Israel and Succah: Twin Mitzvahs

Question

Dear Rabbi, I heard that there’s a special connection between living in Israel and the mitzvah to sit in a succah during the festival of Succot. Would you please explain this idea? Thanks!

, , 4 weeks

Answers

  1. Living in Israel and living in a succah “booth” during the holiday are “twin mitzvahs” in a sense.

    Both mitzvahs require us to merit the opportunity to perform them. Many times it is written in the Torah that if the Jewish People sin they will be expelled from the Land of Israel. Similarly, the performance of the mitzvah of succah also requires special merit. Where do we see this?

    The laws of the succah state that the mitzvah to sit in the succah is negated by heavy rain. The mishna says: “Rain falls … to what can this be compared? To a servant who comes to pour a drink for his master and the master throws the flask in his face.” If the Jewish People don’t follow God’s ways, then He brings rain so they won’t be able to perform the mitzvah. (Tractate Succah, Chapter 2, Mishna 9)

    So we see that merit is a key factor for both mitzvahs. But why must one merit the opportunity to do these two mitzvahs? The answer involves another similarity between the two. Both mitzvahs involve our deserving to receive the entire Torah. Rashi comments on the first verse in the Torah and explains why the Torah begins with the creation of the world rather than the first mitzvah, the sanctification of the new moon. Rashi say: Since God created the world, it is His right to give Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish People. If Eretz Yisrael belongs to us, then so too does the Torah, for they go hand in hand.

    Eretz Yisrael is the optimal place for the performance of all of the mitzvahs. The Talmud relates how God compares the Jewish People with the other nations in their willingness to fulfill the mitzvah of succah. God tests the eligibility of the other nations to receive the Torah with the simple mitzvah of sitting in the succah on a hot day. Unable to withstand the heat, the nations of the world leave the succah and even kick it in anger upon leaving. This explains why merit is the key to both the mitzvah of succah and dwelling in Eretz Yisrael: they unlock for us the entire Torah.

    Why are the Jewish People worthy of receiving the Torah through their observance of the commandments to sit in the succah and dwelling in the Land of Israel? Because it is the ability of a Jew to totally immerse himself in mitzvahs that makes him deserving of the entire Torah.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team