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Unity in Practice Too

Prepared by Rabbi Shraga Dovid Homnick.


Succos features a number of mitzvos. Specifically, aside from the more common aspect of it being a yom tov as well as the simcha associated with simchas beis ha’shoeiva, we are commanded to take up residence in a succa as if it were our home, and to fulfill the mitzva of the four minim.

Lulav in the Succa

The Alter Rebbe cites the writings of the Arizal in his siddur stating that it is ideal to make the bracha for the four minim while inside the succa. A story is told that the Rogotchover gaon, who would ignore practices which he thought lacked a halachic basis, was once visited by a chasid who wished to make the bracha on his set of four minim. The Rogotchover is reported to have said: “You’re a chasid, so go make the bracha in the succa.” When the chasid asked “What about you?” the Rogotchover is said to have replied “I myself make the bracha in my house.”

However, the Rebbe once called the story’s veracity into question, since there is in fact halachic basis for making the bracha in a succa: We are supposed to live in a succa as we would in our own home, which is defined as doing any indoor activity there, so it follows that something as important the bracha on the four minim wouldn’t be done in the street and should therefore be done in our current home, the succa!

And although the Alter Rebbe appears to attribute this custom to the Arizal, he’s really saying that aside from the aspect of properly fulfilling the mitzva of succa through conducting one’s activities there, one also fulfills the mitzva of the four minim itself in a more superior manner in this fashion. In fact, according to the Rebbe, this latter point also has support in earlier sources, so the story with the Rogotchover is difficult to believe.

Different Unities

Both mitzvos share the theme of achdus: “All Jews can sit inside one succa,” and the four species, famously representing Jews of various kinds, all come together as one. Chassidus adds that this is even reflected in the individual minim: The hadas must grow in clusters of three leaves in one row, the lulav leaves must be bent together as one, and the esrog in particular grows consistently through every season, uniting them all.

But although both mitzvos express the concept of achdus, there is a fundamental distinction between the two. A succa is an equalizer, where everyone becomes part of one great entity. It’s possible to view ourselves as distinct limbs of one body, where every part has something to offer, and then there is a more transcendental perspective from which limbs lose their own identities and are simply defined as part of the person.

Likewise, there’s a plane on which all Jews are equal, no matter their level of scholarship or observance, as well as a level where, despite being aware of our unique identities, we still assist and support each other. A succa is a place where we’re all equally present, undistinguishably encompassed by within.

Is Transcendent Better?

Seforim observe that the numerical value of ‘schach’ (60+20+20) is 100, identical to the number of shofar blasts (60 tekios + 20 shevarim + 20 teruos). There’s a well-known parable of the Baal Shem Tov about a prince who wished to implore his father to rescue him from an ignominious fate, but because he’d forgotten the royal language, could only plainly scream and was thus identified by his voice.

The nimshal is that although it happens that a Jew can find himself alienated from Torah and mitzvos, he can ultimately signal his distress through the sound of the shofar, because deep down we all share the same core. The same applies to the succa, which is modeled after the clouds of glory which surrounded and protected the entire Jewish people in the desert.

The four minim, however, aren’t four esrogim or four aravos. Each maintains its unique identity, yet they come together as one bundle. It would appear that the model of succa is loftier, since it transcends individual definitions and distinctions, as opposed to the four minim which, despite bringing opposites together, never manages to erase the differences.

Not Just In Theory

But the truth is that one can learn Tanya which explains that we’re only divided by our bodies but our souls are all united with Hashem, and proceed to love everyone as disembodied souls, disconnected from who they actually are.

But that’s not enough; one needs to support his fellow both spiritually and physically. Seeing people for their souls, or even assisting them but only spiritually, is not sufficient. If both own a store, they must not only not undercut each other but they must be of mutual assistance. On the other hand, simply helping people without properly feeling united with them isn’t adequate either.

This is why our point of departure must be the succa, where we recognize that we’re all one entity, and then we must reconcile and integrate that view with the everyday reality we live with. That is the underlying idea behind making the bracha on the four minim in the succa: The paradigm of succa, where we are all one, must be drawn into the perspective of the four minim, resulting in true and complete love for each other.

For further learning see לקוטי שיחות חלק י”ט חג הסוכות ב’ תורת מנחם חלק ל”ח ע’ 181.