Gathering palm fronds for a sukkah
Gathering palm fronds for a sukkahFlash90

The first mention of the three pilgrimage festivals, the shalosh regalim, in the Torah, is in Parashat Mishpatim:(23:13-16)’שלש רגלים: Three pilgrimage festivals shall you celebrate for Me during the year. You shall observe the Festival of Matzot..and חג הקציר: the Festival of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labor..and חג האסיף: the Festival of the In-gathering at the close of the year’.

Rashi comments:’חג האסיף: ‘the Festival of the ingathering’, is Chag Hasukkot.

Why is the chag we celebrate as ‘Sukkot’, also called חג האסיף: The Festival of the Ingathering?

Answers Rav Netanel Auerbach:’The naming of chag Sukkot in the Torah as חג האסיף:The Festival of the In-gathering’, expresses in its simplest form, its agricultural aspect; as Rashi comments:’Throughout the days of summer, the produce- which had been harvested- dries in the field, and on this chag, it is gathered and brought home, before the rains’.

Why, then, is it not called by this name, in three later places in the Torah, but, instead, called ‘Chag Sukkot’?

Rav Aryeh Leib Heiman proffers an intriguing answer:’When Bnei Israel received the Torah, they ascended to a very high spiritual level; when they sinned, with the golden calf, they descended to ‘the depths’.

“At their lofty level, they only ‘needed’ the festival of Pesach, and the mitzvah to eat matzot in the month of Spring, to remember that Hashem took them out of slavery in Egypt- which is the foundation of our Emunah- and did not need further Chagim, to reinforce this memory.

“Therefore, in Parashat Mishpatim, before the sin of the golden calf, the Torah only notes the ‘Festival of Matzot’, and its mitzvot, and only mentions the other two regalim by reference to their specific agricultural aspects, as they were intended to occasions on which Bnei Israel were to offer thanks to Hashem, for the blessings which he showered on their crops. Therefore they were only called by their agricultural names.

“However, when they sinned, the Torah saw the need to give ‘new’ names to these two regalim; ‘the Festival of the Harvest’, was now given a further name, ‘Chag Hashavuot’, without the Torah giving it a date of its own, only linking it to Pesach, so that, at the time of the harvest, the people will also have in mind, the exodus from Egypt.

“The same change also was also applied, after the transgression, to what had previously been the ‘Festival of the In-gathering’; its name was changed to ‘Chag HaSukkot’, with the clear objective (Emor 23:43 ):’

So that your generations shall know that I caused Bnei Israel to dwell in Sukkot, when I took them out of Egypt, I am Hashem, your G-d’.

“Remember for all time, that no only did I take you out of Egypt, but that I also took care after this, to provide you with shelter and protection, whilst you wandered through the desert, BECAUSE I ‘am Hashem, YOUR G-d”.

The Rashbam adds:”דווקא: precisely at the time men are bringing their bountiful harvest into their granaries, there is an obligation to remember that Hashem ‘caused them to dwell in Sukkot’ in the desert for forty years, in a place where there was no shelter or holding, as this remembrance will lead them to give thanks to the One who has now given them all this bounty.

“This is vital at this time, lest they now say, in their hearts (Eikev 8:17):’‘My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth, for me’.

“We are therefore commanded, at this time, when our houses are filled with all this bounty, to leave the houses, and dwell in the succah booths, to remember that in the desert we had no holdings, nor even houses in which to dwell.

“For this reason, Hashem established the festival of Sukkot specifically at the time of the in-gathering of the crops, lest we ‘become haughty’ because of our affluence, and (Eikev 8:18): ‘forget Hashem, who gave you strength to make wealth’”.

If we have learned the underlying reason for our Chag being also called ‘the Festival of the In-gathering’, the Maharal teaches that, as this is the time for the in-gathering of the crops, this reveals ’שיש בזמן הזה כח האסיפה’: that it has a ‘power’ for in-gatherings.

The S’fat Emet expounds on this:”The saying of our Sages (Succah 27:):’The passuk ‘Every native in Israel shall dwell in Sukkot’(Emor 23;42), teaches that ‘all of Israel ראויים are deserving to sit in one Succah’.

“After Yom Kippur, we have all become one united entity, because we have, on that holy day, been cleansed of our transgressions-which are the cause of divisiveness.

“This is alluded to by the four minim which we took, bound up together, on Sukkot, as they allude to us having atoned for our transgressions against our fellow man, whilst the privilege to sit in the succah, alludes to us having atoned for our transgressions against Hashem”.

Our Sages teach that the four minim, which we bind together, allude to all of our people, be they, ‘like the etrog, full of Torah and Mitzvot; or like the lulav, full of good deeds if lacking in Torah; or like the hadas, full of Torah but lacking in good deeds; or like the humble aravot, lacking in both Torah and mitzvot.

‘Says Hashem:Bind them together, so that they atone for each other; and, when you do so, I am exalted’.

The order in which the S’fat Emet sets our atonement- first between man-and-fellow man, and only then, between man and Hashem, provides an answer to an intriguing question posed by the Alshich Hakadosh: Why, in Parashat Emor, is the Mitzvah of taking the four minim given, before we are commanded to sit in the succah?

We, in fact, perform the Mitzvot in the reverse order. On the first night, we sit in the succah, and only on the following morning, do we take the four minim!

A beautiful answer is given by the S’fat Emet:’Our Sages, by their teaching that ‘All Israel are deserving of sitting in one succah’, allude that we merit to sit in the holy succah, only because we are as one’”.

And so, in the words of Rav Auerbach:”In calling our chag, חג האסיף: ‘the Festival of the In-gathering’, our Sages reveal that this time is an allusion to the special spiritual level of Am Israel after Yom Kippur, a level which is revealed in a special manner on Sukkot- that after we have been purified of our sins on that day, all of Bnei Israel are ‘gathered-in’, together on Sukkot, to become ‘deserving to all sit in one succah’.

“Therefore, Chag Sukkot is not only the time when we gather-in the crops from the fields, to our houses, but also ובעיקר: and principally, the time when there is a special ממד אלוקי: Divine occasion, enabling our in-gathering, as a people, to the ‘House of Hashem’, the Succah”.

May we all be blessed to be ‘gathered-in’ on Sukkot, to merit to dwell in Hashem’s ‘home’, our Succah!

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