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.’





Safeguarding Our Holiness

9 03 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Safeguarding our HolinessIn his discussion on Parshat Shekalim, the Shem MiShmuel asks two penetrating questions. The machazit hashekel was donated in Adar and was used to fund the new cycle of korbonot tzibbur (public sacrifices) which commenced in Nissan. Why was it necessary to dedicate the entire month of Adar to collecting the half shekel when it could have easily been accumulated in less time?  Additionally, why is Nissan the beginning of the new season of sacrifices? Why do we not count from Tishrei, when the Jewish year actually begins?

 

The Gemara in Rosh Hashana notes that the Divine machshava (thought) to create the world took place in Tishrei. The actual creation began in Nissan. Rashi adds that when Hashem first conceived the world, he intended to create it with middat hadin (strict justice). However, because man is such an unpredictable and fickle creature, he foresaw that din alone would not work. Although angels are programmed to do good, humans have free choice and are constantly changing. This is our greatness and also our weakness. Life is a road with many curves, ups and downs, and triumphs and failures. The ultimate victory of good over evil, the battle of the inner self, is the ultimate human struggle. Therefore Hashem decided to use an unpredictable system, midat hachesed. A world based on mercy is a world filled with surprises. Indeed chesed is at the heart and soul of the teshuva process. Man can rectify his deeds by changing his ways. Our instability can create something wondrous, a transformation of self. In Tishrei, we face Hashem’s din. Not too many of us can pass muster. Therefore Hashem gave us a different time frame, Nissan, the month of chesed, the month when the Jewish people sunk in the forty ninth level of impurity were redeemed through Hashem’s mercy.

 

Life’s purpose is to build a relationship with Hashem. This is achieved through movement from above and below which will always affect a response. In Chassidic terminology it is called “iserusa d’letata” (arousal from below) and “isresua d’leyla” (arousal from above).  This is the difference between Tishrei and Nissan. In Tishrei, the month of din, man must take the first step. It is our obligation to do what is right and Hashem responds in kind. Chesed, on the other hand, begins from Hashem. It comes from above.  We have no claim on it. However there is a factor that can trigger it. Hashem redeemed us from Egypt despite our unworthiness because he saw our potential for greatness. He invested in us. This is the chesed of Nissan. It is a month of awakening, a month when Hashem extends us a credit line and gives us blessings, not for what we are today, but for what we have the potential to become. This is a moving testimony of Hashem’s love for us. We  actualize His trust by tapping in to our will to grow and connecting to the inner point of our soul which can never be destroyed.

 

Modesty and chastity are the hallmarks of the Jewish nation. Discarding this can cause us to lose our very identity. Yosef was the epitome of modesty. He remained holy despites the many temptations he encountered in Egypt. Mechirat Yosef was the abandonment of that model. The twelve tribes sold Yosef for twenty geira and each of them received half a geira. With the machazit hashekel, we make a commitment to rectify Mechirat Yosef and to follow the example of our holy leaders. We can then be deserving of Hashem’s beneficence.

 

The month of Adar is dedicated to correcting the sin of immorality, to connecting to the Beit Hamikdash, to bringing the sacrifices necessary to lead a holy life, to becoming a tzaddik like Yosef, and to actualizing the potential Hashem implanted within each of us. In this way we will merit the  heavenly mercy, the isrusa d’leyla, which immediately follows in Nissan, the month of chesed and ultimate redemption.





Shabbat Shuva: Torah & Tefila, Components of Teshuva

6 09 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

Shabbos Shuva

In the Haftora of Shabbat Shuva we read, “Kechu imachem devarim v’shuvu el Hashem. Take with you words and return to Hashem.” The verse continues, “Kol tisa avon vekach tov uneshalmah parim sfaseynu. May You forgive all iniquity and accept good, and let our lips substitute for bulls.” It seems as if the end of the verse is a repetition of the beginning. The Malbim explains that the first part signifies teshuva m’yirah while the second part refers to teshuva m’ahavah. When one does teshuva out of fear, one gains an understanding of what it means to be close to Hashem and to experience the sweetness of Torah. This propels us further to continue and deepen our love for Hashem.  Teshuva m’ahava transforms sins into good deeds. Consequently, in place of sacrifices, only words will be necessary. Devarim refers to words of Torah and tefila. How do these words impact teshuva?

The Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva notes that a sinner’s mitzvot are destroyed and can only be recaptured when he performs teshuva. What does this mean? Rav Solomon explains that it does not mean that the mitzvot are actually decimated. Rather, they are like burning candles hidden behind a thick veil of sin waiting to be revealed.  “Kechu imachem devarim,” confess your sins. “Imru eilav,” pray to Hashem. “Vkach tov,” allow the good energy to flow through.

This is why we recite on Kol Nidrei night, “Ohr zerua l’tzaddik ulyishrei lev simcha.” Let us bask in the light planted for tzaddikim. Now that we’ve repented, allow us the joy and benefit of those hidden mitzvot. Rav Dessler notes that a critical part of teshuva is praying to Hashem to remove the sins blocking our path so that we can ascend further in avodat Hashem. It is difficult to repent in darkness and the light of mitzvot cannot be accessed before doing teshuva.  Therefore, the first step is to do one or two mitzvot and feel its hidden sweetness. This will ignite a person’s desire to do teshuva and ultimately propel him onward.

In Timeless Seasons, Rabbi Roberts quotes the Gemara that “Kechu imachem devarim” refers to words of Torah. Without knowing what is wrong a person cannot see the error of his ways. Therefore, a pivotal part of the teshuva process is studying the Torah, particularly halacha. One can only be a true servant of Hashem if he studies the details of how to be one.

On Shabbat Shuva, the prophet Hoshea adjures us, “Shuva Yisrael ad Hashem Elokecha. Return   O Israel to Hashem.” The greatest aspect of teshuva is “Ein od milvado,” recognizing that there is no entity that we can rely on, but Hashem. Physical strength, finances, and well connected friends, are all illusory and transient.  Just as an orphan has no one to turn to but Hashem, our only real hope is our Father in Heaven.





Guest lecturer Rabbi Ilan Segal teaches about the Three Weeks

16 07 2009

The Three Weeks, A Recurring Pattern

In this guest lecture by Rabbi Ilan Segal of Afikei Torah Seminary in Jerusalem,  Rabbi Segal explores Bein Hamitzarim as part of a pattern of three week time periods which recur in Nissan and Tishrei.

Rabbi Ilan Segal, Menahel of Afikei Torah Seminary in Yerushalayim. For the past 10 years he has built the school and guided its students.  He has Semicha from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and served as the Rav of Pretoria, South Africa.