The Sefiros of Succos – The Kabalah Holiday (part 1)

On the first night of Succos, one must have in the mind the proper kavanos in order to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah; according to the Pri Migadim. The mitzvah is stated in the blessing “לשב בסוכה “, which means that we are commanded to dwell in the succah, not sit in the succah, as is commonly thought. Similarly, the commandment of Yeshuv Eretz Yisrael ישוב ארץ ישראל is the mitzvah to live in Israel; there is no obligation to sit in Israel. There is a machlokes between Rav Akiva and Rav Eliezer as to what is the reason for the mitzvah of the succah. It is either to remember the Clouds of Glory הכבוד ענני (Rav Akiva), or to remind us that we lived in booths סוכת ממש (Rav Eliezer) .

ויקרא כג, מב-מג, פרשת אמור

בסכת תשבו שבעת ימים, כל האזרח בישראל ישבו בסכת: למען ידעו דורותיכם כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל בהוציאי אותם מארץ מצרים, אני ה’ אלקיכם:

You shall dwell in booths for a seven day period; every native in Israel shall dwell in booths: So that your generations will know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them from the land of Egypt; I am Hashem your   G-d. (Vayikra 23:42-43)

תלמוד בבלי סוכה י”א עמוד ב

דתניא: “כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל” ענני כבוד היו, דברי ר’ אליעזר. ר”ע אומר: סוכות ממש עשו להם.

For it was taught in a Baraisa: scripture states: “That I caused the children of Israel to dwell in succos.” The “succos” were the Clouds of Glory that surrounded the Jews – these are the words of Rav Eliezer. Rav Akiva says: The Jews made for themselves actual booths. (Talmud Bavli, Succah 11b)

It’s a mitzvah to know why we are sitting in the succah. The mitzvah requires a thought process. This is the reason why we are required by halacha to have our head and most of our body inside succah (Sefas Emes).

The Seven Protective Clouds

There were seven protective clouds, thus we also have seven distinguished guests known as the Ushpizin אושפיזין. The Vilna Gaon (Gra) clarifies that after the sin of golden calf we lost the protection of the annanei HaKavod clouds. Moshe prayed to G-d on our behalf for forgiveness. On Yom Kippur we were forgiven and on that day we received the luchos with the Ten Statements.  We did not receive the luchos on the holiday of Shavuos. On the 15th of Elul Moshe set up the mishkan and the seven Clouds of Glory returned. This is the date of the holiday of Succos.

שולחן ערוך, אורח חיים, תרכ”ה:א

בסוכות תשבו שבעת ימים” וגו’ “כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל“, הם ענני הכבוד שהקיפם בהם לבל יכם שרב ושמש. (ומצוה לתקן הסוכה מיד לאחר יום כפור, דמצוה הבאה לידו אל יחמיצנה) (מהרי”ל):

“In sukos you should abide seven days, etc. for in sukos I provided an abode for the children of Israel”. These “sukos” in which Yisrael abided in the wilderness were the clouds of glory which Hashem surrounded them, so that they should not be harmed by the parched heat and sun. It is a mitzvah to make the sukah immediately after Yom Kippur, as once a mitzvah presents itself one should not put off fulfilling it. (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 625:1)

Ushpizin

Many say the ushpizin אושפיזין prayer upon entering the succah every evening, which is based upon the Zohar. The prayer concludes with a request to live in Eretz Yisrael in the Holy Land,אדמת קודש . This reminds the Jewish community that everyone should strive to make Aliyah a reality, not just a nebulous prayer.

סדר הזמנת האושפיזין, נוסח למגיד מקוז’ניץ

עולו אושפיזין עלאין קדישין…ותזכני לישב ימים רבים על האדמה, אדמת קדש, בעבודך וביראתך. בא”ה לעולם אמן אמן.

Enter guests who are exalted and holy…And grant us the merit to dwell many days upon the land [Eretz Yisrael], the Holy Land, in Your service and in fear of You. Blessed is Hashem forever, Amen Amen. (The Ushpizin Prayer)

The Tree of Life: The Sefiros – Arba Minim

We started off the holiday season on Rosh Hashanah, with the siman of the date תמר . We now continue with the spiritual power of the date tree by waving the lulav branch daily, since it represents the sefira of malchus. Malchus also reflects the Throne of G-d הכסא הכבוד. We are reminded of the Kisei Hakavod every morning when we put on tzitzis with techeiles. This reminds us of the shechina שכינה of G-d; the body of the shechina is Eretz Yisrael (Rav Moshe Dovi Volli).

We received the power of the tree via the blessing of “haetz” that we said on the tamar date, when we began the new year. On Succos we take control of “The Tree” – the tree of the sefiros. The lulav, aravos, and hadasim represent The Tree (sefiros) itself. The esrog held in the left hand, near the heart, represents the heart of The Tree (sefiros).

There are 72 nations and 72 languages in the world (Sefer Habahir).  This consists of 70 nations + the nation of Israel + the Satan, which equals 72. The 70 bulls offered on Succos, are given on behalf of the 70 non-Jewish nations.

Succos is a holiday very heavily steeped in kabala. Without a kabala background, there is no way to understand the logic and purpose of the strange things that we do on the holiday of Succos. On Succos we can grasp onto The Tree of the sefiros, the blueprint explaining the way the world works.

We have a festival on Succos celebrating the water drawing during the era of the Beis Hamikdash called the “Simchas Beis Hashoeyva”. We draw water for the mizbeiach on Succos. Similarly, this time we can draw or recieve ruach hakodesh (as Yona ben Amitai did when he received his famous prophecy). We have a tree of life, the Tree of the sefiros. We can only understand it via Torah study. There are 32 paths leading to it, represented by the לב the gematria of “heart”. These two letters are also the last and first letters of the Torah.

The lulav builds on this theme; לו is gematria of 36, which represents the thirty-six tzadikim who sustain the world. Appropriately, the lulav is from the tamar tree which reminds us of the pasuk in Tehillim צדיק כתמר יפרח . The לו is given over to the heart, the לב 32. Tefilah, prayer is the service of the heart תפילה שבלב. There are 32 paths to prayer using the 32 paths of wisdom hidden in the sefiros. We pray to G-d concentrating on His Holy 4 letter name in each blessing, י-ה-ו-ה. The lulav represents G-d’s name of the Tetragrammaton in the following manner: the Hadas (י), Arava (first ה), lulav (ו), Esrog (final ה).

Now is the final stage of repentance. This process began on Rosh Chodesh Elul, continued on with Rosh Hashana, the ten days of teshuva and yom kippur. The teshuva process now culminates with the joy of succos. On succos we enter the succah and are surrounded with mitzvos, more so in Eretz Yisrael. We rectify our outer space. We wave the 4 minim in 6 directions, with us standing in the middle, our malchus, or inner space. Eretz Yisrael is also malchus.

            ספר חרדים פרק נט

והתחיל בתיבת והיה הוא אחד משנים עשר צרופין של שם הקדוש, רמז כי הדר בארץ ישראל דבק בה’, הפך הדר בחוץ לארץ, היינו הישראל שדומה למי שאין לו אלוה…וכתב הרמב”ן במנין תרי”ג מצות ישיבת ארץ ישראל, כל עת ורגע שהאדם בארץ ישראל הוא מקיים המצווה זו. וידוע שעיקר שכר המצוה על השמחה גדולה בה…אם כן צריך היושב בארץ ישראל להיות שמח תדיר במצוה התדירה באהבתו אותה, וגם צריך להיות ירא וחרד, כדכתב רשב”י…והנה תיבת והיה אצל מצות ישיבת ארץ ישראל רמז לשמחת המצוה, וסמיכות הפרשה לעמלק רמז לחרדה במצוה…ויסורין של ארץ ישראל , הן מן האומות מכחישי התורה הן החולאים, מזבח כפרה הם,…”העם שיושב בה נשוא עון” (ישעיה לג:כד)...שעל ידי הצרות שבארץ ישראל מתנכים ומטעטים העונות…וכתיב “וכפר אדמתו עמו” (דברים לב:מג)…וכתב הרמב”ן בפרשת אחרי מות שהזכיר הכתוב בעירות “ותטמא הארץ ואפקוד עונה” (ויקרא יח:כה), אף על פי שהעריות חובת הגוף ואינן תלויות בארץ, מכל מקום עקר כל המצות ליושבים בארץ ה’…”ולא תקיא הארץ אתכם” (ויקרא יח:כח) ארץ ישראל …אינה מקיימת עוברי עבירה…לכן כל אדם יחרד בבואו אל ארץ ישראל להיות ירא שמים כפלי כפלים ממה שהוא בחו”ל, וידע בבית ה’ הוא יושב.

Parsha Ki Savo begins with the word ve’hayah, which is one of the twelve combinations of G-d’s holy name, to hint that one who lives in Eretz Yisrael clings to HaShem, the opposite of one who dwells in Chutz LaAretz – that is a Jew who is likened to one who has no G-d…The Ramban…mitzvah of dwelling in Eretz Yisrael…fulfills this mitzvah every moment he is in the Land…the primary reward for a mitzvah is for the great joy when performing it…one who dwells in Eretz Yisrael must constantly rejoice over his constant and beloved mitzvah… But he must also have fear [of Heaven]… Rav Shimon bar Yochai…mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael…joy…juxtaposition to the section of Amalek…fear when performing a mitzvah…The afflictions one suffers in Ertez Yisrael are like an atoning altar…”…the people who dwell there are forgiven of sin (Yeshaya 33:24)…the hardships one suffers in Eretz Yisrael deduct from and diminish his sins…His Land will atone for His nation (Devarim 32:43)…the main fulfillment of all the mitzvos is for those who dwell in G-d’s Land…Eretz Yisrael…does not retain sinners…fear G-d…he lives in the King’s abode (Sefer Chareidim, chapter 59).

We wave the four minim to draw in the six male sefiros into malchus: Chesed to the right/South, Gevurah to the left/North, Tiferes forward/East, netzahch up, and Hod down, back/West to Yesod (Arizal).  The arba minim are shaken in שמג shaken out three times in each direction; that totals to 6×6 shakings which equals 36, or לו. Joyous are the people who have the privilege to serve G-d properly, אשרי העם שככה לו.

Why do we have 3 Hadassim and 2 Aravos?

Six of the ten sefiros are called the Zer Anpin (Chesed, Gevurah Tiferes, Nezach, Hod ,Yesod); they are considered the masculine traits. This is represented in the arba minim as follows:

3 Hadasim – Chessed Gevurah, Tiferes

2 Aravos – Netzach, Hod

1 Lulav – Yesod

The 1 Esrog represents the lower female sefirah of Malchus. This female sefirah is also called the Nukva or the bride of the Zer Anpin (small face).

We harness the spiritual power of the Zer Anipin by binding the hadasim and aravos to the lulav; this perfects our ability to give through the sefira of Yesod. We then join this group with estrog. In this manner we bind Heaven and earth, G-d and his creations, Zer Anipin + the Shechina. The body of the Shechina is Eretz Yisrael. Waving the arba minim in the Land of Israel has more spiritual significance than in Chutz LaAretz.

By waving the arba minim we spread G-d’s Holy four letter name, represented as the sefiros, all around us. . The yod (י) is Chochma; the first heh (ה) is Bina, the next six sefiros is the vov (ו) and the final heh (ה) is the esrog. We use the lulav to wave in six directions/sefiros, since vov has the gematria of 6. These six waving’s are the six sefiros of olam Yetzirah. There are four Worlds discussed in Kabbalah. In ascending order they are: Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiah. According to the Chessed LeAvraham, when a Jew makes aliyah, he receives a new nefesh from the world of Yetzirah and is now considered a Tzadik.

The Ten Sefiros

We received the heh of Binah and the yod of Chochma on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, this is a very high spiritual level. Chochma is the blueprint G-d used to bring the entire spiritual and physical world into being. On Rosh Hashanah G-d created the world, we say in our prayers after blowing the shofar, היום הרת עולם.

The ten sefiros are also referred to as the faces or Parzufim. Keser is Arich anpin (slow to anger, the thirteen attributes of mercy. Chochma is called Abba and Bina is called Ima. The next six are the Zer Anpin. Malchus is referred to as Rachel. We say on Yom Kippur, “Avinu Malkenu / our Father our King”, we can say this because G-d is our Abba (Chochma).

According to the Arizal we start with the lower sefiros, the Zer Anpin six sefiros and then complete the Partzuf Shalem of all ten sefiros (Pardes Rimonim 6:5, Cordevaro). This parallels ten days (the eseres yemei teshusuva) from Rosh Hashanah (Keser) to Yom Kippur (Malchus). We crown (Keser) G-d king on Rosh Hashana with the shofar blasts. On Succos we repeat the process to rectify the seven lower sefiros , starting with the six Zer Anpin and the one Nukva.

10.Keser

9.Chochmah

8.Binah

1.Chesed – Avraham

2.Gevurah – Yitzchak

3.Tiferes – Yaakov

4.Netzach – Moshe

5.Hod – Aharon

6.Yesod – Yosef

7.Malchus – Dovid

Mitzvos Performed With the Body

There are two mitzvos done with entire body – yishuv Eretz Yisrael and Succah. These are among the eight mitzvos that are equal to all 613 commandments. 1) shabbos 2) torah study 3) living in Eretz Yisrael 4) reject idolatry 5) tzitzis with techeles 6) bris milah 7) chessed/tzedaka 8) living in a succah on succos.

According to the Gra, the shir shel yom on the first day of succos is Tehilim #76. The theme is that in Israel people recognize G-d.

תהילים עו:ב-ג

נודע ביהודה אלקים בישראל גדול שמו. ויהי בשלם סוכו ומעונו בציון.

Recognized in Yehuda is G-d, in Israel great is His name. Then was in Yerushalayim His sukkah (Beish Hamikdash) and His dwelling in Zion. (Tehillim 76:2-3)

The Vilna Gaon learns from this pasuk that the succah and living in Eretz Yisrael are fulfilled with both your body and soul. A man can fulfill all eight of the above mitzvos which are equal to all 613, only if he lives in Israel and dwells in his succah on shabbos while wearing tzitzis, studying torah, rejecting idolatry, and giving a free meal to a guest.

Similar to the effort that must be exerted to build a succah, a Jew must work to settle the Land of Eretz Yisrael. Yeshuv Eretz Yisrael is not supposed to be easy. However, it can be a rewarding process if you love the mitzvah similar to the frustrations in building a succah.

This process began on Pesach , with us becoming G-d’s nachala and chosen nation. We worked up to Shmini Azeres and then received the Torah on Shavuous. We were supposed to receicve the actual luchos on the 17th of Tamuz and then make Aliyah. However, it did not go as planned.

Instead of recieveing the luchos and them making Aliya, we sinned with the golden calf . We lost the first luchos. However, we got a second chance and a second luchos on yom kipur. The proctective clouds of Glory returned to us four days later on Succos. We go through this annual process of renewal and tikun. This process culminates on the eight day after succos with the Holiday of Atzeres. However, the process of avoda בלב actually continues on and concludes after the 36th לו candle, on the eight day of Chanukah, known as Zos Chanuka. In this manner we complete our spiritual person return to G-d through the lulav – the לו to theלב (heart).

About the Author
Arie Pelta MD is a board certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA who made aliyah with his wife and 7 children. He is also a active Medical Corp Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya and Assuta Medical center in Tel Aviv, part of the Assia Medical group. Speciaizing in surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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