Rabbi Dovid Saks
Succos 5771...Torn Between
Jack found himself stranded in traffic on the eve of the Succos holiday and realized that he would not make it to his planned destination before the holiday began.
His saving grace was that he had friends nearby who could possibly host him for the holiday.
He called one of his friends and told him his predicament, and he graciously invited him to stay for the holiday. However, he told him that although he constructed a Succah, neither he nor anyone in the community had the four species of the Esrog, Lulav, Haddasim and Aravos.
Jack said, “Okay, I’ll get back to you.”
He quickly called another friend who was close by in the other direction, who was also more than glad to have him stay with him for the holiday. However, he said that although he had the four species; neither he nor anyone in his community had a Succah.
Besides having the frustration of not being able to get home for the holiday, Jack was now faced with a dilemma as to where he should stay. He wondered which Mitzvah takes precedence, the Mitzva of Succah or the mitzvah of the four species?
Jack quickly called his rabbi, and posed the question to him. The rabbi told him that this question is addressed in our Halachah sources and they conclude that one Mitzvah does not have precedence over the other so one may choose on his own which mitzvah to perform.
Jack was a stickler, and pressed his rabbi as to what he would do if he was himself in this situation. His rabbi told him that the Succah would be his first choice since the Mitzvah of sitting and eating in the Succah presents itself first, because it begins the first night of Succos, while the Mitzvah of waving the four species is not performed until the morning. Furthermore, the Succah is utilized both during the day and night, while the Mitzvah for the four species is only performed in the day.
During the holiday when the portions of the Torah which pertain to the holiday of Succos were read in the Synagogue, Jack noticed that the Mitzvah of the four species precedes the Mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah. He wondered if the fact that the Torah presents the Mitzvah of the four species first, gives it precedence over the Mitzvah of Succah.
After the holiday, Jack discussed it with his rabbi, who told him that a great Rabbi in Israel, Rabbi Chaim Kanievski, explains that the Torah placed the Mitzvah of the four species first, because the Torah had just spoken about the Holiday offerings brought in the Temple in Jerusalem. The four species were waved each of the seven days in the Temple, however, the Mitzvah of Succah has no direct connection to the Temple.
I was wondering, why isn’t there a Mitzvah for a Succah to be built within the Temple confines, just as the four species are required to be waved in the Temple? Perhaps, the Succah – hut that we build and dwell in during the Holiday of Succos is infused with a sanctity akin to that of the Temple, therefore the holy Temple itself does not require a Succah. Additionally, the Holy Temple itself is referred to as a Succah as indicated in the language of our prayer when we pray that the Davidic Dynasty be restored and that the Temple be rebuilt at the time of the coming of the Messiah.
After this experience Jack became intrigued and tried to find other differences between the Mitzvos of Succah and Lulav. He and his rabbi came up with the following: Although the Mitzvah of waving the Lulav is a Torah obligation on the first day of Succos, outside of the Temple it is only a Rabbinic Mitzvah the rest of the Holiday, whereas the Mitzvah of sitting in a Succah is a Torah obligation for the entire Succos.
Based on this, there may be an advantage to going to the place that only has a Lulav where he will be able to fulfill the Torah command of Lulav on the first day, and after the conclusion of the first days of the Holiday, he can travel home and sit in the Succah and fulfill his Torah Succah obligation.
One thing is for certain, through this Torah exercise we fulfilled a Torah obligation of delving into and studying our precious Torah!
Wishing you a most happy, joyous and inspiring Holiday, and hoping that you have the opportunity to fulfill all the Mitzvos in the best possible way!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and Family