Succot has finally arrived. Everyone’s busy preparing for the Chag, getting the Arba Minim, building beautiful Succot. Question: Where did you build your Succah?
Many people have houses and tend to build in their back garden. Some have the pleasure of an inbuilt Succot. Others in apartments arrange for a Succah to be built on communal grounds. Have you ever heard of building a Succah on a roof top? Perhaps you have. But have you ever heard of everyone building a Succah on their rooftops?
The Gemara (Avoda Zara 3) tells about an event that will occur in the future. When it becomes clear how beneficial the Mitzvot are for our welfare in this world, the nations of the world will go and complain to G-d: “You never gave us the same chance you gave the Jews! You never gave us all the Mitzvot!”
“All right,” G-d will say, “I’ll give you an easy mitzva: to dwell in a Succah during Succot.” So the people of the world will enthusiastically build Succot on their roof tops, and move into them during Succot. Then G-d will cause the sun to burn down strongly, until it becomes unbearably hot in the Succah, whereupon everyone will leave their Succot with disgust, kicking the wall in temper as they leave.
Many questions have been raised on this Gemara. We will focus on one – why do the people of the world build their Succot on their roofs?
The story is told of a Lithuanian Count that was friendly with the local Rabbi – Rabbi Chaim Zlotes Zts’l.
One day the Count had a visitor and wished to impress upon him the saintliness of the Rabbi. They went to the Rabbi’s house and knocked on the door. There was no answer. They knocked harder and again no answer. They peeped through the window and saw Rabbi Chaim standing, his body still, his eyes closed with intensity.
Perhaps he didn’t hear, the Count knocked even harder yelling “It’s the Count, please open the door!”
The Rabbi remained still. They decided to wait patiently until he was ready. After 5 minutes, the Rabbi answered the door apologising for not coming earlier. The other dignitary was not impressed and commented, “We have many Jews in our vicinity and I know how Jews pray. They move backwards and forwards, not still like this man.”
The Rabbi humbly defended himself. “Allow me to share with you a story” he said.
“There was once a king who had amassed a great wealth. Upon receiving his one thousandth gold coin, he decided to build a special treasure case that would fit all of his gold coins. He employed the world’s best carpenter and told him that he would like the chest to fit exactly 1,000 coins and no more. The carpenter worked day and night for months, eventually delivering a solid and safe treasure chest to the king. The king invited many people to attend and see this wonder, and they started to place all the gold coins in the chest. They approached the last four coins. One, two, three went in but the final coin – didn’t fit! There was a sigh around the room. The carpenter had failed. The king’s face turned red with anger, but the carpenter quickly intervened. “I assure you that they all fit! Let me show you”, he said as he commanded the guards to take out all the coins. Everyone was stunned. They had tak-en an hour to put the coins in and now they were told to take them all out?!”
The King signalled for the guards to go ahead. Once all the coins were out, the carpenter went to the chest and removed from within it some dust that had accumulated. “Please, now proceed to put the coins in.” He said. And so it was that all the coins managed to fit.
Rabbi Chaim lifted his eyes to the other dignitary and said “G-d commands us to serve Him with all our heart”. Our sages have said this refers to prayer. When there is a bit of dust in the heart; something will be left outside. When we are not completely sincere, when we have not perfected ourselves LeShem Shamayim, then something else takes up the space that is meant for serving Hashem. A pure person isn’t looking around and trying to act good so that others will think he is pure, he is wholeheartedly believing it and acting so.
Our Sages teach us that in the future, the nations of the world will also want to build the Succah. They will understand the greatness of Hashem’s commandments. Yet they will choose to build the Succah on the roof, because they will want all to see what righteous individuals they are. In truth, it’s all a parade. There is no true intrinsic sincerity to their actions, it’s all a show.
When Hashem brings out the sun and things get too hot, they end up kicking the Succah down and showing their true colours.
We left Egypt in Nissan, Pesach time, and stayed in booths surrounded by the Clouds of Glory in the wilderness. Yet we celebrate Succot six months later in Tishrei.
Hashem in His kindness blessed us with the wonderful festival of Succot and placed it shortly after we have cleansed ourselves from all the dust in our hearts on Yom Kippur. Let’s go out into the Succah, show Hashem our intentions are sincere and celebrate with Simcha our awesome relationship with the King of Kings.