For the week ending 12 October 2019 / 13 Tishri 5780

Succot Assortment

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Succot: Six Months Late?

D. Rubinstein wrote:

Dear Rabbi:

Why does Succot fall on the calendar after Yom Kippur, and not after Passover? Succot deals with the fact that we sat in huts in the wilderness after we left Egypt, and the clouds that protected us. We were sitting in those huts and had those clouds right when we left Egypt, so historically, Succot should come right after, or during, Pesach.

Dear D. Rubinstein

Passover is in the spring when the weather stars getting warmer; if we were to make huts in the spring, it might seem like we were just building vacation bungalows to escape from the heat. Therefore, the Torah commanded us to build our succah-booths in the fall when it starts getting cool, making it clear that the succah is a commandment and not a cabana.

The Vilna Gaon offers another explanation: The succah represents the clouds of glory with which G-d protected us in the desert. Hashem took away these clouds when we made the Golden Calf, and when He forgave us that year on Yom Kippur, the clouds came back. So, Succot celebrates the return of those clouds after the first Yom Kippur in the desert.

Rain, Go Away

Elizabeth S. wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

The Talmud says rain during Succot is considered a curse. I am aware of the analogy of the servant and his master asking for a jug of water etc. My question is this: The fact that it rains on Succot - is this considered a curse no matter which country one lives in, or does it only apply in Israel, being that at that time it is NOT yet the rainy season?

Dear Elizabeth,

Yes, rain during the Succot is not a good 'omen.' The Sages compare it to a servant who comes to pour a drink for his master, but instead of accepting the cup, the master splashes water in the servant's face. Likewise, we desire to perform the mitzvah of sitting in the succah, but instead, Hashem pours water on our heads.

So if it rains in Cleveland or Miami, is that a bad omen during Succot? It normally rains in those places during Succot. Or is it a bad omen only in Israel, where rain is highly unusual at that time of year? (I've lived in Israel seven years and remember only once feeling a few drops of rain on Succot.)

Logically, the bad omen should apply only in a land where it's not yet the rainy season. This would include not only Israel, but the whole Middle East and anywhere that isn't yet the rainy season.

However Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein writes that the 'bad omen' applies only in Israel. This can be explained as follows:

The mitzvahs were chiefly intended for the Land of Israel. Even mitzvahs having no obvious connection to the Land — mitzvahs such as Shabbat and Kashrut — were intended mainly for performance in Israel. Although mitzvahs certainly apply wherever you are; nevertheless, the mitzvahs are "laws of the G-d of the Land" and are performed ideally in “The Land.”

Hence, the analogy of the servant and the master can be seen as applying specifically to Israel.

  • Sources: Aruch Hashulchan 639:20; Ramban, Leviticus 18:25

Southpaw Species

Mel Tanen wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I am left-handed so I hold my lulav (palm branch) in my left hand and the etrog (citron) in my right hand. Do I still place the hadassim (myrtles) to the right of the lulav and the aravot (willows) to the left of the lulav?

Dear Mel Tanen,

According to Ashkenazic custom, a lefty holds his lulav in his left hand. However, the setting of the haddasim and aravot isthe same as everyone else, which is that the haddasim go on the right of the lulav (as you hold the lulav with its spine facing you).

The Sephardic custom is that even a lefty holds the lulav in the right hand.

  • Sources: Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 651:3 and Rema; Mishna Berura ibid. note 12 in the name of the Pri Megadim

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