Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sukkos in the Fall

The Tur (OC 625) asks, if on Sukkos we re-enact our sojourn in the eponymous Sukkos in the desert, why does it occur in the Fall, when the event took place when we left Egypt, in the Spring.  He answers that after a wet and cold Winter, many people find it pleasurable to eat outdoors as the weather improves.  If we made the holiday in the Spring, it would not have the symbolic force that it does now.  We make it in the Fall, when nobody else eats or sleeps outdoors, so that we should be emphatically reminded of our reason for doing so.  As the Bach says, the mitzva of Sukkos requires a specific awareness of the reason for the commandment.  (I apologize to my friends in the Southern Hemisphere for the Hemispheric chauvinism.)

The Rambam (Moreh 3:43) says exactly the opposite of the Tur: that this season was picked because it's neither too hot nor too cold for a Succah (in Eretz Yisrael's climate, of course).

These are unsatisfying answers.  We are taught that our holidays are not mere tableaux vivants re-enactments, but instead a re-experience of the mazal and segula of the moment, a wellspring from which we draw spiritual strength.  It is hard to accept the Rambam's and the Tur's assertions that Sukkos has no inherent temporal/spiritual relation to its place in the calendar.

Addressing this issue, the Vilner Gaon (born 1720) and the Chasam Sofer (born 1762) say identical answers.  The Vilner Gaon is in Shir Hashirim 1:4, here.  The Chasam Sofer is in his Drashos, page 29a, in the Drasha for Shabbos Shuva of תקצ"ד, D'H B'Yalkut, here.

Thank you, Heather H., for pointing out that today, October 17, is the Gaon's Yahrtzeit, 19 Tishrei Tof Kuf Nun Ches/1797.  The Chasam Sofer's Yahrtzeit, 25 Tishrei Tof Reish/1839, is next Sunday, October 23.  May they be meilitzei yosher for us and all Klal Yisrael.

They answer that the Clouds which (according to Rebbi Eliezer) the Sukkos represent, departed upon the sin of the Eigel.  The Clouds only returned after we did teshuva and began building the Mishkan.  When was that?  Our teshuva was accepted on Yom Kippur, the tenth.  On the eleventh, Moshe Rabbeinu gave us the commandment to build the Mishkan; on the twelfth and thirteenth, we collected the material and money we needed; on the fourteenth, the calculations, assignments and disbursements were made, and on the fifteenth of Tishrei, the work began.  It is not just the Ananim we are celebrating- we're celebrating Hashem's return of the Ananei Hakavod as a sign of His love after we did teshuva.  The Teshuva did not merely erase our sins, it reinstated Hashem's love.  It is the great joy of the return of the ananei hakavod that we are celebrating.

The problem with this teretz is the pessukim in Nechemiah 9:19-20, which say
 יח אף כי עשו להם עגל מסכה ויאמרו זה אלהיך אשר העלך ממצרים ויעשו נאצות גדלות.  יט ואתה ברחמיך הרבים לא עזבתם במדבר את עמוד הענן לא סר מעליהם ביומם להנחתם בהדרך ואת-עמוד האש בלילה להאיר להם ואת-הדרך אשר ילכו בה

Even when they made the Eigel and said "This is your god that took you out of Egypt", and they did great blasphemies, You, in Your great mercy, did not leave them in the Desert.  The Pillar of Cloud did not move away from them in the day to lead them on the path, nor the Pillar of Fire to illuminate the road they walked upon.

It appears that these pesukim, which clearly state that the sin of the Eigel did not cause the Cloud to go away, contradict the assertion of the Gaon and the Chasam Sofer.

The answer is, of course, that there is a difference between the Amud Ha'anan and the Ananei Hakavod.  The Pillar of Cloud remained with them, but the Clouds of Glory, which covered and protected them, did disappear, and only came back when they began building the Mishkan.

You might disagree with this distinction.  After all, the Aruch Hashulchan seems to commingle the two Ananim:

ותניא (סוכה יא ב): "כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל" – ענני כבוד היו, דברי רבי אליעזר. רבי עקיבא אומר: סוכות ממש עשו להם.
והנה לדברי רבי אליעזר – וודאי דשייך לעשות זכרון לדבר הגדול הזה, שהקיפן בענני כבוד. וכמו שהתוודו בעלותם מן הגולה בנחמיה (ט), שאמרו: "אף כי עשו להם עגל מסכה... ואתה ברחמיך הרבים לא עזבתם במדבר, את עמוד הענן לא סר מעליהם..., ואת עמוד האש בלילה...". דבענני כבוד היתה התגלות אלקות ממש, כמו שאמר משה רבינו בעניינא דמרגלים: "אשר עין בעין נראה אתה ד', ועננך עומד עליהם, ובעמוד ענן אתה הולך לפניהם יומם, ובעמוד אש לילה"

Also, we find that Chazal equate the Amud Ha'anan and the Ananei Hakavod, in Medrash Bamidbar Rabbah II:

וכמה ענני כבוד היו מקיפין את ישראל במדבר 
ר' הושעיה ור' יאשיה, ר' יאשיה אמר: חמישה. ארבע לארבע רוחות, וא' מהלך לפניהם. ר' הושעיה אמר: שבעה. ארבעה לארבע רוחות השמים, וא' מלמעלן, וא' מלמטן, ואחד שהיה מהלך לפניהם רחוק ג' ימים, והיה מכה לפניהם את הנחשים, ואת העקרבים, ואת השרפים, ואת הסלעים, ואם היה מקום נמוך היה מגביהו, ואם היה מקום גבוה היה משפילו, ועושה אותם מישור, שנאמר (ישעיה מ): כל גיא ינשא וכל הר וגבעה ישפלו. 

Also, see (sorry about the transcription errors: my secretary stepped out for a moment...)  Mechilta D'Rebbi Yishmael in Beshalach, 13:21, where it says very clearly

 וה׳ הולך לפניהם יומם בעמוד ענן מלמד ששבעה ענני כבוד היו עם ישראל  
יומם  בעמוד  ענן  הרי אחד .  ועננך  עומד  עליהם  (ב מ ׳  יד  יד )  הרי שנים .  ובעמוד  ענן  את ה  הולך  לפניהם  יומם  (שס)  הרי שלשה. ובהאריך  הענן  (בפ׳  סיס )  הרי  ארבעה. ובהעלות  הענן  (שמ׳  פ לו )  הרי  המשה. ואם  לא  יעלה  הענן  (שם לז)  הרי  ששה. כי  ענן  ה׳ על  המשכן  יומם  (שם  לה)  הרי  שבעה.  ארבעה 15 מארבע  רותות  ואחו  מלמ עלה  ואחד  םלמסד .  וא ח ד  שמ ק ד י ם  לפ נ י ה ם  פ ת ק ן  לה ם  את  הד ר כ י ם  מג ב י ר . לה ם  את  הש פ ל  ומ ש פ י ל  לה ם  את  הג ב ו ה  וע ו ש ה  לה ס  דר ך  ס ר ס  ומ י ש ו ר  כע נ י ן  שנ א י  כל  ני א  י נ ש א וכ ל  הר  וג ב ע ה  יש פ ל ו  וה י ה  הע ק ב  לפ י ש ו ר  וה ר כ ס י ם  לב ק ע ה  (ישע׳ פ ד) וא ו ם ׳  והיתד. פס ל ה  לש א ר עפ ו  אש ר  יש א ר  מא ש ו ר  כא ש ר  הי ת ה  לי ש ר א ל  כי ו ם  על ו ת ו  מא ר ץ  פצ ר י ם  (ישע׳  י א  שז). הד י  זה  נ א כפ ל מ ד  ו נ מ צ א  למ ד  מה  לע ת י ד  לב ו א  כל  גיא יג ש א  וכ ל  ה ר  וג ב ע ה  יש פ ל ו  כך  היד, לה ן  בע ל י י ת ן 20 פא ר ץ  מצ ר י ם .  די א  והי  הל ך  לפ נ י ה ם  י ו מ ם  ר׳  יו ס י  הנ ל י ל י  או מ ר  אל מ ל א  פק ר א  כ ת ו ב  אי אפ ש ר ל א פ ר ו  כא ב  שנ ו ס ל  סו נ ס  לפ נ י  בנ ו  וכ ר ב  שנ ו ס ל  פו נ ס  לפ נ י  עב ד ו .  לל כ ת  י ו מ ם  ול י ל ה  פק י ש  נס י ע ת ן כי פ י ם  לנ ס י ע ת ן  בל י ל ו ת  פ ה  נס י ע ת ן  בי פ י ם  לא  הי ו  טח ו ס ר י ן  או ר ה  אף  נס י ע ת ן  בל י ל ו ת  לא  הי ו פח ו ס ר י ן  או ר ה .  מה  נס י ע ת ן  בל י ל ו ת  לא  יר ע ב ו  ול א  י נ פ א ו  ול א  יכ ם  שר ב  וש מ ש  (י ש ע ׳  מם  י) אף נס י ע ת ן  בי מ י ם  לא  יר ע ב ו  ול א  יצ מ א ו  ול א  יכ ם  שר ב  וש מ ש .

וה' הולך לפניהם יומם. את מוצא שבעה ענני כבוד היו, אלו הן: וה' הולך לפניהם יומם בעמוד ענן, הרי אחד. "ועננך עומד עליהם" (במדבר יד , יד), הרי שנים. "ובעמוד ענן" (שם), הרי שלשה. (שם ט, יט) "ובהאריך הענן", ארבע. "ובהעלות הענן" (שמות מ , לו), חמשה. (שם, לז) "ואם לא יעלה הענן", ששה. (שם, לח) "כי ענן ה' על המשכן", שבעה. ארבע מארבע רוחות: ואחד מלמטה, ואחד מלמעלה, ואחד מהלך לפניהם. כל הנמוך מגביהו, וכל הגבוה מנמיכו, ושורף נחשים ועקרבים, מכבד ומרבץ את הדרך לפניהם

וה' הולך לפניהם יומם - נמצאת אומר שבעה עננים הם: "וה' הולך לפניהם יומם", וגו' (במדבר יד) "ועננך עומד עליהם", (שם) "ובעמוד ענן", (במדבר ט) "ובהאריך הענן", (שמות מ) "ובהעלות הענן", (שם) "ואם לא יעלה הענן", (שם) "כי ענן ה' על המשכן".
שבעה עננים: ארבע מארבע רוחותיהם, אחד למעלה ואחד למטה, אחד שהיה מהלך לפניהם, כל הנמוך - מגביהו, וכל הגבוה - משפילו, שנאמר (ישעיה מ) "כל גיא ינשא, וכל הר וגבעה ישפלו, והיה העקוב למישור, והרכסים לבקעה". והיה מכה נחשים ועקרבים לפניהם, מכבד ומרבץ לפניהם.
ר' יהודה אומר: שלשה עשר עננים היו: שנים לכל רוח ורוח, שנים מלמעלה ושנים מלמטה, ואחד שהיה מהלך לפניהם.
ר' יאשיה אומר: ארבעה: אחד לפניהם ואחד לאחריהם, אחד למעלה ואחד למטה.

ר' אומר: שנים.

It's possible that some ananim went away and some didn't.  But the pashtus of the Passuk in Nechemiah is that all of the Ananim remained after the sin of the Eigel, even before Yom Kippur.  So what's pshat in the teretz of Gaon and the Chasam Sofer?  We can find the answer to this question in the Chasam Sofer, here, (Drashos, page 53b, D'H Sha'alah).

The Chasam Sofer asks, why does the Gemara in Sukkos 26b not suggest that women ought to be Chayav in Sukka because they were involved in the miracle no less than the men?   He answers, as he said earlier, that Sukkos commemorates not the Clouds, but the return of the Clouds after Teshuva.  He says that the Clouds did not actually disappear, but they ejected any sinner that attempted to enter into them.  The men, who were excommunicated for their sin of the Eigel, remained outside of the cloud until they began building the Mishkan.  The women, on the other hand, had never participated in the Eigel, and were never driven away from the Anan.  While any man entering the Anan were spit out, the women were able to enter the Anan at will.  Since for the women nothing changed, the redemptive experience of Sukkos did not apply to them at all, and we certainly could not say they're chayav on the basis of אף הן היו באותו הנס.  They weren't באותו הנס at all.

According to the Chasam Sofer, we can understand the pesukim in Nechemiah to mean that the Anan never went away, and still guided them.  But it did not allow the men to enter into it, it was poleit them.  Only when they began building the Mishkan were the men allowed to enter into the cloud, and it is this redemptive experience that took place on the fifteenth of Tishrei that we celebrate.

I want to point out an irony.  According to the Chasam Sofer, the reason that we wouldn't apply אף הן היו באותו הנס to obligate women to do the Mitzva of Sukka is because they never sinned, they never were kicked out, and they never earned redemption.  Sukkos is the holiday that commemorates a fall and a return to Hashem's love.  They never fell, and Hashem loved them all the time, so they have no reconciliation to celebrate.  Although it sounds strange, it makes perfect sense.  The descendants of an alternative Avraham Avinu who never said "Bamah Eida" would never have been redeemed from Mitzrayim.  I recently read that a physician lamented how he spends half an hour teaching a patient about lifestyle changes that will ensure that his heart remains healthy, and a cardiac surgeon that repairs a heart damaged by by a bad lifestyle is paid thirty to forty times as much for his half hour.  Somehow, that reminded me of the Chasam Sofer's teretz.


  1. B: I had always heard about the Tur's kashya and teirutz. This year I saw quoted in the name of both the Ibn Ezra and the Ramban a different teirutz: that when Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim, it was the beginning of the warm season, and there was no need to use a sukkah at all. It was only six months later, at the beginning of the cold season, that they actually began to use Sukkos. Hence the Yom Tov does reflect historical reality. (This pshat works better acc. to the view that the possuk of le maan yeidu is talking about sukkos mamash.)

  2. Odd, then, that the schach is supposed to protect from heat and sun, but not from rain,and it doesn't do much of a job holding in heat, either. I'm going to have to check the Ramban and IE.

    Another interesting thing about the Chasam Sofer is that he says that on the tzad they were sukkos mamash, it refers to their billets during the campaign of Sichon and Og. On that tzad, he says, we understand why we don't say אף הן היו באותו הנס, because they weren't out in the battlefield.

  3. Not exactly sure when the battles with sichon and og were, however it was after rosh chodesh av (aron hakohen's petira) and before 7 shvat (when sefer devarim starts) which is at least the right season, if not perhaps that those actual battles, and therefore sukkos mamash, were on the dates of sukkos...

  4. Yes, the idea of Sichon and Og is not well known at all. In fact, the notes on the bottom of the second Chasam Sofer I brought in the post, at
    notes this, and brings that the source of this idea is the Sefer HaRokei'ach.

  5. 1. Rambam (Moreh 3:43) says exactly the opposite of the Tur, that is, this season was picked because it's neither too hot nor too cold for a Succah (in EY's climate of course)

    2. I've never understood the Tur - look up any weather almenach and see that October is warmer than April (Pesach should be, in principle, about two weeks after the equinox; Sukkot then is about the time of fall's equinox; hottest day of teh year is about 40 days after the longest day, thus closer to Sukkot). Psychologically though, the temperature gradient might be more important that the absolute value.

    3. See Bamidbar Raba end of Chukat: יש אומרים מלחמת סיחון עשו באלול ועשו את הרגל בתשרי ואחר הרגל מלחמות עוג so it's the right time

    4. Looking for סוכות ממש it seems the obvious place to start is ויסעו בני-ישראל מרעמסס ויחנו בסוכות.

    5. There are many psukim showing Bney Yisrael used tents and not Sukkot while in the dessert. So the Sukkot-mamash event was probably an exception, either when they just left Mitzraim (as in the previous point) or during the Sichon and Og war.

  6. Hi, Eli.

    1. I think I'll put the Rambam in, too, because it's equally shver and needs the Gaon.

    2.I think you're right about the psychological aspect. By the end of summer, nobody is excited about temperate weather.

    3, 4. I didn't see the Rashi. The magi'ah on the Drashos forgot it, apparently, too.

    5. I always found it strange that many poskim disapprove of walls that are made of fabric, since they define a wall as something that doesn't wave in the wind. As you point out, though, that sense derives from the common error that the sukkos were ohalim, which they clearly were not.

  7. > But the pashtus of the Passuk in Nechemiah is that all of the Ananim remained after the sin of the Eigel, even before Yom Kippur.

    I don't feel this is necessarily the pashtus in Nechemia. I think pashtus is that despite the sin of the eigel, God took care of us for the next 40 years in the desert, with ananim and food, water, etc. (verses 9:20-21) This does not mean those Divine gifts were never temporarily suspended at any point during those years. (e.g., the clouds and water/well briefly depart after Miriam & Aharon die, per Ta'anis 9a.) I read the section 9:15-21 as thanking God for ultimately supporting us with all of those gifts as needed over the 40 years, despite the sin of the eigel (and despite other sins in the desert, per 9:17).

    Still I truly enjoyed the good, creative work in your piece to answer the question. You are right that the Chatam Sofer consistently (also in his 1st drashsa you cite) describes the clouds expelling the sinners, not leaving altogether.

    BTW, I never realized that the whole story of the clouds leaving (or expelling) as punishment for the Eigel was a "modern" chidush of the Gra. I always assumed it was sourced in a midrash, but evidently I was wrong.

  8. Steven: I don't think I agree with you, but I like the thought as a solid hava amina that has potential- it does not mean they never left, it means they didn't permanently leave. I wouldn't be surprised to find it in the classic meforshim. I still wouldn't agree with it, though.

    The idea that the anan left or expelled does not originate with the Gaon. It was he that used that idea as a basis for his demonstration that the Anan returned on Sukkos.

    and Thank you. I appreciate your compliment primarily because I enjoy knowing that I've made a positive contribution to someone's perception of the Torah.

  9. > The idea that the anan left or expelled does not originate with the Gaon. It was he that used that idea as a basis for his demonstration that the Anan returned on Sukkos.

    Thank you very much for that clarification. I tried (only very briefly) to find an original, earlier source but could not. Do you know the source? I'm curious generally, but also specifically it would be good to check the original language for consistency with the notion of the anan expelling sinners versus leaving.

  10. דברים כ"ה י"ח: זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק...אשר קרך בדרך ויזנב בך כל הנחשלים אחריך, ואתה עיף ויגע ולא ירא אלוהים.

    רש"י ד"ה כל הנחשלים אחריך: חסרי כוח מחמת חטאם שהיה הענן פולטן.

    מדרש תנחומא פרשה י': ורבנן אמרי שבט דן שפלטו הענן היו כולם עובדי ע"ג

    Also, Targum Yonasan Shemos 17:8, just like Tanchuma.

    Bottom line: you're right, there's no reference to the anan/im changing after the sin of the Eigel. The only reference is to other avoda zara, or to the tribe of Dan. It is indeed only the Gaon that uses it in the context of the Chet Ha'Eigel.

    Thanks for pointing this out.