CHAG HASUCCOT -- V'ZOT HABRACHA
"V'Samachta B'Chagecha" ("And you will rejoice in your Holiday")
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
THE HOLIDAY OF SUCCOT
On the first night of Succot, it is a requirement to eat a K'zayit (olive-sized portion) of bread in the Succah, and one needs to intend with the first K'zayit to fullfill the positive Mitzvah to eat bread in the Succah. This is similar to the eating of Matzah on the first night of Passover. And one should also intend that the reason for the Mitzvah is a remembrance of our leaving Mitzrayim (Egypt) as well as a remembrance of the Clouds of Glory.
The Torah writes that the Succot and Arba Minim (Four Kinds) should be majestic and beautiful.
HaRav Yakovson ztz"l would explain this by means of a parable. There was a boy whose mother needed to dress him in beautiful clothing so that he could participate in a Simcha (happy occasion). The boy came from the street, and his body and clothes were dirty. Then his mother went to dress him in his beautiful holiday clothes. People told her, that's not the right way. First give him a bath, and when his body is clean then dress him in the beautiful clothing. And similarly, this also applies to the people of Israel. During the month of Elul we purify ourselves, and also on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. And after that, we arrive at those things which have majesty and beauty -- a beautiful Succah, and the Arba Minim (Four Kinds) which are majestic. First comes purification and then comes beauty.
"And you shall rejoice on your Holiday..." (Devorim 16:14)
It is said in the name of HaRav M'Brisk ztz"l that the most difficult Mitzvah is the MItzvah "and you shall rejoice on your Holiday". One needs to be very careful not to be even a moment in sorrow, in order not to transgress the positive Mitzvah of rejoicing on the holiday.
"...That I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in Succot..." (Vayikra 23:43)
The Tur asks why we don't build Succot in the month of Nissan, since the Succot are a remembrance of the Clouds of Glory, and the Clouds of Glory were there immediately upon our leaving from Mitzrayim (Egypt). The Gr"a explains that after the Sin of the Golden Calf, the Clouds of Glory disappeared, as it is written: "...and Moshe saw the nation, that it was uncovered..." (Shemot 22:25), that is, they had become revealed to everyone's eyes since the Clouds of Glory had disappeared. It was only afterwards that the Holy One Blessed Be He forgave Israel for the Sin of the Golden Calf, as it is written "I have forgiven according to your word" (Bamidbar 14:20), and that was on the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur). Immediately afterwards on the day after Yom Kippur, on the 11th of Tishrei, the Children of Israel were commanded about the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). During the course of two days they brought the donations for the Mishkan, that is on the 12th and the 13th of Tishrei. On the 14th of Tishrei all the wise-hearted took the donations for the MIshkan in their hands and immediately on the 15th of Tishrei they began to occupy themselves with building the Mishkan. It was then that the Clouds of Glory returned. Therefore we find that on the 15th of Tishrei, which is the time when the Clouds of Glory returned, we make a remembrance for that on the Holiday of Succot.
THE FOUR KINDS
The Etrog (Citron) is similar to the Heart, as it is written in the Zohar, that the Etrog is the Heart. The Lulav (Palm Branch) is similar to the Spine, the Aravot (Willow Branches) are similar to the Lips, and the Hadassim (Myrtle Branches) are similar to the Eyes. And with these four items, one sanctifies his entire body.
The Etrog (Citron) has both taste and scent. The Lulav (Palm Branch) which is from the tree which produces Dates, has taste but not scent. The Hadassim (Myrtle Branches) have scent but not taste. The Aravot (Willow Branches) don't have either scent or taste. This is a hint that there are all different kinds of people, and we need to bring all of them close.
THE SHAKING OF THE FOUR KINDS
A man was in a war and he was told to bomb. He asked his commanding officer about that and said that he didn't see any reason why he should bomb, since he didn't see any target. His commanding officer said to him, don't ask, just bomb and afterwards you'll see what you did. And in truth, afterwards he saw that many of the enemy were killed and their buildings were destroyed. Later on, when the man was standing and shaking the four kinds, he remembered his experience in the war, and he said to himself, if the Holy One Blessed Be He commands us to do the shaking of the four kinds, we don't need to see the results immediately, and in the course of time we will merit to see it.
"Fear Elokim and observe His Mitzvot..." (Kohelet 12:13)
It is written in Kohelet "Vanity of Vanities" seven times. Rashi says that this corresponds to the seven days of the week. The Meforshim (expositors) ask, isn't it written in the verse, "And Elokim saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good" (B'raishit 1:31), so how did Sh'lomo say everything was "Vanity of Vanities"? The explanation is that when one writes a lot of zeroes 000000 that it amounts to nothing. But if one writes the number 1 at the beginning of all those zeroes, it's able to be a very big number. Similarly it is written in Kohelet "Fear Elokim and observe His Mitzvot". If one has Fear of Heaven, that already isn't vanity of vanities, and that is very good. (from the Gr"a)
THE TORAH PORTION OF V'ZOT HABRACHA
"And this is the blessing with which Moshe blessed..." (Devorim 33:1)
The very fact that Moshe Rabbeinu blessed, is in and of itself a blessing.
"The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a Heritage..." (Devorim 33:4)
There are two times that the word Morasha (in English: Heritage) is written in the Torah. One is in the Torah Portion of Va'eira: "...And I shall give it to you as a Heritage..." (Shemot 6:8), and the other place is here. This is a hint about the Land of Israel, that we cannot continue to exist there unless we observe the Torah, because the Torah and the Land of Israel are connected together (since both are referred to as a Heritage).
"The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a Heritage of the Congregation of Ya'akov." (Devorim 33:4)
In the Torah there are all kinds of laws that are not applicable to everyone. There are Mitzvot that are applicable only for a Kohen, and there are Mitzvot that are applicable only for one who works the soil, and no one fulfills all of the Torah. Only if we are united can it be considered that each and every individual fulfills the entire Torah, and that is the meaning when the verse says that the Torah that Moshe commanded us is a Heritage of the "Congregation of Ya'akov". (As individuals none of us fulfill all of it, but united together as part of the Congregation of Ya'akov, we can fulfill all of it.)
On the First Day of Succot we take our two Torah Scrolls.In the first we read in the Torah Portion of Emor: "Shor Oh Kesev", and 5 men are called.In the second we read the Maftir, in the Torah Portion of Pinchas, "Uvachamisha Asar Yom".Haftora: "Hinai Yom Ba" (Zechariah 14)
On Shabbat Chol HaMoed Succot we read Megillat Kohelet.We take out two Torah Scrolls.In the first we read the Torah Portion Ki Tisa: "Vayomer Moshe El Hashem Re'eh", and 7 men are called.In the second we read the Maftir, in the Torah Portion of Pinchas, "Uvayom Hashishi".Haftora: "V'haya Bayom Hahoo." (Yechezkel 38)
On Simchat Torah we read in three Torah Scrolls.In the first we read "V'Zot HaBracha".In the second we read Braishit, from the beginning until "La'asot".In the third we read the Maftir, "Bayom Hash'mini" in the Torah Portion of Pinchas.Haftora: Yehoshua Chapter 1.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat Kodesh and Yom Tov.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772
May the Merciful One establish for us the Fallen Succah of David.
May we be glad and rejoice in this the Torah.