This Shabbat is the happiest of the year. It is the one that prepares us for Succot “The Holiday of our Joy”.
Not only that, but this week’s portion is the ‘song’ of Haazinu designed to inspire Jews in all generations to serve G-d.
But anyone who reads the words of Haazinu probably won’t be very happy. Most of it is telling the Jews off for the sins they will do and justifying the resultant tragedies that will befall them.
There are just a few sentences in the end that hint at a future redemption.
What is this telling us?
Also, while we are asking questions, it isn’t really so clear why Succot is the holiday of rejoicing. What exactly is so joyous about sitting in a booth in our backyard or shaking a fruit and some leaves (the Lulov & Etrog)?
To answer this here is a story:
Rabbi Yosef Ruzin, or as he is better known The Rogachaver Gaon (the genius of Rogachav) who passed away some seventy years ago in Russia was a true phenomenon of Torah genius and erudition.
His books are a composite of deep Torah questions followed by long lists of Talmudic references and obscure commentaries where the answers can be found.
He knew all the Talmudic tractates with all their commentaries by heart, but nevertheless he literally never stopped leaning Torah.
His diligence was so outstanding that the great Ohr S’meach, Rabbi Mair Simcha of Divinsk, once said of him that, ‘It can’t be said of him that he has a good memory because there is no aspect of Torah that he has not recently repeated”.
And the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe said of him that his mind was easily five times that of Albert Einstein’s.
Photographs of him show him with a bushy head of hair and it is said that he did not want to take the time from learning to remove his Yarmulke and have it cut more than once a year (according to another explanation it actually hurt him when his hairs were cut due to their proximity to his brain.)
But despite the Rogachover’s greatness and the Rebbe’s high estimation of his mind, he was devoted to the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe with his heart and soul and considered himself one of the Rebbe’s followers. He often would invite the students of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva to eat at his home on the Sabbath and engage them in conversation.
Once he asked them an interesting question; “Can anyone here tell me what a ‘Rebbe’ is; not a Rabbi or a scholar or a Tzaddik (holy Jew) but a Rebbe? They gave a few answers which he considered and rejected until they finally asked him what HE thought a Rebbe is.
He thought for a few seconds and replied: “What a Rebbe is….no one can possibly understand.
“But one thing I know; if a Jew, any Jew, even a Jew on the other side of the world moans in pain, the Rebbe feels it.”
This is the idea of Succot: the unity of all Jews though Moses – or the Moses of each generation.
The Talmud compares the Succa to the sum total of the Jewish people (All Israel is fitting to sit in one Succa) and to the arrival of Moshiach (the fallen Succa of King David).
Similarly, uniting and shaking the ‘Four Types’ of vegetation (Etrog, Lulov, Hadas, Arava) is compared to uniting all types of Jews:
Etrog represents ‘active’ Jews who have taste (Torah) and fragrance (good deeds) while Arava (willow branch) has neither smell or taste and represents dormant Jews etc.
And the holiday of Succot teaches us how to do it:
We have to first leave our houses: go out of our normal ways of thinking, speaking and acting.
Then we have to sit in the Succa: become totally involved and encompassed in serving G-d in all aspects of our lives.
And finally we have to shake the Lulov and the other types; activate, inspire and ‘shake’ other Jews (and Gentiles to do the Noahide commandments) as well.
In other words we have to leave our selfish agendas, be happy we are Jews and change the world.
This will be one of the major jobs of Moshiach; someone who feels and cares for every Jew.
Just as Moses demonstrated in the song of our Torah Portion: He cared nothing for himself, was the humblest man in the world, and therefore was trying to do everything possible in this song to convince the Jews to ‘go out’ of themselves, ‘shake’ their Jewish souls and avoid tragedy.
But he assures them in the last few sentences that it will all be for the best in the end.
For sure G-d will raise the fallen Succa of Dovid and for sure He will gather all the Jews from the four corners of the world to the Holy land by means of Moshiach.
We just have to do all we can to shake up the world in joy and bring….