Rabbi Dovid Saks
Succos 5774 Joyful, Upbeat and Inspiring
The Holiday of Succos is saturated with Mitzvos. Standing foremost are the Mitzvah of taking and waving the four species – the Lulav, Esrog, Hadassim and Aravos, and the Mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah. There is an entire tractate of the Talmud – our Oral Law – dedicated to explaining and
expounding on all the observances of Succos. The Tractate explains the parameters of the validity of each of the four species, and goes into great detail describing the dimensions, materials and placement of the Succah.
The great Vilna Goan (1700’s) observed that there are exactly 85 Succah structures discussed in the Tractate which are invalid, which is significant regarding the Succah, because the Gematria – numerical value of the word ??? - Succah, is 85. Throughout the Talmud the word Succah - ????is spelled with an additional letter Vuv. The word Succah with the added Vuv (6) makes the Gematria of Succah equal 91. The Vilna Goan points out that there are exactly 91 Kosher Succah structures discussed in the Tractate!
As impressive as it is for us to appreciate the brilliant mind of the Vilna Goan and recognize that the amount of cases of Kosher and non Kosher Succos cited in the Talmud is not random. There is additional significance to these numbers.
In our tradition, the number 91 is noteworthy, because the numerical value of G-d’s special four letter Name as it is written equals 26, and the way we pronounce and express this name, Ad-o-noy equals 65. These two numbers together equal 91.
Our Sages tell us that a Kosher Succah on the Holiday attains a sanctity similar to that of a synagogue, and that G-d’s protection hovers over the Succah. Thus is it no coincidence that the word Succah spelled with the Vuv equals 91 – the combined names of G-d.
Commentators point out something very interesting. The form of the letters of the word Succah hints at the type of walls one can have for a Succah structure. The letter Samach - ? - is closed on all sides, representing a full four walled Succah. The letter Chaf - ? - represents the validity of a Succah that has three walls. The letter Hay - ? - represents the Succah that is kosher with two walls with an additional four inch piece for the third wall.
The Succah experience can be very special, uplifting and joyous; it just depends on one’s approach and outlook. The Talmud relates that in the future, when it becomes abundantly clear how beneficial Mitzvos are for our welfare in this world and in the World to Come, the nations of the world will complain that they were not given the Torah and will plead to G-d to give them an opportunity to perform a Mitzvah. G-d will give them an easy Mitzvah, the Mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah.
The people of the world will enthusiastically build Succos on their rooftops, and move into them. G-d will then cause the sun to shine very strongly, and it will become unbearably hot in the Succos. They will leave their Succos and will kick the wall of the Succah upon exiting.
The Talmud asks: After all, the law indicates that we are allowed to leave a Succah if remaining there causes serious discomfort, so what did they do wrong by exiting the Succah? Answers the Talmud, yes, their exiting the Succah will not be the problem; rather, it is their kicking the Succah as they leave which indicates their innate aversion, disgust and disinterest in G-d’s Mitzvos.
In the climate of the world we live in today, when our thinking is about conveniences, speed and innovation, at times one might view our deep-seated Mitzvos and traditions as hassles and inconveniences. For example, on Succos, we leave the comforts of our homes to eat and dwell in an outdoor hut at a time the weather is not conducive, which at times can be an inconvenience.
By focusing on the spiritual benefits of the Mitzvah one can attain a positive mindset.
My siblings and I along with the many guests and young students who had the fortune to witness the enthusiasm, excitement, creativity and appreciation for Mitzvos of my mother, of blessed memory, have etched in our minds a genuine image of an upbeat approach to Mitzvos. Her smile and positive outlook made our Mitzvah experiences a thrill, a pleasure and privilege.
On Succos, our Succah was exquisitely decorated with her hand crafted beautiful creations; it made the Succah so regal and inviting. My mother’s twenty-eighth Yahrtzait is on the third day of Succos. Her memory is a continued blessing and inspiration to us all.
Wishing you a most joyous, festive and uplifting Succos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family