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Four Free Days

Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32 )


The Midrash (Yalkut Emor 651) comments on the verse, "You should take for you on the first day," that Sukkot is the first day for the accounting of sins. Many explanations are offered to explain this difficult Midrash.

The Shlah HaKadosh explains that in the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, people are so busy preparing for Sukkot that they have no time to sin. Others say that the influence of Yom Kippur and its power to expiate sins extends into these four days. Rabbi Yehonasan Eibshitz writes in Ya'aros Dvash that the gematria of "the Satan" is 364, from which the Sages learn that the Satan, the evil urge, has power 364 days of the year, and not on Yom Kippur. The letter "heh" signifies that on five of the remaining days the Satan has reduced control. These are the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot (counting a portion of the first day of Sukkot as the fifth day).

The effect of Yom Kippur is so overwhelming and inspiring that a Jew is catapulted to a level far beyond his real attainment. We are judged according to our level, and therefore someone on a higher level is judged more harshly for the same sin than someone on a lower level. Thus if God were to judge us immediately after Yom Kippur according to our level at that time, the result would be an unduly harsh judgment.

Just as before Rosh Hashana we are given a minimum of four days of Selichot in order to prepare ourselves to enter Rosh Hashana as a blemishless sacrifice, so we are given four days after Yom Kippur to settle back to our real level. The accounting of our sins during these four days is then retroactively calculated according to the level we reach on the first day of Sukkot. These four days are like a decompression chamber given to a deep sea diver.

Another aspect of these euphoric four days is the fact that we are so charged emotionally and so busy preparing the materials for Sukkot, that even when we sin, those sins are rarely premeditated or calculated. Similarly, the preparations are also executed in a frenzied mood of elation that leaves little time or place for calculation and meditation. To a certain degree, this elation is positive. It corresponds to the days after that first Yom Kippur in the desert in which the materials for the Mishkan were donated and the people gave with unbridled emotion, without any calculation of necessity. Finally Moshe had to call a halt to this unbridled giving and announce, "Enough."


This powerful emotion is the raw material to be shaped with reflection into a Mishkan. The Torah relates in this week's parsha that God bid Moses to ascend Mount Nevo to expire "in the midst of the day." The entire people had said they would try to prevent Moses' death. The obvious question is: What could they have done to prevent Moses from dying?

The answer is: nothing. But the people were so emotionally charged with love for Moses – despite the month-long rebuke to which they had been subjected – that rational calculation did not exist. By commanding Moses to go up at midday to show their helplessness to prevent his passing, God, at the same time, publicized this commendable desire of the Jewish people. Later, the unbounded love for Moses was refined and shaped into the loyalty which the people transferred to Joshua.

The four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot correspond to the four letters of God's Ineffable Name. Our feelings during these four days are raw material to be shaped in calm reflection, and transformed into our calculated service of God on the first days of Sukkot.

May we utilize the special opportunity of these four days to prepare for Sukkot and the mitzvah of lulav, symbolic of our victory on Yom Kippur, and by channeling the intense emotion with which we emerge from Yom Kippur so that it extends its influence into the entire year.

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