Rabbi David Walk, Education Director

Congregation Agudath Sholom | 301 Strawberry Hill Ave | Stamford, CT 06902 (203)-358-2200 www.agudathsholom.org

Monday, September 27, 2010

Walk Article


Sukkot II-5771

Rabbi David Walk


      I thought that in lieu of my regular article that I'd share my sermon from the second day of Chag.  So, here goes:  Sukkot is called Z'man Simchateinu, the Season of our Joy.  Why?  We could give any number of answers:  We're happy because God forgave us on Yom Kippur or because it's the harvest season.  But I think that there's a technical reason:  In the Torah, the term simcha-joy is applied to Sukkot three times. By Pesach the word doesn't appear at all, by Shavuot just once.  So clearly the Torah has mandated that this is the season of our joy! 

This brings up the question, then what are the three joys of this holiday?  I saw a number of answers, but none caught my fancy. So, I'd like to share a thought with you.  This is the week of sitting in the sukkah.  The Sukkah dominates our being this week.  So, it's interesting that in New York City this week there was a display of winners of a Sukkah design contest in Union Square.  A few were beautiful, a couple interesting.  All were Kosher!  Which led one Jewish artist from Queens to comment that this was the first kosher thing he had ever done.

            The two most fascinating were described by the New York Times in following manner:  Of the winning designs perhaps the most daring is the log sukkah (by Kyle May and Scott Abrahams), which balances an 18-foot-long tree trunk atop walls made entirely of glass. The most moving may be the sukkah comprised of signs that its designers (Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello of Oakland, Calif.) bought from homeless people. The result will be a meditation on how little separates the world's housed and housed-nots.

            Some of the signs they bought were interesting, for example:  Share it or take it to the grave.  Begging proudly since 1961.  Spaceship needs fuel, please help!  Kick me, $1.  Sometimes everyone needs a little help!  My favorite:  Blah, blah, blah money, Blah, blah, blah food, Nobody reads signs anyway.  And then:  Helping people helps your soul

This is the point.  Our great Sukkah custom is welcoming the Ushpizin:  Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon & David.  Some people have a similar list of Ushpizot.  Girls need role models, too!  The source of this custom is the Zohar.  In Parshat Emor the Zohar says:  Come and see, when man sits in this dwelling, which is the shadow of Faith, the Shechinah spreads her wings over him from above and Abraham, WHO IS CHESED and five other righteous, THE SECRET OF GVURAH (Yitzchak), TIFERET (Ya'akov), NETZACH (Moshe), HOD (Aharon), AND YESOD (Yosef) and King David, who is Malchut, fix their dwelling with him.  Rabbi Aba said, It is written, "You shall dwell in booths (Heb. SUKKOT) seven days," and then it says , "they shall dwell in booths" (Vayikra 23:42). It first says, "You shall dwell" and then, they "shall dwell." The first is for the heavenly guests. The second mention, is for people in general.  It behooves us to gladden the poor, and less fortunate. The reason is that the portion of the heavenly guests belongs to the poor. He that sits in Sukkah and invites these lofty guests, yet does not give to the poor, all the Ushpizin stand back from him and say, "Do not eat the bread of him who has an evil eye..." (Mishlei 23:6). 

In other words the Sukkah requires us to share our bounty with others, especially the poor. The Zohar then tells us the story of the tent of Avraham Avinu, that it was open on all sides and he searched for poor to invite in.  That was his Sukkah!!  So, the builders of that cool Sukkah got it right!  When we look at the flimsy walls of our Sukkot we should see the need to share what we have.  When new gaze at the stars through our delicate roof, we should understand the need to give!  This world, this life is ephemeral, fleeting. We recited on Yom Kippur:  A man's origin is from dust and his destiny is back to dust, at risk of his life he earns his bread; he is likened to a broken shard, withering grass, a fading flower, a passing shade, a dissipating cloud, a blowing wind, flying dust, and a fleeting dream."  So, that sign which said:   Share it or take it to the grave, got it right.  If you can't find poor to invite, then donate to organizations who feed the poor.  Make that part of your Sukkot commitment.

On Erev Chag a dear congregant asked me:  How can we stay happy for seven full days?  I didn't give a cogent answer.  I, instead, commiserated that it's difficult.  Now, I think that I have an answer.  Give, share, make others happy and you'll be happy. It's like the gifts to the poor on Purim.  How can I be happy if I know that others are suffering?

Finally, I believe that I can answer my original question:  What are the three Smachot, joys of Sukkot?  It's not three aspects or types of joy.  Instead, it's three recipients of the joy:  1. The joy I spread to another, who either doesn't have food or doesn't have a Sukkah.  2.  This makes me happy.  3.  And God is gladdened that I understood the message of my Sukkah!  Please, make God and the Ushpizin happy.

Chag Sameach!



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