Torah thought forFriday 19 Tishrei 5783 October 14 2022

Chag HaSukkot - The Festival of Unity

(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

Our chachamim explained in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 30:11) that the Four Species, which we take on Sukkot, are indicative to all sections of the people:

The etrog has both flavour and aroma, indicative of Torah and good deeds that talmidei chachamim have. The myrtle has aroma but no flavour and is indicative of those that perform good deeds but don’t study Torah. The lulav has flavour (dates) but no aroma and is indicative of those who study Torah but don’t perform so many good deeds. The willow has neither flavour nor aroma and is indicative of those amongst Am Yisrael who are empty from both Torah and good deeds.

This is a sign and example of the interconnectedness that there should be between all parts of the nation.

At times, especially during the times that we are in now, there is a sense of distance between disparate part of the people. This feeling is justified, not to blur differences and to “forgo” principles. However this feeling must not lead to different parts of the people “dislocating”. Every Jew must be concerned for another Jew. We learnt this from Maran Rabbeinu zt”l that despite the fact that he nurtured the world of the yeshivot and invested a huge amount amongst Bnei Torah, nevertheless, he always impressed upon them to go out to the cities! To influence all parts of the people! To enlighten them all from the Torah’s light. For in every Jew is hidden a holy spark and one must blow it so that it will glow and strengthen its holy fire, its flashes are flashes of fire, the flame of Hashem [see Shir HaShirim 8:6] (this is correct especially for those who aren’t hostile to those that observe the Torah).

The following story contains a powerful message:

In one of Israel’s cities, there was a suburb with a large and famous yeshiva, which also had in it a prestigious kollel with avreichim (men who study in the kollel), containing tens of avreichim growing spiritually who lived in the area of the yeshivah.

During Ellul, one of the avreichim bore a son, mazal tov. Understandably on Yom Kippur in order to join the yeshivah prayers he was apart from the baby’s mother, his wife, and so she was at home with the baby. Between the prayers the avreich hurried home to see how his wife was and how she felt. Baruch Hashem everything was fine. He left here in comfort and hurried back to the yeshivah.

On his return he reached a crossing. The traffic lights were red and there was a young man standing there, waiting for the light to turn green. The young man had no kippah and had a ponytail, an earring, jeans and a t-shirt. The avreich stood close to the young man and wanted to cross the road because the road was empty, it was Yom Kippur and there was no need to stand at the curb. However in his heart he harboured a concern for a Chillul Hashem, for here is an irreligious young man who observes the law, yet I, an avreich, will ignore the lights? So he stood there too.

In the flash of  a moment, the avreich turned to the young man and said to him, “Listen, do you want an experience?” The young man’s curiosity was aroused, and the avreich said, “Come with me for a few minutes to the yeshivah, you will see praying on Yom Kippur!” The young man tried to avoid it, “I don’t have a kippa”. The avreich said, “It’s okay, in a few moments we’ll find a kippa”. The young man decided, why not? They both went to the yeshivah. A strange pair, the avreich wearing white, with plimsoles, wrapped in a white tallit and the bachur in a t-shirt and jeans. The avreich quickly found him a shtender and a machzor. One of the young men brought a kippa and the shaliach tzibbur began kaddish before Musaph.

The walls shook from hundreds of young men saying “Amen, Yehe Shemeh Rabba Mevorach”. This young man looked from the machzor which was open before him to the hundreds of young men around him. Their closeness to Hashem, their concentration and their awe of judgement. For the first time in his life he saw this! He thumbed through the machzor, taking in parts of the prayers, “U’v’chen ten pachdechah Hashem Elokeinu”, “U’v’chen ten kavod l’amecha”, phrases which contain so much! The youngsters around him, who were his age, experienced every expression, praying with such strong feelings! This was new for him, an amazing sight! Out of politeness he decided to remain until the end of the prayers.

The following year the young man joined them for the prayers. However his long hair had gone and the earring was no longer. He was dressed like a yeshiva student,  one of them!

Through what merit? Through the merit of a chance meeting with an avreich, through the merit of Yom Kippur, through the merit of praying in the yeshivah! However all of this could have just been a passing event, to be remembered as an interesting experience and nothing more. What caused the change in the young man’s soul? What caused him to decide that he belongs here?

The young man revealed this himself. He related that after the prayers the young men  warmly approached him, they shook his hand and wished him well that his requests be received and that his prayers be answered from Above. This moved him so much! Look, guys who care about me. I look so different, unusual in the landscape, and they don’t frown, they don’t ignore me, on the contrary, they are interested and come near. If so, he decided that he too will draw near!

As stated the Four Species indicate all the layers of the tzibbur, from outstanding bnei Torah to those who are akin to the willow that have no flavour nor aroma. All these people are part of Am Yisrael and we must worry about them, to draw them near with a strong relationship.

This story is related in the book “Mayan Moed” (Sukkot p. 374), the author concludes with an adage from the Tzaddik Reb Dovid Lelover zt”l [The Grand Rabbi Dovid Biderman of Lelów z”l 1746-1814, was the founder of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty]:

“If every Jew would extend his hand to his fellow, a longer and longer hand would be created that would reach the heavens and would receive there an inexhaustible abundance of goodness and berachah!”

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!