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The Systems of the Jewish Year

From Preaching to Practicing

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Someone told me a joke on Friday. There were two brothers living together. One was a medical doctor and the other was a Rabbi with a Ph.D. in Theology. Someone called the house and asked for Dr. Schwartz. “Which one?” asked the housekeeper, “the one who practices or the one who preaches?” From preaching to practicing is a real jump. From Yom Kippur to Sukos is that jump.

A Holocaust survivor told me that in the concentration camps they used to talk about Eretz Yisroel a lot. They said that if someone could only go to the Avos, to the Machpela the war would be over. They were sure of it. But to them that was only a dream. As a people we came in to Eretz Yisroel. Imagine the power of coming to the Promised Land after hundreds of years of torture. To the Jews in the desert it was a dream come true. But when we crossed the Jordan we didn’t run to the Avos, we kissed the earth. We looked at the beautiful palm branches and the fragrant esrogim. We took them in our hands and we rejoiced before G-d. We arrived! We came down from the clouds and became part of the earth. We became a real people with a real Land. Real life with a real G-d. We had real life challenges. There were people like the spies that didn’t want these challenges. They liked the desert life but for those that knew, the real manifestation of Yiddishkeit has just begun. The Kotzker once said, is shver tzu zein a yid uber is geshmak!

Sukos should really take place right after Pesach, after all that is when we went out into the desert and were protected by the clouds of Glory. Conventionally we explain that we would do this in April but it’s not the right weather. Everyone goes outside in the spring as the weather turns beautiful, but we want to prove a point so we go outside when it doesn’t make sense.

The Vilna Gaon has a different explanation that is truly remarkable. It’s true that the clouds of Hashem began protecting us when we left Egypt, but then we sinned. When we built the Golden Calf the clouds went away. That was on the 17th of Tamuz. We started to do Teshuva and finally on Yom Kippur, we were forgiven. Men and women began bringing donations for the Mishkan and 5 days later the Jewish people starting building the Mishkan. When G-d saw the building of the Mishkan he returned the clouds to protect us. That is why, says the Gaon, we celebrate now. It is not the clouds that we celebrate but the return of the clouds.

Isn’t it interesting that the clouds, G-d’s protection, didn’t return on Yom Kippur when Hashem said Salachti? Why did Hashem wait until we started building the Mishkan to give us back our sukkah? Yesterday’s principle stands true. On Yom Kippur we were all theoretically good Jews, but then the gold and the silver started to pour in. The test began, are we going to build another calf or are we going to sanctify it to G-d? Are we going to leave the spirituality to Yom Kippur or are we going to take it with us? When we started building a Mishkan, a portable Shul, G-d knew that Yom Kippur took. So He gave us His clouds back.

As we shake our lulavim we must remember that Yiddishkeit has to penetrate deeply. We are picking up branches and fruit. With these we will make a kidush Hashem.

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