Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 28th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 46 –12th of Tishrei 5773
The Right Foot
So let’s pretend it’s December 22nd. Your driving to the mall and you turn on the radio. Of course no matter what station you flip to you, you hear the usual Jingle Bell- Rudoph, holiday music. You get to the Mall there are decorated trees all over the place, lights for sale, socks hanging out of store windows and big red suited guy with a white beard bouncing children on his lap and asking them in they have been naughty or nice. If you go to the right mall there are also usually a bunch of little elves running around helping you with your purchases and of course the always traditional Israelis standing in their kiosks and selling you Dead Sea mud.
Scene II- Yesterday the 13th of Tishrei 5771, our bus, which incidentally had Moadim L’Simcha-(Happy Holidays) emblazoned on the digital number slots in the front, pulls into the Meah Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem. We are greeted by a variety of Jewish music coming from every corner; Hasidic, Sefardic and even a little bit of Matisyahu reggae in the background. There are tree branches all over the floor being sold as Sechach- the Sukkah cover. All types of beautiful hanging decorations, plastic fruits and even lights with some words that start “ChrXXXmas lights” crossed out and replaced by the word “Sukkot” in Hebrew. There are quite a few big black suited guys with white beards standing around on each street corner peering through magnifying glasses and looking at their Etrogs (Citrons) and Lulavs to see if they are spotted or nice. There are quite a few cute little Israeli elves height five – 10 year olds trying to sell me everything from Lulav holders to posters and pictures of Rabbis, to little homemade Lulav bands to wrap my four species together with. To make it just perfect, this Christian arab approaches me and offers to sell me a flag and map of the US to hang in my Sukkah. He is the American equivalent of the Dead Sea mud guy in the States.
Where do you belong? Where do you feel more comfortable? Which scene is the one that you feel should be the place you are raising your children? I think it’s amazing and tragic but unfortunately true that the average Jewish American-of any denomination, feels at home with the December 22nd scene and would feel that they had landed in Mars- although an incredibly pleasant and even somewhat weirdly but deeply spiritually familiar Mars in Scene II. It shouldn’t be that way. We shouldn’t be that way. The question is, is there anything we can do about it?
The Gaon of Vilna, who spent a good portion of his last years of life doing whatever he could to move to Israel , at tremendous sacrifice and who was ultimately not successful. Use to say that there are two mitzvoth that one can fulfill with ones entire body, just by living and breathing in a certain environment. The first is the mitzvah to live in the Land of Israel , where truly every breath one takes and every step one make is settling our Divinely destined land and absorbing the holiness of the country. The Second mitzvah though you can fulfill in your very own backyard. It is the Mitzvah of Sukkah. Leaving your home. Leaving your flags. Putting aside all the material trappings of your “world” and entering in to the Divine Shade and palace of the Almighty for a week. For those in America it’s like a little visit to Israel . For those of us here- It’s like a visit to what the world will be like when Moshiach comes.
In the times of the Temple there was a mitzvah for every Jew to make an annual Pilgrimage to Yerushalayim for the holiday of Sukkot. This mitzvah was known as Aliyah Li’Regel- literally translated, this means an uplifting-or going up for the foot or festival. The three festivals are known as the three Regalim or three feet as a result of this mitzvah. Our Chasidic masters however see in this word, and homiletically in the words chosen to describe the mitzvah, as being one of raising up ones footsteps in life. Where are you walking and marching to? How do we make our pathways in life become one that leads to Jerusalem? By taking the time a few times a year and immersing ourselves in the seasons that guide us there.
Sukkot is the last of the triumvirate of holidays before we enter the long winter. It’s our last chance to raise up our footsteps and to set the scene for how we want the rest of the year to look like. Spend a little time in that special hut. Think about what it could and should be like all the time. Daven for it a little and tell your family as I will where we really belong and what we are still holing for. And may Hashem bless us all that our mitzvah of Sukkah inspires heavenly mercy to build us the ultimate Sukkah of Peace once again.
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
HAR HERZL, JERUSALEM- Israel national military cemetery is perhaps one of the most inspirational and meaningful pilgrimage sites in Israel tragically for most Israelis particularly during this season from after Yom Kippur and through Sukkot the period that commemorates Israels most devastating war in 1973. In addition to the area dedicated to the “Gedolei Ha’Umah- the National Leaders” which includes the past Presidents, Prime Ministers and Knesset House leaders that chose to be buried there most famously perhaps being Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Shamir and Levi Eshkol (Begin and Ben Gurion chose to be buried elsewhere) there is a special section for the all those who were murdered in acts of terror and monuments that commemorate soldiers who were the last of their family (after the Shoah), Soliders from Ethiopia, illegal refugees that perished, the Dakar submarine and Helicopter tragedies and unknown soliders. The cemetery was named and established for Theodore Herzl who buried in Vienna in 1903 left in his will his desire to be buried in Israel after the establishment of the Jewish State that he envisioned. In 1949 he was brought here to be buried. There is a museum with an inspirational film of his life near his tomb. Yet for the majority of Israelis Har Herzl is the place to come to visit and pray by the graves of their loved ones who perished in service. The cemetery is divided up by wars 48, 56, 67, 73, 82 and from after the 90’s. It is almost impossible to go the cemetery and not meet a family member of someone who is there to share the story of their child, parent or grandparent that perished so that we may live here today. It is mindblowing to see ages of so many of these heroes of which the average is between 18- 25. May their blood be avenged by Hashem who mourns the death of His holy children and may their vision of an Israel that can live in peace with their neighbors very soon be realized.
RABBI SCHWARTZES FAVORITE JERUSALEM SUKKOT VIDEO OF THE WEEK
RABBI SCHWARTZES SUKKOT DR. SEUSS’S LAWS OF THE WEEK
You can build it very small (1)
You can build it very tall (2)
You can build it very large (3)
You can build it on a barge
You can build it on a ship (4)
Or on a roof but please don’t slip (5)
You can build it in an alley (6)
You shouldn’t build it in a valley (7)
You can build it on a wagon (8)
You can build it on a dragon (9)
You can make the skakh of wood (10)
Would you, could you, yes you should
Make the skakh from leaves of tree
You shouldn’t bend it at the knee (11)
Build your Sukkah tall or short
No Sukkah is built in the Temple Court
You can build it somewhat soon
You cannot build it in the month of June (12)
If your Sukkah is well made
You’ll have the right amount of shade (13)
You can build it very wide
You can not build it on its side
Build if your name is Jim
Or Bob or Sam or even Tim
Build it if your name is Sue (14)
Do you build it, yes you do!
From the Sukkah you can roam
But you should treat it as your home (15)
You can invite some special guests
Don’t stay in it if there are pests
You can sleep upon some rugs
Don’t you build it where there’s bugs
In the Sukkah you should sit
And eat and drink but never…
If in the Sukkah it should rain
To stay there would be such a pain (16)
And if it should be very cold
Stay there only if you’re bold
So build a Sukkah one and all
Make it large or make it small
Sukkah rules are short and snappy
Enjoy Sukkot, rejoice be happy.
1 Maimonides (RMBM) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Sukkah,
Chapter 4, Section 1. The minimum height of a Sukkah is 10 tepachim.
A tepach is a measure of the width of the four fingers of one’s hand.
My hand is 3 1/4 inches wide for a minimum Sukkah height of 32 1/2 inches.
The minimum allowable width is 7 tepachim by 7 tepachim. This would result
in a Sukkah of 22 3/4 inches by 22 3/4 inches.
2 The maximum height is 20 Amot. An Amah is the length from the elbow to
the tip of the middle finger. My Amah is 15 1/2 inches for a maximum height
of 25 feet. Others say that 30 feet is the maximum.
3 According to RMBM the Sukkah can be built to a width of several miles.
Shulchan Aruch also says there is no limit on the size of the width.
4 RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 6.
5 RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 11. RMBM states that one may
construct a Sukkah by wedging poles in the four corners of the roof and
suspending scakh from the poles. The walls of the building underneath are
considered to reach upward to the edge of the scakh.
6 RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 8-10 discusses the ins and
outs of building your Sukkah in an alley or passageway.
7 There is a location referred to in the Talmud called Ashtarot Karnayim.
According to the discussion there are two hills, with a valley in between
where the Sun does not reach. Therefore it is impossible to sit in the shade
of the roof of the Sukkah. I can’t find the reference…hopefully next year.
8 RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 6. You can go into a Sukkah
built on a wagon or a ship even on Yom Tov.
9 RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 6. OK, RMBM says a camel
but dragon rhymes with wagon a lot better, don’t you agree. Anyway,
RMBM says you can build your Sukkah on a wagon or in the crown of a tree,
but you can’t go into it on Yom Tov. There is a general rule against riding a
beast or ascending into the crown of a tree on Yom Tov.
10 Chapter 5 deals with the rules for the scakh. Basically, you can use
that which has grown from the ground, and is completely detached from
the ground. So, for example, you cannot bend the branches of a tree over
the Sukkah to form the scakh. But you can cut the branches from a tree
and use them as scakh.
11 This would be a violation of the rule cited in the prior footnote.
12 Shulchan Aruch, Hilchot Sukkah, Perek 636, Section 1
The Sukkah should not be built sooner than 30 days before the Hag.
However, if the structure is built prior to 30 days, as long as something
new is added within the 30 days, the Sukkah is kosher.
13 Of course it’s a well known rule that you must sit in the shade from
the roof of the Sukkah and not in the shade that may be cast by the walls.
It seems that this might affect the height of the walls, depending on the
longitude of the location where you are building your Sukkah.
14 Traditionally, women, servants and minors are patur from the Mitzvah of
Sukkah. In our day we hope we know better than to read out half the
Jewish people from the observance of Mitzvot. Of course, that’s just a
personal opinion of the author.
15 MBM ibid Chapter 6, Section 6 explains that you should eat, drink and
live in the Sukkah for the 7 days as you live in your own home.
One should not even take a nap outside of the Sukkah.
16 RMBM ibid, Section 10 If it rains one should go into the house.
How does one know if it is raining hard enough? If sufficient raindrops
fall through the scakh and into the food so that the food is spoiled - go inside!