Rabbi Dovid Saks
The Holiday of Succos is celebrated by dwelling in a Succah – a booth constructed of four walls with a roof of natural materials, such as detached branches, leaves and bamboo. We are only protected with this simple covering in order that we reflect for an entire week that just as G-d protected our ancestors while they were traveling in the desert toward the Land of Israel, so too, we are always protected by and connected to a Higher Source - G-d.
The Torah commands us to celebrate the Holiday of Succos at the time of the year when the weather is turning cooler, rather than when the weather is warmer and more predictable, to display that we are doing this solely to fulfill the Mitzvah. The Torah instructs us to take four species on the Holiday of Succos; a Lulav – center palm branch, Hadassim - myrtle branches, Aravos - willow bush branches, and an Esrog.
It is interesting to note that the Torah does not say what type of fruit the Esrog is. The Torah calls it Hadar - beautiful. If left to our own devices we would each choose a fruit which we would consider beautiful, so the question is, how do we know that it is the Esrog that the Torah means by Hadar? That the Torah means an Esrog when it says “Hadar” is part of our oral tradition handed down from Moshe to the Jewish people. The fact that everyone uses an Esrog for this Mitzvah is testament that our traditions have endured for over 3300 years!
The Talmud adds, that besides Hadar meaning beautiful the word Hadar also means which dwells/remains. An Esrog is the only fruit that can remain on the tree for more than a entire year overlapping with the new crop of Esrogim on the same tree!
The Zohar - book of Kaballa - teaches us that when we dwell faithfully in a Succah, we will merit welcoming G-d’s Presence along with the seven “faithful shepherds’ who descend from their heavenly abode and enter our Succos as exalted Ushpizen - guests. The seven faithful shepherds of Israel are: Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaacov, Moshe, Aaron, Yosef and King David. These Guests observe how their descendants fulfill the Mitzvah of Succah - dwelling under G-d’s protection. (Very similar to Elijah visiting us at the Seder on Passover.) All seven guests come to every Succah throughout the seven days of the Festival, but on each day one of them leads the others as the guest of honor. There is a text that can be read each day where we invite these special guests.
There is a something fascinating concerning the days of Succos when these guests arrive. Moshe leads the group on the fourth day of Succos, and Aaron on the fifth day and King David on the Seventh day. If you look at the Hebrew calendar you will see that each year the days of the week that the Yahrtzait - anniversary of the death, of Moshe (7 Adar), Aaron (1 Av) , and King David (Shavuos) fall out on, are precisely on the same days of the week that they lead the Ushpizen on Succos. This year Moshe visits on Thursday, Aaron on Friday and King David on Sunday – Check it out.
The third day of Succos will mark the 30th Yartzait of my dear mother Malka Saks – Malka bas Yehoshua Aaron. Among my mother’s many talents was that she was artistic and creative. She used these talents particularly to beautify Mitzvos. Our Succah was regally and majestically adorned with beautiful drapes and splendid and stunning one of a kind exquisite adornments depicting the character and attribute of each of the Ushpizen. (Of course – I thought David’s was the nicest.) I, along with my siblings, relatives, and her friends and many young impressionable students she devotedly taught, feel most fortunate to carry with us a stunning image of such a wonderful, magnificent and outstanding role model, whose pleasant and blessed ways serve as a guide in so many areas of our lives!
For her senior high school year, my daughter Gitty, wished to attend the Bais Yaacov High School in Passaic New Jersey. I placed a call to the principal Rebetzen Stern and introduced myself and asked if it was possible to make an appointment for an interview for my daughter.
When she heard that Gitty was entering into her senior year, she told me that she generally speaking does not take a new student for twelfth grade. She then asked me for my name again; and then asked if by any chance my mother’s name was Malka. I said, ‘yes.’ She paused, and said to me I’m going to take her application into consideration, and then went on to explain why.
“I was raised in Minneapolis, and for high school my parents sent me to New York to attend the Bais Yaacov School. I was shy and had not made friends yet. Your mother noticed this and came over to me and invited me to her house for that first Shabbos and because of that, it eased and greatly helped my transition and success, I am therefore ever so grateful.”
I wasn’t surprised by the story, because it perfectly described the person my mother was all her life. But what touched me was that a nice and sensitive deed my mother did some forty years earlier benefitted her granddaughter Gitty, who had a fantastic year in Bais Yaacov of Passaic!
May her memory be of blessing!
Wishing you a most joyous, uplifting and inspiring Holiday!
Rabbi Dovid & Malki Saks and family