Gathering Us All In

Among the guests who were invited to eat in the sukkah of the Berditchever Rav, zy”a, were ignorant, coarse individuals.

The Rebbe once explained that he had a special reason for having these types of guests. When Moshiach comes, our Avos Hakedoshim and the great tzaddikim of all the generations will be invited to enter the sukkah made of the Livyasan.

“I, too, will push my way in and sit there,” said the Rebbe, in his great humility. And when someone will come to take him out, the Rebbe continued, saying that a person on such a low spiritual level didn’t belong there, he would have a ready answer. “In my sukkah,” he would say, “such people also sat, and I tolerated them!”

Like the sukkah of the Berditchever Rav, Sukkos itself is a Yom Tov that welcomes us all.

Harav Aryeh Tzvi Frumer, Hy”d, Rav of Kozgilev and Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, teaches in his sefer Eretz Tzvi that this is one of the reasons that Sukkos is called Chag HaAsif. For not only is the wheat gathered into the granaries at this time of the year, but the sukkah and the Yom Tov gathers in all the Jewish souls.

This is symbolized by the aravos, which, unlike the other three of the four minim, have neither taste nor smell, yet are an essential part of the mitzvah and are bound together with the others.

Within every individual Jew there are various spiritual elements, some loftier and some very much less so. Sukkos is a time when all these elements come together to serve Hashem in unity.

One of the most unique aspects of this mitzvah is the obligation to sleep in the sukkah. When we sleep, our intellect — the great gift from Hashem that differentiates us humans from all other creatures — all but shuts down. When we sleep, for all practical purposes, we aren’t people — yet we manage to perform this great mitzvah.

For on Sukkos, even the weakest of our spiritual elements, even those that are more akin to animals than humans, are elevated to serve Hashem, and are gathered into the sukkah.

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Of all the 613 mitzvos in the Torah, which is the most challenging to fulfill properly?

When the Vilna Gaon, zt”l, was asked this question, he replied that after much contemplation he concluded it was a unique mitzvah that we all are obligated to fulfill during the entire upcoming Yom Tov.

When most of us think of Sukkos, thoughts of building walls, putting up s’chach, eating and sleeping within a sukkah come to mind, as do choosing, purchasing, and using the arbaah minim.

But there is another very special mitzvah that is an essential part of the Yom Tov. This mitzvah is simchas haregel — the commandment to rejoice. All Jews — men and women, the young and the old — are obligated to enjoy eight days of pure tranquility. For eight days and nights — and for those of us in the Diaspora, a ninth is added — we are required to free ourselves of every bit of anxiety, distract ourselves from every source of tension and discomfort, and simply be happy.

The “pursuit of happiness” won’t suffice. Regardless of our circumstances, during every moment of Yom Tov we must remain oblivious to what surrounds us and ensure that we remain in an elevated mood of sheer bliss.

This, the Gaon said, is the most challenging mitzvah of all. Happiness is a mitzvah of the heart, and to maintain this level of rejoicing during the entire Yom Tov is a very lofty and difficult avodah.

A vital ingredient in attaining true joy is strengthening one’s emunah and bitachon.

While the walls of a sukkah can be made of virtually any sturdy material that doesn’t have an offensive odor, only specific materials can be used for the s’chach. According to Halachah — and there are differing customs on this — one should be able to see the stars, or at the very least a heavy rain should be able to penetrate it.

According to many sefarim, this is one of the focal points of Yom Tov. We leave what, in this mundane and physical world, is perceived as a “permanent” dwelling, and move into a “temporary” one. By doing so we are recognizing that, in actuality, this physical world is really a “temporary dwelling.” By moving into a sukkah open to the elements, and from which we can see the sky, we are dedicating ourselves to looking upwards towards our Father in Shamayim as our only Source of security and protection. This, in turn, helps us overcome any feelings of worry or discomfort. After all, every part of each of us, regardless of our spiritual weakness, is basking in the protection of the Alm-ghty!