Succot Hallel Part One
At which point did the Children of Israel recite Hallel? When the plague of the Slaying of the First Born began, Pharaoh went and knocked on the door of Moshe and Aaron’s house. Pharaoh wanted Israel to leave immediately, in middle of the night. “Fool,” said Moshe, “ are we thieves that we should sneak out in middle of the night?” Pharaoh responded with desperation: “All of Egypt is dying. You must leave!” Moshe and Aaron said, “If you want to stop this plague, say ‘you are free. You are under your own power. You are now the servants of God.’ Pharaoh began to cry out, “In the past you were my slaves, but now you are free. You are under your own power. You are now the servants of God and you must praise Him for the fact that you are His servants.” That is why the verse says, “Praise Him servants of God.” (Midrash Socher Tov)
Rav Shlomo Kluger (Tehillot Yisrael) asks; How could Moshe offer advice to Pharaoh when we have learned that one is punished for advising an enemy:
Rab Judah has said in the name of Rab (or it may be R. Joshuah b. Levi) that Daniel was punished only because he gave advice to Nebuchadnezzar, as it is written, “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you, and atone your sins by righteousness and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, if there may be a lengthening of your tranquility etc.” (Bava Batra 4a)
He answers that Moshe was intent on speeding the redemption, as the Talmud teaches:
R. Abba said: All agree that when Israel was redeemed from Egypt they were redeemed in the evening. For it is said: “The Lord, your God brought you forth out of Egypt by night.” But they did not actually leave Egypt till the daytime. For it is said: “On the morrow after the Passover the children of Israel went out with a high hand.”
About what do they disagree? — About the time of the haste.
R. Eleazar b. Azariah says: What is meant by ‘haste’? The haste of the Egyptians. And R. Akiba says: It is the haste of Israel. It has also been taught likewise: ‘The Lord, your God brought you forth out of Egypt by night.’ But did they leave in the night? Did not they in fact leave only in the morning, as it says: ‘On the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with a high hand?’ But this teaches that the redemption had already begun in the evening. (Berachot 9a)
One of the basic concepts of Succot, stressed by the Torah regarding the Four Species, is rushing forward: “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day,” the first day after Yom Kippur that we have an opportunity to sin. We rush to busy ourselves with Mitzvot to hold on to our Yom Kippur purity. We rush to fulfill God’s wishes.
We honor Moshe’s push to speed our redemption with this first paragraph of Hallel, and with our rush to perform God’s Mitzvot.
Paragraph 1 – Four Species Hallel:
“Who is like God, our Lord,
Who lives up high, but drops down to see what happens (to us) in the (lower) heaven and earth?
Who lifts up the lowly from the dust, raises the destitute from the garbage dumps to be seated with leaders, the leaders of their people.”
The mighty Lulav, the highest of the Four Species, and therefore the one over which we recite the blessing, is combined with the lowly Aravah, willow branch, which has no taste or smell. This combination symbolizes how God connects Heaven and Earth, “Who lives up high, but drops down to see what happens,” and, “Who lifts up the lowly from the dust.”
We hold our Four Species with the special joy that comes from realizing that all we do here on earth is raised up high by God to have eternal meaning.
Paragraph 1 – Shabbat Chol HaMoed Hallel:
“Praise, you who serve God! Praise the Name of God.
Let the Name of God be blessed from now and forever.
From sunrise to sundown, the Name of God is praised.
God is above all the nations. His Glory is beyond the sky.”
The Ma’asei Hashem (Ma’asei Mitzrayim, Chapter One) explains that if the Egyptian exile was a punishment, we would not have been entitled to be called, “Those who serve God,” until we were free. However, if the exile itself was an act of service; to expand God’s Name in the world, then we were Servants of God even when servants of Pharaoh.
The only way that we were able to maintain a sense of being servants of God when in Egypt was our ability to focus on the broad picture beyond our immediate circumstances. In other words; the Shabbat.
Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky (Emet L’Yaakov, Shemot) explains that the text the slaves studied while in exile was the Psalm of the Shabbat Day.
We sing this psalm with deep appreciation for the gift of Shabbat; the gift of being able to see beyond immediate time: “Let the Name of God be blessed from now and forever.
From sunrise to sundown, the Name of God is praised.” It is through the Shabbat that we are able to relate to God, Who is, “above all the nations. His Glory is beyond the sky.”
The Succah roof with its small open spaces between the S’chach reminds us of our ability to see beyond the physical; to see with Shabbat eyes.
Paragraph Two – 1
“The Sea saw it and ran away. The Jordan River reversed course.” All the water in the world split as Israel entered the Sea. The Sefer HaChaim (Introduction) explains that had only the Red Sea split, people would have said that God split the water in order to punish the Egyptians. God therefore, split all the water in the world to demonstrate that the miracles were an expression of love for Israel.
We sing this chapter of Hallel to celebrate the countless expressions of love God gave Israel in the numerous Mitzvot of Succot.
Paragraph Two – 2
“Who turned the rock into a pool of water.” Manna, our bread that is usually produced from the earth’s harvest, fell from the heavens. Water, which usually falls from the heavens, came from the earth, a rock. God reversed the system we know to care for us. He sent us a message that there are no boundaries to His love for us.
We have moved outside into our Succot when everyone else is moving indoors to escape the cold. We too, reverse our lives to express our reciprocal love for God.
“We sing this Hallel with the same boundless love You manifested in the miracle of the water from the rock!”
Paragraph 2 – Four Species Hallel:
“Who turned the rock into a pool of water.
Pebbles into a source of water.”
God uses His creation at will to do as He wishes. The Midrash teaches that God made a condition with each creation before it assumed its form, to serve certain functions. The creations took this a step further:
“The Sea saw it and ran away.
The Jordan River reversed course.
The mountains danced like deer,
the hills like lambs.”
The creations independently respond to God’s manifestations, not only to His commands and wishes. The Four Species dance in our hands to the Hallel as if to express for all of creation, their honor of Him.
Paragraph 2 – Shabbat Chol HaMoed Hallel:
“The Sea saw it and ran away.” It is interesting how God made Moshe a public and active participant in the splitting of the Sea. God didn’t need Moshe, but wanted him to be the one who brought about the great miracle.
“And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made.” (Genesis 2:3) The Sages read the conclusion of the verse, “la’asot,” as, “so that we would all participate in the making of the world.”
Shabbat is a celebration of our creativity and important role in completing and perfecting God’s creation. It was not only Moshe, but all humanity that was invited to be active participants in the Creation.
Succot, according to Rabbi Akivah, reminds us of the booths we built in the desert with materials supplied by God, just as we built His home; the Mishkan. God wanted us to be active participants in His home, and our own.
We sing this paragraph with joy over the gift of being Participants, stressed by Shabbat and Succot.
This is the paragraph of Trusters, or people who are Botchim. This paragraph celebrates our conviction that God will take care of our needs, and guide us toward perfecting our souls.
The idea of Trusters is fundament to the laws of the Succah: Lavud, Dofen Akumah, etc. (See Succot Lecture Part One: “As If.”) God will fill in the empty spaces. God will “Bend the walls,” so to speak to help our Succah be kosher.
Trusters rely on God to help them accomplish their goals and fulfill their obligations.
We sing this paragraph in honor of all the “As If” laws of Succot. God will help us, Trusters, to achieve our goals.
Paragraph 3 – Four Species Hallel:
“They have mouths but do not speak,
they have eyes but do not see,
they have ears but do not hear,
they have noses but do not smell.
A hand – but do not feel.
Legs – but do not walk.
They do not even groan.
Their makers will become like them, all who trust in them.
Israel: Trust in God! Their Help and Protection!”
We speak of physical objects that cannot be anymore than what they are, even as we hold physical objects that have become so much more by virtue of being used for a Mitzvah. Our relationship with God is real, vibrant, and most importantly, empowering. The relationship allows us to transform the physical into living spiritual realities. The Four Species give voice to God’s praises, and to our being Transformers, empowered to raise the physical into new realities.
Paragraph 3 – Shabbat Chol HaMoed Hallel:
“Not we, God, not we,
but Your Name deserves honor for Your kindness, Your truth.
How can the pagans ask, “Where is their God?”
Now our God in the heavens did just what He desired.”
The Ma’asei Hashem (Ma’asei Mitzrayim, Chapter 13) explains that two revelations of God’s power took place in Egypt: The plagues proved that God has the power to compel someone to do His will. When God instructed the Children of Israel to borrow gold and silver from the Egyptians, which the former masters willingly did, God was proving that He has the power to convince someone to change his mind, not through force, but through awareness. The Egyptians became “friends,” to their former slaves.
The second revelation is described as “Your truth.”
We change our lives each Shabbat by observing the numerous and complex laws. We change our lives on Succot when we move out of our comfortable homes into the Succah. We honor the truth of God’s Torah and Mitzvot when we are willing to make such drastic changes from pure conviction and awareness.
We celebrate the clarity God gives us to perceive “Your truth,” as we sing this psalm.
“God remembered us and will bless – Bless the ‘House’ of Israel – Bless the ‘House’ of Aaron.” This paragraph has special resonance on Succot when we change “Houses.” We made a statement when we moved out of our homes into the Succah: “We define our home by our relationship with You, not by walls and a roof.”
This echoes the teaching of the opening Mishna in Yoma: It is written, “ And he shall make atonement for himself and for his house,” “His house,” that means, ‘his wife.’ A home is always defined by relationships, for the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, and for us on Succot.
This paragraph rejoices on the home we have constructed in our relationship with God; a boundless home that reaches the Heavens.
Paragraph 4 – Four Species Hallel:
“The heavens are God’s, while the earth has been given to people.” “Were it not for My covenant with the day and night, I had not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth.” (Jeremiah 33:25) This heaven is that of which it is said, ““The heavens are God’s,” and this earth is the “land of the living,” comprising seven lands of which David said, “I will walk before the Lord in the lands of the living.” (Zohar, Volume 1 24b)
There are actually a total of seven in the Four Species: 1 Lulav + 1 Etrog + 3 Haddasim, + 2 Aravot, corresponding to the “seven lands,” mentioned by King David. They are the celebration of the Covenant of Torah that gives continued existence to the earth that has been given to us.
We also shake the Lulav in six directions with ourselves representing the seventh world, which can reach to the Heaven, which is God’s.
Paragraph 4 – Shabbat Chol HaMoed Hallel:
“God remembered us and will bless –
Bless the House of Israel –
Bless the House of Aaron
Bless those who are in awe of God, the insignificant with the great.
God will enhance you – you and your children.
You are blessed to God Who made the heavens and the earth.
The heavens are God’s, while the earth has been given to people.”
What parable fits the creation of the world? The parable of a king who had treasuries filled with good things, and who asked, “To what end are these things laid up? I shall get me servants, give them to eat and drink, so that they will praise me.” Just so the world was waste and empty, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, rose up and created the earth, and let man rule over every thing. Therefore, what ought we to do? To bless and praise our Creator. – Midrash Tehillim, 89:3
Shabbat is when we bless and praise our Creator for sharing His world with us by allowing us to be active participants in its perfection.
Succot is when we gather in the harvest, our work, and celebrate not only the food we have successfully grown, but that we were created to achieve and participate in creation. “You are blessed to God Who made the heavens and the earth. The heavens are God’s, while the earth has been given to people.”
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