Daily Israel Report

Judaism: Sukkot, Water, and Breishit

Sukkot is all Nature: harvest-season, etrog-citron, palm-leaves and branches. During Sukkot, we instill the "Elyon", the Almighty who is Above and who created the world, into Nature.
Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 6:59 PM


In 1926, the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv was dedicated. Well-meaning, but essentially cynical, criticisms were voiced, that this was "too little and too late" an addition of religiosity to the secular "anti-Jerusalem" that had been founded some twenty years earlier. Rav Avraham Y. HaKohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Palestine, reacted with his typical insightfulness:

"The simple answer is that there have been dozens of synagogues built in Tel Aviv since its establishment. But besides that fact,
When Jews poured water on the Altar in the Temple, they were remembering the waters of Creation.
one should realize that all the labors and efforts that have been put into the building of this Jewish city have been, as it were, a preparation and training for the building of this holy dwelling place".

Rav Tzvi Tau explains: "The labors in the sphere of the nonholy (Chol) and the natural are the first arousals of Life in this process of the Redemption. Initially the revealed, outward trappings of nationhood awaken, and on this foundation follows the building of the Holy (Emunat Iteinu, vol.8, page 164). It is the distinguishing character of Israel to see the Divine Light ( Or) that preceded our World and fills it, as well as to discern the ultimate End which is hidden in the depths of the Reishit, the beginning".

Rav Kook continues; " This is why the Torah begins ' Breishit bara Elokim', in the beginning, the Lord created-and did not start with G-d's name: ' The Lord first created'. For all of Creation relates the honor of the Lord, and even when His name is not immediately mentioned, doubtless it will reveal itself afterwards. For the Almighty is the core of all Creation, and nothing will stop the eventual appearance of His Great Name".

 "And the Spirit of the Lord hovered on the face of the waters"(Genesis 1,verse 2). Rav Kook explains that we Jews remember these waters on Sukkot, in the Nisuch Hamayim, the Temple ceremony of the Water Libation, and in the Simchat Beit HaShoeva, the Joyous Celebration of the Water-Drawing.

As opposed to Pesach, the holiday of the birth of the Nation of Israel, with its miraculous birthing process of Ten Plagues and Exodus, Sukkot is all Nature: harvest-season, etrog-citron, palm-leaves and branches. During Sukkot, we instill the "Elyon", the Almighty who is Above, into Nature. Without Sukkot, this world, this Creation, including all of humanity, would have no connection to G-d. When Jews poured water on the Altar in the Temple, they were remembering the waters of Creation, and remembering the Divine thoughts that preceded, planned and formed the basis of Creation, preceding all the rules of Nature.

Rav Kook: These are the Ma'asei Breishit, the fundamental processes of Creation, which are impossible to transmit (l'hagid) to men of mortal flesh ( Talmud Chagigah 11b; Ramban, Breishit 1,1).

 The Rambam explains that the "laws" used by our Almighty Creator to establish the laws which run our universe, are laws of an elevated, boundless nature deriving from a limitless Creator. From these primordial Divine laws evolved the laws of a limited character that underlie our revealed world. "But", Rav Kook continues," even though we can't fathom these underlying laws of the process of Creation, we gain a hint of them, on Sukkot, with the Water-Drawing ceremony:

 On every day of Sukkot we read a section of the Torah corresponding to the Temple sacrifice brought for the welfare of humanity as a whole. In this section( Numbers, 29,verses 12-29), the Almighty left us the outline of a hint, intended for this  Sukkot time period in which Israel begins its creative activity , following in the 'Spirit of the Lord which hovered over the waters'. For on the second day, the extra letter Mem  in the word 'their libations'(v'niskeiheM); the sixth day with its extra yud in 'its libations'(u'nsachEha); and on the seventh day, the extra letter Mem in 'according to their statutes'(k'mishpataM); these three extra letters spell 'mayim',Water, and hint at the Water Libation ceremony of the Temple" ( Rav Kook, quoted by Rav Tau in Shiurim L'Moadei Tishrei, page 84).

Rav Tau finishes with a quote from Rav Kook: " On Sukkot, we drive into Nature the Hod HaKodesh, the Holy Majesty, which is above all Nature, into the deepest depths of Nature( as we pour water on the Temple's Altar, it runs down to the very foundations of the Earth) and into the depths of the human heart of flesh, into the great material mass of humanity, into the Nature that lies on this gross Earth, into this cursed Earth of land which the Almighty Himself cursed"( Genesis,3,17). Rav Tau says that this is a repair ( Tikun) that we do for all the Earth, for all Nature/Creation.

This curse is, of course, a reference to the story of Adam and Eve, and the Snake, the first encounter with Evil. As we prepare to leave our Tishrei holy days, and return to (and work on and in) the everyday world, we take the lesson of the Water Libation with us.

Unfortunately, many Jews have been poisoned by the snake, in spirit and in their view of Israel. The Almighty might not have transmitted the Ma'asei B'reishit, these underlying secrets of Creation to us, but He did transmit to Israel one thing: "Koach Ma'asav higid l'amo, lateit lahem nachalat goyim"- He transmitted to His Nation the strength of His deeds, to give them the heritage of the nations "(Psalms 111,6).

Rashi  begins his commentary to the Torah with the above idea: until the coming of the Messiah, Jews should not be confounded or dispirited by the world calling us "robbers of the Land of Israel". This will not end, and no phoney “Peace process “will stop it; and it is not true: for in the very first verse of the Torah, the Almighty declares that He created the Universe and this Earth; He has given His Holy Land to His holy people Israel; and He has transmitted to us the koach, the strength, to conquer and settle this land.

These are Divine commands and bequests, and those who cynically call them evil, have been tainted by the words of the Snake.  This Evil contaminates not just "goyim", but unfortunately also Jews, and Israelis, and even those in the ruling echelons of this country. We can only pray that we soon merit to replace cowards and fools with those imbued with "Koach ma'asav", those who learned the lessons of the Waters of Creation.