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Torah Commentary - Vayikra

                                                     *Commentary courtesy of Menahem Me-Zahav

Shaking of the Lulav.
The First Day of Sukkot will be observed on Shabbat (9/30).
Because of the Shabbat, the customary Shaking of the Lulav (Together with the Etrog, Hadas and Aravot), 
will not take place on this day (only). 

Torah Reading for the 1st day of Sukkot   Leviticus – Va’yikra 22:26 – 23:44 (Pages 723-730)

Our Sidrah today starts with a few rules of the regular offerings. It then lists all our holidays and some special rules that apply to each one. Pessach is to be observed on the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan. No Chametz is allowed for seven days. Matzot are to be eaten on the first day of Pessach. On the remaining 6 days of Pessach Matzot are optional. 

The Omer is to be brought to the Temple on the 2nd day of Pessach. The Omer was a certain amount (A 1/10 of an Eifa) taken from the first crop that was harvested on the 2nd day of Pessach. On the same 2nd day of Pessach a Sefirah (Count of the Omer - Sefirat Ha’Omer), was  Started and repeated for 49 days. The fiftieth day, Became the Holiday of Shavuot.
The next batch of Holidays in our Torah reading, are the High Holidays that fall in the month of Tisheai : Rosh Hashanah on the 1st, and Yom Kippur on the 10th of the month. Finally, we arrive at our main event of today: Chag HaSukkot – The Holiday of Sukkot. 

Sukkot falls on the 15th day of Tishrei (5 days after Yom Kippur). It is to be observed for 7 days. The 8th day is named Shemini Atzeret (The 8th day for Solemn Gathering). The word “Sukkot” means  “Sheds” or “Huts”. It is memorializing the Sukkot – Huts, which used to be erected by the Jewish people in the desert, for the purpose of a temporary living. “On the 15th day of the 7th month (Tishrei) when you gather the produce of the land, you shall observe the festival of the Lord…And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for 7 days…You shall sit in the Sukkah so that future generations will know, how I (God) have initiated your sitting, in Sukkah’s upon leaving Egypt. I am the Lord your God”. (Leviticus 23:39-43).  

Rejoicing on Sukkot
We just mentioned that “You shall Rejoice before The Lord Your God (On Sukkot) for 7 days”. 
As we know Sukkot is just one of three Holidays - The Holidays of Pessach, Shavuot and Sukkot. 
However, the order to Rejoice is not equal for all the 3 Holidays. When it comes to the command, to  
Rejoice, we find that The Torah, deals differently with each of these 3 Holidays. 
Let us review the 3 Holidays (Pessach, Shavuot and Sukkot):   
The Holiday of Pessach: We cannot find any order of Rejoicing being mentioned for Pessach.                                        

The Holiday of Shavuot:  Rejoicing is mentioned once: “And you shall Rejoice in front of The Lord 
Your God, You and your entire family” Deuteronomy 16:11).                                                    
The Holiday of Sukkot: Rejoicing is mentioned not less than 3 times, as follows:   
a.  “And you shall Rejoice, in front of The Lord Your God for seven days” (Can be found in today’s 
      reading, Leviticus 23:40).
b.  ”And you shall Rejoice on the Holiday (Of Sukkot), you and your entire family” (Deut.16:14).  
c.   ”Seven days (Of Sukkot) shell you celebrate for The Lord your God…And you shall be only    
     Joyfull” (Deut. 16:15).                                    
Why does the Torah mention three times “Rejoice” with respect to Sukkot, while it mentions only 
once regarding Shavuot, and not even once regarding Pessach? 

Here is a Midrash, from The ‘’Pessikta De-Rav Cahana’ (It is a collection of Legendary Midrashim, dated to between the 5th and 6th Centuries CE).  
During Pessach, the Harvesting of the Crop in the fields has just begun. It is not complete. We do not
know yet, if it really is a success. We cannot Rejoice yet (No Rejoyce mentioned).
When Shavuot arrives (50 days later), the Crop from the fields, has been brought into the barn. 
We can now rejoice because of its success (One Rejoice mentioned).
The fruit however, has just begun to be picked from the trees. It will not be complete for another
month or so, when it is all brought in. And then comes the Holiday of Sukkot. 
By now, both the Crop from the fields, and the Fruit from the trees, have all been successfully 
harvested. It has all been “Ingathered” (As the name of Sukkot is also The Holiday of the Ingathering 
- or Chag Ha’assif). Two “Rejoice’s are now in order.
The third “Rejoice” is the most important one. We have just gone through a most important season in
our lives. The High Holidays, that are intended to inspire us for “Teshuvah” (Repentance), are just 
over. We hope for a Shanah Tovah – A Good Year to follow, hence the reason for a Third “Rejoice”. 

Maftir for the 1st day of Sukkot Numbers 29:12-16 Page 934 
In the Maftir reading we find a detailed description of the special offerings that were made on the first day of Sukkot. (Named in the Torah as: The 15th day of the 7th month - Tishrei).  

The Haftarh for the 1st day of Sukkot - Zachariah 14:1-21 (Pages 1253-1255)
Our Haftarah is reminiscent of a future Messianic era, that interestingly so, was envisioned in a 
similar way by the prophet Malachi (Who was a contemporary of Zachariah, and was only a few
years younger than Zachariah). Their Prophetic periods however, may have somewhat overlapped. 
Malachi describes ‘The Great Day of the Lord’, as the Day that Elijah the Prophet, will reappear to
the Jewish people, as the Announcer of the coming of the Messianic Era. (The above is part of the
Haftarah for Shabbat Hagadol – The Shabbat before Pessach - Malachi 3: 4-24). 
Similarly, Zachariah in our Haftarah, talks about ‘The Day of the Lord’ as well. However, according 
to Zachariah, The Day of The Lord (as portrayed in today’s Haftarah), is totally different. It will have
another, very distinct message. Here is Zachariah’s Messianic vision: “The Day of the Lord is coming 
and your spoil of war (your property) will be divided. And I (God) will assemble all the nations to
Yerushalayim, and it will be captured” (Zachariah 14:1-2). 
The Messianic era will then be announced by God Himself, who will be fighting off Israel’s enemies.
“And The Lord will come forth and fight these nations” … “And on this day, there will fall great panic,
from the Lord, upon them…and the wealth of all nations will be gathered in Yerushalayim” 
(So that the Jewish people’s stolen property is returned). Zachariah 14:3 and 14:13-14.

Why was this Haftarah assigned to the First Day of Sukkot? 
The link between our Haftarah, and the Holiday of Sukkot, can be found in the following (Zachariah 
14:16): “And all the survivors of those nations that came to Jerusalem (To fight Israel, and were
swiftly beaten by God), they will ascend year by year (to Jerusalem) in order to bow to God, and
to observe the Chag - HaSukkot”.


Mon, December 4 2023 21 Kislev 5784