Why is Succos in Tishrei as opposed to Nissan?

10 10 2011

Naaleh.com presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg discussing why Succot in in Tishrei and not Nissan. Visit Naaleh.com for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers. You can sign up for Rabbi Ginsburg’s weekly Divrei Torah by sending  an email to beinishginsburg@gmail.com.

Why is Succos in the fall as opposed to the spring? This is a question which many of the Rishonim[i] and Achronim[ii] have dealt with. One opinion in the Gemara (Succah 11b), is that we build succot in order to commemorate the ananei hakavod, the clouds of glory, which Hashem provided for us in the midbar. This is the more widely accepted opinion[iii]. Hashem provided us with the ananei hakavod immediately after we left Mitzrayim, in the spring. So why is the yom tov of Succos delayed until the fall?

One classic answer is offered by the Tur (siman 625). The Tur explains that Hashem wanted the mitzvah to be done in a way that it would be readily apparent that the booths were being put up for the sake of the mitzvah and not for personal convenience. In the spring it is common for people to leave their homes to go out and to live in booths in the shade. So, if the yom tov of Succos ware to be celebrated in the spring, it would not have been readily apparent that we are sitting in the booths for the sake of the mitzvah. Therefore, Hashem gave us the mitzvah in the fall, in Tishrei, at the time when people normally go back into their homes. If a Jew leaves his house to go sit outside in a booth at the beginning of the rainy season, then it is clear that he is doing so only to serve Hashem and not in response to the onset of the summer[iv]. This is the famous approach of the Tur[v].

However, there is a difficulty with this comment of the Tur. The Rambam provides a different reason why Succos is in the fall. The Rambam writes[vi], “In this season it is possible to dwell in tabernacles as there is neither great heat not troublesome rain.” In other words, Succos is in the beginning of the fall because the weather is quite pleasant now- it is not too hot, it is not too cold, and it is not raining yet. Hashem loves His people and He wants the mitzvos to be pleasant for us, therefore Succos is in the fall. Those of us who live in Eretz Yisroel or spend Succos in Eretz Yisroel know that the Rambam is right. The weather is pleasant now. At first glance it is difficult to square this Rambam with the Tur. Based on this, one can ask, what exactly does the Tur mean? How is it more readily apparent that one is sitting in the succah for the sake of the mitzvah when Succos is in the fall as opposed to in the spring?

There are two possible approaches to the Tur. One is that although the weather is pleasant, the rainy season is close and it does rain sometimes. Hashem could have worked it out the weather was even better, that Succos would have been celebated during the best time to go out to the succah. And, since sometimes it does rain and a person would not go out into the booth when it rains, therefore it shows that it is for the sake of the mitzvah. Even if the weather is pleasant at this time of year, it would still be less apparent in the spring that we are building succahs for the sake of the mitzvah.

The other possibility[vii] is that we have to take a new approach to what the Tur meant. It could be that the Tur’s focus is not that the rainy weather already has begun at the time of Succos. But rather that the rainy season is imminent. In the spring, when it is beginning to get hot, it is normal for a person to go outside and build a booth, which he will then use as his summer home, his summer bungalow, for the hot spring and summer. However, a person would not leave his home and build a bungalow in order to use it for a week or two and then run back into the house when the rain begins. That is what is strange about going out into succot now. It is not that the weather is presently unpleasant, but rather it is very close to the beginning of the rainy season. Therefore, it is clear that a person is going out for the sake of a mitzvah and not due to personal conveniences based on the weather conditions.

These are two approaches as to why Succos is in the fall, the approach of the Rambam and the approach of the Tur.

Chag Sameach,

B. Ginsburg


[i] See the Ramban in Vayikra 23, 39-43

[ii]Aruch HaShulchan siman 625

[iii] Rashi (Vayikra 23,43) quotes this view. The Shulchan Aruch (Siman 625) quotes this view as well.

[iv] The language of this paragraph is taken from the Artscroll on Succos, p. 46.

[v] The Tur’s language is, “yireh la’kol she’mitzvas Ha’Melech hi aleinu,” “it should be apparent to all that this is a commandment of Hashem upon us.” The world “la’kol” is striking. Some explain that the Tur here is saying that it should be apparent not only to the Jews, but also to the non-Jews as well. This is the approach of Rav Chanoch Karelenstein zt”l (Kuntres b’Inyanei Succos p. 22).

Rav Karelenstein explains that he thinks that this Tur is hinting to another famous theme of Succos, the connection of goyim to Succos in general. On Succos we offer seventy special korbanos mussaf, the first day thirteen, the second day twelve, going down to seven. Why? Chazal explain that these seventy korbanos correspond to the seventy nations. This reflects the connection of goyim to Succos.

We read in Zecharya (Perek 14; this is the haftorah for the 1st day of Succos) that l’asid la’voh the non-Jews will come to Yerushalayim to celebrate Succos, and if they do not, they will be punished. This is very striking. We do not find sources that l’asid la’voh the goyim will be commanded to celebrate Pesach or Shavuos. This shows a very strong connection between Succos and non-Jews. What is the explanation of this connection?

The meforshim discuss what is the connection between the goyim and Succos?  One approach is as follows. The basic theme of Pesach is that Hashem chose Am Yisroel as the special, chosen nation. On Shavuos we received the Torah. The themes of these yomim tovim are not universalistic in any way. The basic message of Succos, however, is Hashem’s hashgacha over us, over Am Yisroel. Hashem watched over us, guided us, and guarded us in the midbar. We know that the hashgacha over Am Yisroel is very special. But, Hashem governs the non-Jewish world as well. So the idea behind Succos is more universalistic, the idea of hashgacha applies to the non-Jewish world as well. This approach I heard from Rav Leff shli”ta, and Rav Karelenstein zt”l has a similar approach.

Rav Karelenstein quotes another beautiful remez for the connection of goyim to Succos. The minimum size of a wall of a succah is ten tefachim tall and at least 7 tefachim across. Ten times seven equals seventy. Rabbeinu Bachya says that this is a remez to the seventy nations (Sefer Kad Hakemach, Os Samech).

Rav Karlenstein maintains that the Tur is hinting that we want to perform the mitzvah of Succah in a way that everyone knows that it is for the sake of Hashem, including the non-Jews. Why? Because the theme of Succos has a connection with the non-Jewish world as well. A fascinating chiddush from Rav Karelenstein.

[vi] Moreh Nevuchim part 3 chapter 43

[vii]  I mentioned this approach to Rav Nevenzahl shli”ta, and he said ‘Efshar this is the correct pshat in the Tur.’

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Adding to Shabbat

14 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Michael Taubes

Adding to Shabbat

In Parshat Vayakhel, the Torah tells us, “Six days you shall work and on the seventh day you shall rest.” When does the seventh day actually begin? Can one accept Shabbat early? The earliest time when one can voluntary accept Shabbat is plag mincha, approximately one and half hours before sunset.  It has become accepted in many communities to have an early minyan for Kabbalat Shabbat, especially during the long summer days when nightfall is very late. If the Torah specifically says that Shabbat begins on the seventh day, and since in Jewish law the next day is only counted from nightfall, how can one accept Shabbat when it is still day?

 

The origin of accepting Shabbat early is a verse in Parshat Emor that relates to Yom Kippur. “V’initem et nafshoteichem… You shall afflict your soul on the ninth of the month in the evening.” The Gemara asks, if Yom Kippur begins on the ninth day at night then shouldn’t the Torah refer to it as the tenth day. Why mention the ninth? The Gemara answers, “Mosifin m’chol al kodesh. The weekday is added to the holy day.” We begin fasting while it is still day. Indeed, most shuls commence Kol Nidrei before sunset. The Gemara adds that all holy days during which we refrain from work fall under the category of mosifin, we begin early and end late.

 

The Rambam, however, records this law with regard to Yom Kippur only and does not mention it in relation to Shabbat and Yom Tov. The Kesef Mishna explains that the Rambam held that tosefet Shabbat was neither a d’oraita nor a d’rabanan obligation.  The Radvaz disagrees and explains that the Rambam did hold that this law applied to Shabbat. He only mentions it in relation to Yom Kippur because it is implicit that since Shabbat is holier than Yom Kippur it would most certainly apply to Shabbat. L’halacha, there are significant opinions that hold that one should add on to Shabbat and one may certainly do so if one wants to.

 

The Maharshal asks, if one davened Maariv on Friday night while it was still daylight, can one still count the Omer? He answers that something related to Shabbat can be done after accepting Shabbat even though it is still daylight. However, something dependent on actual nightfall like Sefirat Haomer, must be done after tzeit hakochavim.  Similarly, if one davened Maariv while it was still day, he is obligated to repeat Shema after nightfall.

 

The Maharshal rules that one should not accept Shemini Atzeret early, since the two competing days would raise a problem of whether to recite a bracha before eating in the Sukkah.

 

The general consensus among many poskim is not to accept Shavuot early as the verse specifically states, “sheva shabotot temimot,” seven complete weeks. However, the Taz disagrees and counters that once one accepts the Yom Tov it automatically becomes seven complete weeks.

 

There is a disagreement among the Baalei Hatosfot if one can accept Pesach while it is still day. One opinion allows it. Others disagree based on the verse, “V’yochlu et hapesach b’layla hazeh.” The sacrifice must be eaten at night. Since matzot and marror have the same halacha as korban Pesach it must be eaten after dark. Can one still accept Pesach early if he argues that it will take untill nightfall to eat the matzot and marror? According to the Terumat Hadeshen anything unique to Pesach must be performed in the evening. This would include Kiddush and the four cups of wine. Technically, one can daven earlier, but the Seder must begin when it is definitely nightfall. Similarly, one cannot accept Sukkot early because the Gemara draws a correlation between the first night of Sukkot and Pesach.

 

The Taz notes that the obligation to eat three meals on Shabbat is derived from the verse that repeats the word hayom, this day, three times. The question then arises, does tosefet Shabbat allow a person to eat the Shabbat meal when it is still day, or does it only permit one to pray the Shabbat davening? Some opinions hold that one can eat the meal and others disagree. The Mishna Berura suggests that one extend the meal into the night and eat a kzayit after dark.

 

To summarize, one can accept kedushat Shabbat and Yom Tov earlier, as tosefet Shabbat has the power to transform a mundane weekday into a sanctified day. However, it does not transform the astronomical aspect of the day and therefore, any mitzva that is connected to nightfall must be performed after the stars emerge.





Eating Before Davening

30 12 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Ari Jacobson

Eating Before Davening

The Gemara teaches us, based on the verse in Vayikra, “Lo tochlu al hadam,” that one may not eat or drink before Shacharit. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch writes that one who does eat is referred to in the verse, “You have cast me behind your back.”   In Hebrew, the word gabecha (back) can be interchangeably read as geyecha (arrogance). Tending to one’s own physical needs prior to acknowledging the source of one’s sustenance is haughtiness in one of its highest forms.

 

The accepted ruling in the Shulchan Aruch is that one may drink water before praying. Similarly, someone who is very weak and will be unable to have minimal concentration may eat before davening. However, at the very least, one should recite birkot hashachar beforehand. The majority of halachic opinions permit drinking coffee or tea if a person needs it to concentrate in prayer. The Mishna Berura prohibits adding milk or sugar as one may only drink what is minimally necessary. However, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach writes that in our times when most people can afford milk and sugar and are generally accustomed to it daily, it is permitted. Going beyond this and having a cappuccino or a double vanilla shake is prohibited.  The Kitzur writes further that someone who is old or weak and cannot wait till the end of davening on Shabbat and Yom Tov, when the prayers are lengthy, should daven Shacharit at home, make kiddush and eat something, and then go to shul for Mussaf.

 

How do these halachot apply to women? The Mishna writes that women are obligated to pray because they need Hashem’s mercy too.  The Rambam holds that the Torah obligation of tefilah is to pray once a day in any language as long as it includes praise, supplication, and thanks.  The specific text and times are d’rabanan. The Ramban disagrees and states that tefilah on a daily basis is completely d’rabanan. Only in times of distress does prayer becomes a Torah obligation.

The Magen Avraham notes that women in ancient times who would pray a tefillah in their own language were relying on the Rambam. Some modern day poskim continue to argue that women can fulfill their obligation with a short prayer that includes praise, supplication, and thanks. Others say that they must recite the Shemonei Esrei of Shachrit and Mincha daily. The consensus among all poskim is that women are exempt from Maariv because this was originally voluntary for men.

 

Rav Shlomo Zalman rules that the halachot of eating before davening apply equally to women.  Therefore, a woman must pray before eating unless she is weak or infirm, in which case a man would be exempt too. On Shabbat, a woman should daven whatever prayers she is accustomed to praying and then make Kiddush.

 

Many times, women who are busy with their family may make it to shul late on Shabbat. If a woman arrives when the tzibbur is already davening Mussaf, she should daven Shacharit first. Rav Akiva Eiger writes that women may be exempt from Mussaf. This is because even though Shacharit and Mincha have an element of sacrificial services, they are mainly an expression of compassion.  However, Mussaf strictly corresponds to sacrifices. Since women did not contribute to the half shekel and did not participate in the sacrifices, there is a machloket whether they are obligated to pray Mussaf at all. Therefore, for women, Shachrit takes precedence over Mussaf.





Harmonizing Torah and Science

14 10 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Harmonizing Torah and Science

If you are a Torah Jew contemplating a career in the sciences, there are three ideas to keep in mind. Truth is essential reality, not reality plus an agenda or will. A person who is tahor is genuinely human with nothing impure inside of him to impede his soul. This divine aspect is what differentiates us from the animal kingdom. The opposite of tahara is tuma which is defined as a blockage. Sin creates a mechitza, a barrier, which blocks us from accessing holiness.

The Ramak explains that every limb and organ requires veins and arteries to feed it blood. If there is a blockage, the limb or organ will die. Similarly, spiritual blockages cause our spiritual selves to die. Because we place such great value on tahara we try to prevent ourselves and our children from being exposed to an environment where lack of tahara, spiritual integrity, and truth is normal.

You may ask, “Why be so intimidated, why not just stand up for the truth?” The Rambam writes that people are naturally influenced by their environment on two levels. They want to feel accepted in the culture they live in and they want their friends to approve of them. Inevitably, they tend to adapt their beliefs and opinions. Therefore, we are unapologetic about demanding tahara. If you haven’t heard it all before you don’t have a protective armor built up to defend yourself. It’s normal to not quite know what to do with yourself. Do not be ashamed of this. It’s a reflection of your tahara, of not being calloused and damaged.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the Torah warns us, “Do not stray after your eyes and heart.” The heart refers to heresy and the eyes to desire. This tells us that people will naturally stray after their heart and turn to heresy. The difference between a tzaddik and a rasha is that a tzaddik‘s mind controls his heart while a rasha‘s heart controls his mind. People are drawn to heresy to conveniently justify patterns of behavior.

The third thing to consider is authority. Just because the professor has letters after his name does not mean that he has the full and final picture. Science is continually evolving. Something we thought factual today can turn out not to be so tomorrow.  We can see a part of the picture in the present, while more of the picture continuously reveals itself. You have to learn to examine what is true and what is not.

The closer something is to observable physical reality, the more likely it is to be true, rather than something that requires many assumptions along the way. In every possible dating system no one tries to answer one basic question: “How did something come from nothing?” The focus of science is certainly not the mystery of life. It’s easy, especially when there is an agenda, to see absolute reality when there are only question marks. The important thing is to figure out where factuality begins and ends and where supposition takes over. This is tricky because a hypothesis can turn out to be true but many times it is not.

Judaism has never been afraid of science. Science is the picture of reality as we know it. There’s nothing wrong with taking a snapshot. There is something wrong with saying that the snapshot is everything. The same holds true with liberal theories. Identifying a problem doesn’t mean knowing the solution. Judaism isn’t intimidated by questions. It is afraid of the haphazard tendency to create solutions that solve nothing.

If you will be studying the sciences, learn to master the art of “birur“, taking what is holy and good and rejecting what is evil. May Hashem guide our steps and help us maintain our inner purity and sechel hayashar (straight thinking).





Meaningful Prayer- Asking For Mercy

3 08 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

visa

The core section of Shemoneh Esrei is the blessings of bakasha – asking for mercy. This comes after we have already established through the first three blessings of praise, that Hashem has the power and will to help us in any way He sees fit. The Rambam writes that the thirteen requests for individual and communal support are archetypes for all personal requests that a person may have. Many of these requests are spelled out specifically. The thirteenth blessing of Shema Koleinu is a catch-all blessing where we can ask Hashem to listen to all of our prayers.

Rav Soloveitchik notes that we can see the greatness of Hashem in the inclusiveness of Shemoneh Esrei. Whatever minute trivial request a person may have, he is able to include it within the Shemoneh Esrei and Hashem will listen to him. Hashem, the Master of the universe, the King of kings, is ready and willing to help us with anything that ails us. Our Sages gave us the basic format of thirteen platforms of bakashot, but they left it open for us request anything.  We should approach prayer with the notion that any request is legitimate. There is no limit to what we can ask Hashem to do for us, whether tiny or gargantuan, whether to heal your little pinkie or to bring the Messiah. The only address is our Master and King, our loving Father, Hashem.