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The Active Attachment

Sukkot (Leviticus 22:26-23:44 )

by Rabbi Abba Wagensberg

Greetings from the holy city of Jerusalem!

The Torah says, "You shall make [literally, "make for yourself"] the holiday of Sukkot for seven days" (Deut. 16:13). The Talmud (Sukkah 11b) explains the phrase "make for yourself" to mean that every person must consciously, actively make their own sukkah, rather than having their sukkah accidentally come into being as a result of some other action.

For example, the material that forms the roof of a sukkah ("schach") must fulfill two conditions in order to be kosher: it must have originally grown from the ground, and it must be currently detached from the ground. Imagine that I have four walls forming an enclosed space in my backyard. All summer long, I let the grass grow, until the weeds are so tall that they reach the top of the walls and droop over the edges. Obviously, these weeds are not kosher schach, because they are still rooted in the ground. But a week before Sukkot, I finally mow the lawn, and the tall weeds - which are now detached from the ground - fall over onto the walls.

Now is my sukkah kosher? The answer is no! I did not make the sukkah in my backyard; it just came into being as an accidental result of my mowing the lawn. In order to transform my weed-covered hut into a sukkah, I would need to gather up the weeds and actively place them on top of the walls.

The Vilna Gaon (cited in Sefer Kol HaTor 1:7) states that the entire body is involved in only two mitzvot: the mitzvah of sukkah and the mitzvah to dwell in the Land of Israel. (Mikvah is considered to be a preparation for other mitzvot.) He suggests that, just as we must consciously, actively make a sukkah, we must also be consciously involved in building the Land of Israel to the point where everything is ready for Moshiach to come. This is not a passive waiting - "I guess it will all work out in the end" - but an active involvement in positive change.

The verse that we say every day in davening, "And a redeemer will come to Zion" (Isaiah 59:20), hints to this idea as well. Rashi explains this verse to mean that the redeemer - Moshiach - will come only to a built Zion. The Jerusalem Talmud (Yuma 3:2, 40b) elaborates further, saying that redemption will take place in small, gradual steps, like the sunrise. Our redemption is a process, and we must be active participants in making it come about.

Today, when the Land of Israel seems to be diminishing in size, we are faced with what could be the ultimate test in maintaining our trust in God. We must not become despairing or distraught, but rather must do everything in our power to build and strengthen our attachment to the land. In this merit, may we be able to celebrate Sukkot - not just in our individual sukkahs, but also with "Sukkat David haNofelet" - the Holy Temple in a rebuilt Jerusalem.

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