechach and walls of the Succah, decorations are not an essential part of the Succah, but an external adornment which adds to the enjoyment of the person sitting in the Succah; they are, as the name clearly indicates, supplementary objects which decorate and beautify the external appearance of the Succah.
(4) The attitude of Chabad Chassidim in this connection, as taught by generations of Chabad leaders and teachers, is that the Succah is to imbue us with certain essential lessons, which are explained in Chassidic literature and the Talmudic literature in general. It is expected of Chabad Chassisdim that they should be impressed by the essential character of the Succah, without recourse to 'artificial' make-up; that the frail covering of the Succah and its bear** walls not adorned by external ornaments, rugs or hangings, should more forcibly and directly impress upon the Jew the lessons it is meant to convey.
** I assume that the Rebbe means "bare" here, tho the talmud and Mishna Bruriah do discuss the rules of a sukka where a live animal is used for a wall; my son Danny has a hunch that talmudists who did some manual labor or farming in that era, instead of spending day and night on such speculations, might have been more balanced healthier people than their collegues! What do you think? -- cf. Einstein, who enthusiastically raced funds for Y.U. in the 30's.
""II. Re Sleeping in the Succah
(5) In order to safeguard and inspire a greater feeling of sanctity toward the Succah, sleeping in it is not practised by us. The basis for this is two-fold: First, we have a rule that "Hamiztaer patur min haSuccah" (suffering exempts one from dwelling in the Succah). Secondly, during sleep a person is not in control of himself, and, furthermore, the very act of undressing and dressing, etc. inevitably creates a common-place attitude towards the place which serves as a bedroom. Such a depreciation of attitude toward the Succah (by sleeping in it, as explained above), from what his attitude should properly be towards the Mitzvoth of G-d, whereby He has sanctified all Jews, would be deeply felt by the Chabad Chassid, by virtue of his Chassidic teachings and upbringing, and would cause him profound spiritual suffering (cf. marriage and sexual relations). The combination of these two considerations, therfore, led to the custom not to sleep in the Succah.
"However, if a Jew feels absolutely certain that his sleeping in the Succah will not in the slightest affect his attitude toward the sanctity of the Succah, and is consequently free from any mental pain that might be caused thereby, he is duty-bound to sleep in it, in accordance with the fullest meaning of "Ka-ayn soduru taishvu", to make his Succah his dwelling place to the utmost.
"I hope the above will provide an adequate answer to your question, but should you desire further clarification, do not hesitate to write to me.
Here the Rebbe, as the Talmud and the Rav's Shulchan Aruch, doesn't even mention any alleged discomfort from the very act of being able to sleep in the sukka, implying that one does not worry about not perceiving its mysterious holy aura. The problem of changing clothes in the sukka, if indeed it is a problem (it's also not mentioned in any traditional sources), is easily solved by changing outside the sukka. In any event, the Rebbe himself here clearly says that a male Jew MUST sleep in a sukka, if it does not entail any physical or psychological discomfort. Since it's quite clear that most Chabadniks do NOT feel bad just because they don't sense a holy radiance in the Sukka, they thus have to sleep there, even according to the Rebbe; I don't know why whoever edited the 1994 Sukkot sheet did not add this most relevant letter of the rebbe; perhaps he was unaware of it or forgot it. In a last minute attempt to defend Habad practice, before my article was published, a Habad Hasid told me that Belz chassidim also do not sleep in the sukka; for their rebbe, Yissacher Dov's defense of their practice, he referred me to Nitei Gavriel R.H. 16; I duly conveyed his message in our Internet study; but a Belz Boy checked this out for me and discovered that this was not true-- most Belz hassidim in warm Israel do sleep in the sukka, and the alleged source, incorrectly cited, only exempts one from sleeping in the sukka if lice share his bed there!
Enough!! I'm getting tired and want to go to sleep (in my bedroom, as sukkot 1997 is still two nights away!).