The Three Themes of Yom Tov


daled-minim-sukkosBy Rabbi Yisroel Feldman, Novato, Ca.

A few weeks ago on Rosh Hashanah, in our recitation of the Mussaf service,we expressed the three themes of Malchiyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros — (G-D’s) Kingship, Remembrances, and (Sounds of the) Shofar. We are actually instructed to express in detail these three themes as the Gemora (Rosh Hashanah, Daf 16a, and Daf 34b) states:

“Amar HaKodesh Boruch Hu . . . V’Imru L’Fanai B’Rosh Hashanah Malchiyos, Zichronos, V’Shofaros. Malchiyos, K’day Shetamlichuni Alaychem, Zichronos, K’day Sheya’aleh Zichronaychem L’Fanai L’Tova, U’Bama? B’Shofar.” — “Says the Holy One Blessed is He: ‘ . . . and say before Me on Rosh Hashanah Malchiyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros. Malchiyos, in order that you will make Me King over you, Zichronos, in order that your remembrance will come up before Me for good, and with what? With the Shofar.'” (See also Rosh Hashanah, Daf 32a – b, where the format is laid out.)

On another Yom Tov, we are also instructed to recite in detail three themes. At the Seder on the first two nights of Pesach, after we have completed the extensive readings in the Hagadah about YetziasMitzraiyim — The Exodus from Egypt and the famous Piyut — hymn “Daiyaynu,” we are presented in the Hagadah with the statement (which is in the Mishneh in Pesachim, Daf 116a – b):

“Raban Gamliel Haya Amar: ‘Kol Shelo Amar Sh’losha Devarim Aylu BaPesach, Lo Yatza Y’day Chovaso; V’Aylu Hain: Pesach, Matza, U’Marror.'” — “Raban Gammliel would say: ‘Whoever has not explained these three items on Pesach, has not fulfilled his obligation. They are: The Pesach (offering), (the eating of) unleavened bread, and (the eating of) bitter vegetables.'” As we well know, the text then goes on to actually explain in detail each of the three items.

Is there any correlation between the three themes of Rosh Hashanah and the three Mitzvos of Pesach?

B’Ezras Hashem, before we try to answer that, let us examine another Yom Tov. On Sukkos, besides the general instruction, which we have regarding every Yom Tov, to study the topics of that Yom Tov, there is no specific instruction to recite any statements about the themes of Sukkos. However, when we do examine the topics of Sukkos, we immediately see that there are — again, the number is three — specific Mitzvos of the Yom Tov: 1.) The Sukkah. 2.) The Lulav/Esrog set. 3.) The Nisuch Hamaiyim – the special water offering that is done in the Beis Hamikdash on Sukkos.

[The section of the Talmud about the Yom Tov of Sukkos, titled “Mesecta Sukka,” is structured on these three topics. The first two Perakim — chapters of the Mesecta discuss the Halachos — laws of the Sukkah. The third and fourth Perakim discuss the Halachos of the Lulav/Esrog set, termed the “Arba Minim” the “Four Species (of plants)”: The closed up leaf of a palm tree, called the “Lulav,” the fruit of a citron tree, called the “Esrog,” three branches of a myrtle tree, called the “Hadasim,” and two branches of a willow tree, called the “Aravos.” (The special ceremonies with individual Arava branches discussed in the fourth Perek can be considered an extension of the Mitzvos of the Arba Minim.) The fifth Perek discusses the Halachos of the Nisuch HaMaiyim and the immense celebrations that go with it.]

Again, we have the similar question: Is there any correlation between the three themes of Rosh Hashanah and the three Mitzvos of Pesach and the three Mitzvos of Sukkos?

The Maharal in Gevuros Hashem and the commentary of Rav S. R. Hirsch, ZT’L, at the beginning of Parshas V’Ayra, explain that there are three stages of Galus — exile. In other words, a group of people are compelled to be exiled from their home and relocate to a different place, and the people of the new location eventually become mean to them. This mistreatment will happen and develop in three stages.

The three stages are: Geirus, Avdus, and Inui — homelessness, slavery, and affliction.

The first step is Geirus — homelessness. This means that the citizens of the new location view the exiled people who are coming to them in a very degrading way; they view them as being Geirim — homeless outside strangers. As they are homeless outsiders who do not really belong there, they have no rights or any legitimate demands for decent treatment.

This attitude leads to the next step of Avdus – slavery. As the citizens of the new location view the exiled people as having no rights or any legitimate demands for decent treatment, they feel entirely justified in forcing them to become their slaves.

This development leads to the next step of Inui — Affliction. As the citizens of the new location have now made the exiled people into their slaves, who thus now fully belong to them, they feel that they are now fully permitted to do with them whatever they want. They thus outright abuse and torment them, bringing on them emotional and physical injuries and even death.

In Parshas Bo, Rav S. R. Hirsch explains that these three aspects of Galus are reflected in the three Mitzvos of the Yom Tov of Pesach: Pesach, Matza, and Marror.

The Korbon Pesach — the Pesach offering involves taking a lamb or a goat and cooking it in a unique way. Most foods are cooked by being placed either in a pot and boiled on top of a stove or in a pan and baked in an oven. Very differently, the lamb or goat of the Korbon Pesach has to have a spit put through it, which is then hung from two poles, and the lamb or goat is then barbequed over a fire that is beneath it.

Again, the lamb or goat on its spit has to be hung up in the air, above the ground. Again, it has to hang and sway up in the air and NOT be firmly resting on any solid ground. This is a graphic parable of a Ger — a person who is in exile, who is living “up in the air” with no firm ground to rest on.

So the Korbon Pesach represents the aspect of Geirus — homelessness.

A slave belongs entirely to his master, and certainly his time belongs entirely to his master; he has no time for himself at all. Even time to eat is only given — allowed — to him by his master, so that he will remain alive and continue being a slave. Obviously, the time that will be allotted to him to prepare and eat food will be the very bare minimum of time that is needed to make something that is minimally edible and to eat it. He certainly though, will not be given any time to make any kind of fancy or luxury food.

So this rule will be with the bread that he makes for himself. He will only be allowed the time that is needed to quickly mix flour and water and to bake the doe just long enough for it to become a minimally edible hard flat unleavened cracker. He will not though, be given any additional time to bake it longer for it to turn into a soft fluffy raised up loaf of good regular leavened bread.

So Matza — unleavened bread, is the bread of the slave. Thus the Matza represents the aspect of Avdus — slavery.

The discomfort, pain, and revulsion we have when we eat the Marror — the bitter tasting vegetables, is obviously to give us a faint echo of the horrific horror and excruciating pain our people experienced in the cruel sadistic abuse from the hands of the evil fiends who controlled us.

So the Marror represents the aspect of Inui – Affliction.

So again, the Korbon Pesach represents the aspect of Geirus — homelessness, the Matza represents the aspect of Avdus — slavery,and the Marror represents the aspect of Inui — Affliction.

Upon further thought, we can realize that the issues of these three aspects are also reflected in the three Mitzvos of the Yom Tov of Sukkos: Sukka, Lulav/Esrog, and Nisuch Hamaiyim.

The action of the Mitzva of Sukka is that we go out of our regular homes and for a good full week, we live in the Sukka. One of the concepts of what we are doing, which are expressed in the special prayer that is said before Kiddush on the night of the Yom Tov is:

“Uvizchus Tzaysi Mibaysi Hachutza, V’Drech Mitzvosecha Arutza, Yaychashayv LiZos K’ilu Hirchakti N’dod, V’Herev Kabsayni Mayavoni U’Maychatasi Taharayni.” — “And in the merit of my going out from my house to the outside, and that I am running in the way of your instructions, consider this for me as if I had went far away as a banished (criminal); and wash me clean from my crimes and from my errors, purify me.”

Let us repeat and highlight part of this quote: “. . . in the merit of my going out from my house to the outside . . . consider this for me as if I had went far away as a banished (criminal) . . .”

In other words, it very well may be that, Chas V’Shalom, because ofour Aveiros — our crimes, we deserve to be punished with being forced into exile far away from our homes. However, Hashem, in His infinite mercy, gives us a different option. Instead of us, Chas V’Shalom, being forced out of our homes into a far off exile, we can voluntarily leave our homes and go into just a little “exile”– in the Sukka!

Obviously,we see right here that a major aspect of the Mitzva of Sukka are these same issues of Galus and Geirus — these same issues of exile and homelessness. Furthermore, with the Mitzva of Sukka, the sesituations of Galus and Geirus — of exile and homelessness are rectified. For, as we just discussed above, instead of us, Chas V’Shalom, being homeless strangers in a full scale exile, we just go into a “little” exile, where we do have a “home” — the Sukka!

In Parshas Emor, where the Torah instructs us in the Mitzva of the ArbaMinim — the four plant species (of the Esrog, the Lulav, the Hadas, and the Aravos), Rav S. R. Hirsch explains that on Yom Kippur, because of our Aveiros, we have to be in Aniyus — we have to be poor. Now though, on Sukkos, in sharp contrast, Hashem tells us the exact opposite: “Ul’kachtem Lachem . . .” — “You should take for yourselves . . .”; now, we are permitted to take ownership of possessions.

A slave does not have his own possessions, and he is not able to acquire his own possessions. The legal rule is “Ma Shekana Eved, Kana Rabo” — “Whatever item is acquired by a slave, is automatically acquired by his master.”

On Sukkos though, with the Mitzva of the Arba Minim, Hashem raises us above this limitation of a slave and does allow us to acquire our own possessions. So the Mitzva of the Arba Minim represents an improvement of the situation of Avdus — the situation of slavery.

In a number of places in the Torah, water is associated with bitterness: “Maiyim HaMarim” — the “Bitter Water.” It is also presented as a means of punishment and destruction, and throughout history, massive floods, monster hurricanes, and other violent rainstorms have afflicted people with some of the most horrific calamities.

At the same time though, the Torah relates an incident where the bitter waters of a certain place were changed to become sweet. Furthermore, right at the very moment when the wicked Egyptian soldiers — who had attempted to pursue and recapture the freed Bnei Yisroel — were being punished and drowned in the Red Sea, the Bnei Yisroel were crossing — in actual tunnels through that same water — totally dry and unharmed! As they walked through those tunnels, it was like they were walking through exquisitely beautiful glass and diamond hallways. Any time that one of the Bnei Yisroel would want to drink, he or she merely had to move over to the wall and, right at that spot, a little fountain of pure sweet water would gush out!

This very clearly shows that while water can be very bitter and destructive for people who are doing very bad things, at the exact same time, it will be very sweet and wonderful for people who are doing good things.

Therefore, Hashem promises Am Yisroel, that in the future Geula — the future redemption: “Ushavtem Maiyim B’ason, Mimaianay Haiy’shua” — “And you will draw water with jubilation, from the wellsprings of salvation.” Our water then will not come with bitterness and sadness; rather, it will come with gladness and jubilation. So the Nisuch HaMaiyim, with its intensive joyous celebrations, is the highest rectification of the bitterness of Inui — affliction.

So again, the Sukka is the rectification of the aspect of Geirus — homelessness, the Arba Minim is the rectification of the aspect of Avdus — slavery, and the Nisuch HaMaiyim is the rectification of the aspect of Inui — affliction.

Overall, we see that on the Yom Tov of Pesach, we express these three issues of Geirus, Avdus, and Inui — homelessness, slavery, and affliction, in their negative states. On the Yom Tov of Sukkos though, we celebrate these three issues in their positive, rectified state. How does this transformation happen?

The transformation takes place with the Yom Tov that comes between — and thus serves as a “bridge” from — the Yom Tov of Pesach to the Yom Tov of Sukkos: The Yom Tov of Rosh Hashanna/Yom Kippur. [Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur are obviously two distinct holidays. At the same time though, they obviously go together and are deeply connected. In fact, our Torah literature explains that the whole ten days from Rosh Hashanna through Yom Kippur are like one ten day long holiday of “Rosh Hashanna.” (From a Shabbos Shuva lecture by a Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Medrosh Gevoha of Lakewood, Rav Yeruchem Olshin, Sh’lita.)]

The specific aspect of the Yom Tov of this transformation is our expression and contemplation and realization of the three themes that we say on Rosh Hashanah: Malchiyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros — (G-D’s) Kingship, Remembrances, and (Sounds of the) Shofar. (And, as just alluded to above, the succeeding days of the Asres Y’May T’shuva with Yom Kippur are for implementing and developing this process that we begin on Rosh Hashanna.)

One of the most fundamental basic steps of our realization of Malchiyos — of our realization of G-D’s Kingship is our realization that G-D created the world! As He is the One Who created the world, then it is obviously His world — He owns it! So, of course, He is the Boss; of course, He is the King!

When we realize this fact, that this is G-D’s world, then He will give us a home here in His world.

When we shiver in fear when we realize that G-D is Zocher — G-D remembers everything that we do and judges us accordingly and thus do T’shuva for the bad things that we did, then, He will judge us as being good servants. Then, just like when an employer remembers and evaluates that an employee did a good job, he rewards the employee (with a promotion, a higher salary, and extra privileges), so G-D will reward and elevate us.

When we cry out to G-D from the horrific pain of the terrible afflictions — which, because of our many sins we have had to suffer — and in our cries we realize that we have to cry even deeper for how we are so very far away from Him — which is (one of the many items that the) “cry” of the Shofar symbolizes — then He will turn the “cry” of the Shofar into the shouts of the Shofar of gladness and jubilation of the stages of the future ultimate Geula — the future ultimate redemption (of Beas Hamoshiach, the ingathering of AmYisroel from Galus, the Binyan Beis HaMikdash, and the T’chiyas Hamaysim — the resurrection of the dead) — Bimhayra B’yamaynu — May this happen very soon in our time, Omein!

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