Sukkah - the mitzva that does not make you 'empty pocketed'

The Gemara says that G-d tested the non-Jews with the mitzva of Sukkah, easy to keep because it does not involve monetary loss, And?

Danny Ginsbourg ,

Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg
INN:DG

An intriguing Gemara relating to Sukkot:(Avoda Zara 2.-) says:

In the days to come, Hashem will invite all who have toiled in Torah, to claim their just rewards. The nations of the world will rush to claim this reward, arguing that all that they did, such as building bath-houses (note: the Romans did build bath houses) was for the benefit of the Jews, Bnei Israel, to enable them to better engage in their Torah study.

Despite derisively dismissing their claims, Hashem says to them: ’Nevertheless, I have a מצוה קלה: a Mitzvah that is easy to perform, Sukkah is its name, go and perform it.'

‘Why is it called a מצוה קלה? Because there is no חסרון כיס: no monetary loss (literal translation: no lack of pocket) in its performance.

‘Immediately, they all go and erect sukkot on their roofs; Hashem causes the sun to burn as in its hottest time, and each one of them מבעט בסוכתו: kicks the sukkah he had erected, and goes out from it.

‘Would we not also leave our sukkot in this situation? Yes, but we would not kick our sukkot.'

Comments the Bnei Yissaschar: ’Though we are פטור: exempt, from the Mitzvah of Sukkah in these circumstances, do we do so disdainfully? Not at all. All our yearning is to merit to perform Mitzvot.’

Adds the Be’er Mayim Chaim:’Whilst מצטער פטור מסוכה: One who suffers, is exempt from the Mitzvah of Sukkah, his real צער, suffering, is that he cannot then perform this Mitzvah.’

Rav Chaim Friedlander brings a different - a literal - interpretation to the idiom, מצוה שאין בה חסרון כיס, literally 'does not lack a pocket' actually refering to not emptying one's pocket of money : ’This refers to a Mitzvah which ‘does not lack a pocket’: that is, it includes a receptacle.’

He elucidates by comparing two types of קרבנות, Temple offerings:’The olah offering is a Mitzvah שיש בה חסרון כיס: that DOES LACK ‘a pocket’- the offering is completely consumed, and the offerer does not receive any of the meat of the offering.'

‘The shlamim offering, on the other hand, is a Mitzvah שאין בה חסרון כיס: that DOES NOT LACK ‘a pocket’- the offerer receives part of the meat of the offering, and eats it.

‘The Mitzvah of the Sukkah is like the שלמים, because אין בה חסרון כיס: there is NO LACK of ‘a pocket’; the person receives something: he sleeps, he eats and he dwells in the Sukkah- indeed, this is the fulfillment of the Mitzvah.'

Rav Eliyahu Dessler adds: ’All his daily physical activities, such as eating and sleeping, are elevated, when performed in the Sukkah; they assume a spiritual dimension, since he is thereby performing Mitzvot.'

The Rav continues:’We are commanded (Emor 23:42-43):’You shall dwell in sukkot..;So that your generations know that I, Hashem, caused the Children of Israel to dwell in sukkot, when I took them from the land of Egypt.

‘The essence of ‘taking you out of the land of Egypt’, is to eliminate the יש: the ‘I’, of the person; if we do not eliminate our יש, then we are still in Egypt, spiritually’.

His words serve beautifully, as an introduction to the insight of the Kli Yakar, in his sefer Olelot Ephraim: 'The words of the Gemara- that Sukkah is a מצוה שאין בה חסרון כיס- is a wonderful allusion to those who בוטח בה׳, who put their trust in Hashem. They never have a חסרון כיס: ‘a lack of money, because they are always satisfied with that with which Hashem has blessed them- be it a lot, or a little.

'Those who ‘leave the Sukkah’-who do not put their trust in Hashem-will always feel ‘lacking’, as, no matter how much they have, they always have a need for more.

'Those who ‘dwell in the Sukkah’, who put their trust in Hashem, have the true wealth, in which there is never a lack: never a חסרון כיס’.

Might we not add: The very thought that expending money for a Mitzvah, in any way ‘impoverishes’ us, is apostacy; it is the antithesis of a foundation of our faith: that we are enriched- sanctified- and blessed, if a Mitzvah comes our way.

A parting thought from the S’fat Emet:’The three festivals of Tishrei- Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, enable a Jew to fulfill the three-branched Mitzvah of אהבת ה׳, in the קריאת שמע:

-On Rosh Hashanah, we love Hashem בכל לבבך: with all our heart, by crowning Him whole-heartedly, as our King, anew;

-On Yom Kippur, we love Hashem בכל נפשך: with all our souls, by atoning for all our transgressions against Him; and,

-On Sukkot, we love Hashem בכל מאדך: with all our means, by ‘cancelling’ our יש, thereby acknowledging that we, and all we have, is from Him, and his’.

And, as the קריאת שמע concludes: והיו הדברים האלה על לבבך: in return, we receive the greatest gift of all: the Holy Torah, ‘in our hearts’.

And then, immediately after the conclusion of Sukkot, we can joyously celebrate Simchat Torah!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו

Danny Ginsbourg is a retired lawyer who made aliya from Australia a decade ago. He has written five volumes of Torah thoughts in Hebrew,and was awarded the Jerusalem Prize.for the two volume Davsha shel Torah to which there are already several sequels.


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