Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sarah and Sukkos

Many associate Sukkos with Ya’akov Avinu, as the first mention of sukkos in the Torah is Ya’akov’s construction of sukkos for his flocks after escaping Eisav and doing battle with the mysterious angel. Yet, Sukkos could perhaps also be associated with another great personality in Sefer Braishis who preceded Ya’akov by many years. Our matriarch Sarah was also named Yiskah (Rashi Braishis 11:29), which shares the same root s-k-h as the word sukkah. The name Yiskah because refers to sight, highlighting Sarah’s prophetic ability to see what others could not, as well as Sarah’s beauty, which was apparent to all.

A sukkah is a tent-like structure; we also find that Sarah is connected multiple times with tents. The Torah highlights the fact that in his journeys Avraham pitched Sarah’s tent before his own (Rashi Braishis 12:8). When the Angels visit Avraham after his bris they ask where Sarah is; Avraham replies (Braishis 18:9 ) that she is within the tent. Yitzchak brings his new wife Rivka into the tent of his mother Sarah (Braishis 24:67), where once again, as it had in Sarah’s lifetime, a cloud enveloped the tent, much like the clouds of glory enveloped the Jewish people in their desert journey, a fact commemorated through our sukkos.

Perhaps even the secondary meaning of Yiskah, the beauty of Sarah that all could see, is reflected in our sukkos as well. Most of us have the minhag of decorating our sukkos with noi sukkah to beautify and adorn the mitzvah.

The number of korbanos musaf cows offered during sukkos add up to a total of seventy, corresponding to the seventy nations. Sukkos has a universal message – we are the conduit of bracha to the world at large, not merely to ourselves, for our own benefit. However, it would be wrong to thing that as bearers of a message with universal importance we must intermingle with the world, mimicking or adopting their ways to win acceptability. Quite the contrary. Sarah’s unique prophetic vision, which surpassed that even of Avraham, is directly related to her being surrounded by the protective walls of her tent. One who is exposed less to the world, not more, accrues greater Torah vision and insight. Far from making our message less appealing, the truth of our commitment, enhanced and enriched by our immersion in tents and sukkos, will be perceived as all the more beautiful, just as the beauty of Yiskah was apparent to all as well.

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