The situation was intolerable; urgent action needed to be taken. That was the consensus reached by a group of the greatest tzaddikim of that generation.
A vicious evildoer was repeatedly going to the government authorities and accusing his fellow Jews of a host of crimes. The justice system of the time was notorious for its unfairness, and the anti-Semitic authorities made no effort to check the veracity of the libelous allegations. The man’s innocent victims ranged from common folk to venerated Torah leaders, whose lives he was literally putting in grave danger.
The Gedolei Hador came to the conclusion that there was only one — admittedly drastic — option: They decided to daven that the moseir should receive the Heavenly punishment he deserved. But they soon discovered that out of great ahavas Yisrael, Harav Velvele of Zbariz, the son of the Zlotchover Maggid, was blocking their tefillos on this matter!
They traveled to Rav Velvele and pleaded with him, saying they could no longer bear the nefarious and devastating actions of this moseir.
Rav Velvele responded by explaining at great length what the world will look like when Moshiach comes; how, upon hearing the sound of the shofar, all the Jews will run to the shuls to do teshuvah, and then, one by one, they will be carried by clouds to greet Moshiach.
“The nations of the world will grow fearful that Moshiach will avenge the blood of all the innocent Jews they massacred over all the long centuries of exile. They will gather together and plot how to bribe Moshiach and the Jews into ignoring the past.
“The representative of one nation will propose sending a huge sum of money; another, a large collection of precious stones and pearls; a third will give a large plot of land where all the Jews could gather.
“But then the wisest among them will rise to his feet and reject all these ideas.
“‘Moshiach is powerful enough to wage a war and destroy all of you instantly — and then take whatever he wants! My suggestion to you is that the only gift that would be meaningful to Moshiach is sending him a Yid as a gift!’
“The nations will all agree to this idea, and begin looking for a Yid. But where will they find one? After all, they all flocked to the shul and did teshuvah!
“This moseir,” declared Rav Velvele, “won’t run toward Moshiach. The kings will take him and place him in a magnificent carriage and place a crown on his head and accompany him to Moshiach. When a messenger will come and inform Moshiach that the nations are sending him a gift, the tzaddikim sitting near Moshiach will find it amusing. For what type of gift could they possibly send?
“But Moshiach will ask about the nature of the gift and will be told that it is a Yid.
“Moshiach will then state: ‘For me this is a good gift, for every Jew — even the least worthy among them — is for me a great yichus!’
“So,” Rav Velvele concluded, “do you want me to curse Moshiach’s gift?”
Throughout our history as a people, Klal Yisrael has been comprised of numerous elements representing varying levels of righteousness and closeness to Hashem. In each generation, we have been blessed with great tzaddikim, spiritual leaders who attained extremely lofty levels of cleaving to Hashem. Yet on the opposite end of the spectrum, we invariably have among us those who have tragically strayed far from the right path.
Sukkos is a Yom Tov for every Jew, regardless of his level of avodas Hashem. The walls of the sukkah gather everyone in, and the inedible and aroma-less aravah — an integral part of the Four Species — represents the weakest of Jewish souls.
Like our nation as a whole, each individual Yid has within him spiritual strengths and weaknesses. There are areas in which we excel, or at least succeed, and then there are areas in which we desperately need to improve.
Sukkos is the Yom Tov when all these parts come together to serve Hashem.
It is our intellect that differentiates man from animals. When we are asleep and unable to make any logical, conscious decisions, we are, for all effective purposes, missing this crucial distinction. Therefore, there are no specific mitzvos that are obligatory when a person sleeps — with one notable exception: Sleeping in the sukkah is an essential part of the mitzvah. For on Sukkos, even the weakest elements within a Jewish soul — as symbolized by the concept of sleeping — merit rectification.
When we take an esrog, which is both edible and has a wonderful aroma, along with a lulav, which doesn’t have an aroma but is a branch of the date palm tree which produces delicious fruits, the hadassim, which aren’t edible but have a most pleasant smell, and the aravah, which has neither, we symbolize the fact that each and every Jew, no matter how far he may have fallen, has the ability to draw close to Hashem through this most joyous Yom Tov. For every Jew — even the least worthy among them — is a “great yichus.”
When we open our cots and go to sleep in the sukkah, we symbolize the fact that every single part of us is drawn to kedushah. (Adapted in part from the sefer Eretz Tzvi, by the Kozhiglover Rav, Hy”d.)
May we all merit to take full advantage of these uplifting, inspiring and most joyous days.