Friday, September 24, 2021

more on the GR"A's explanation of the date of Sukkos

I wanted to just add a few points to the GR"A we discussed last post.  Given that Bnei Yisrael would have first made sukkos when they left Egypt and went into the midbar, why don't we celebrate the holiday in Nissan?  The Tur answers that if we were to eat outside in Nissan when the weather is nice, it would look like we are just having a nice camping trip or picnic.  Therefore, Hashem put the holiday in Tisrei, when the weather is getting colder, so when we go outside it is obvious that we are doing so l'shem mitzvah.  According to the Tur, there is no inherent connection between Sukkos and 15 Tishei.  In theory any time during the rainy/winter season would be an appropriate time to make the holiday.  However, according to the GR"A that connects Sukkos with the start of the construction of the Mishkan, the date is precise, as the building of the Mishkan started on 15 Tishrei.

According to the Tur, there is also no connection between Sukkos and R"H and Y"K.  The Torah links 3 regalim of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos, since all share a common mitzvah of aliya la'regel, but there the fact that R"H, Y"K, and Sukkos coincide in the same month is by chance alone.  According to the GR"A, Sukkos does have a link with R"H and Y"K, as it is Hashem's forgiveness of the cheit ha'eigel on Y"K which caused the ananei ha'kavod to return.

As we discussed, Sukkos is about our efforts to repair the relationship with Hashem that we damaged through cheit ha'eigel.  My wife pointed out that by sukkah there is a din of ta'aseh v'lo min ha'asuy, that (without getting into technical details) we must construct the roof of schach, not take something some pasul material  that already is on the roof and somehow make it kosher for the sukkah.  It requires is'arusa d'li'tata.  Just as Hashem's declaration of "v'salachti" is not enough for complete kaparah without our efforts to build a Mishkan to repair the damage, so too, a sukkah that comes about without our efforts of construction is not sufficient.

I think this also explains why we commemorate the miracle of the ananei ha'kavod and not the other miracles that occurred in the desert like the mon and the be'er.  According to GR"A, it is not the first occurrence of the ananim which we are marking in celebrating Sukkos, but it is the return of the ananim.  The first occurrence of the ananim, like the mon and be'er, was a gift from Hashem.  It is the second occurrence, it is our efforts to bring back the Shechina, which is what we are celebrating.

Many ask: why do we call it simchas beis ha'sho'eivah when the simcha is in the nisach ha'mayim -- the drawing of the water is just a means to the end?  The Kozhiglover explains that once you are in the Mikdash and standing near the mizbeyach, it's no kuntz and takes no effort to be able to pour the water and do the right thing.  The chiddush is in drawing the water from the ground from outside the Mikdash and bringing it into a holy place.  That require effort, and it is our efforts which are the focus of the chag.


  1. Speaking of the link between RH-YK and Sukkos, there is a BEAUTIFUL Pachad Yitzchaq on Simchas Beis haSho'eivah as a recreation of Adam and celebrating our own recreation through Teshuvah. (Nisuch haMayim is the pouring of water on the very place where -- acc. to one shitah -- Hashem took the earth to make Adam.וְאֵ֖ד יַֽעֲלֶ֣ה מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ and then the dancing and singing -- וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים.

    1. It's a pity it's not available online. I'd at least like to understand why אד יעלה relates to the creation of Adam.