Parsha Pearls: Succos

Why there is no nun in Ashrei

Hashem caused this to come about, it is wondrous in our eyes. (Hallel, Tehillim 118:23)

The Metzudos David explains that this chapter of Tehillim will be said by the Jewish people upon their redemption from exile. It begins, "Give thanks to Hashem for He is good," and then continues, "From the straits I called out to Hashem…" and describes the travails of exile. When the exile is over and the Temple is built, we will say, "Open for me the gates of justice," the gates of the Temple, "I will go in through them and give thanks to Hashem…the stone that the builders discarded has become the cornerstone; Hashem caused this to come about" – not by our own power. "It is wondrous in our eyes" – and we cannot understand how such a complete redemption took place, something that would never have happened naturally. "This is the day that Hashem made," the day of the redemption; "we will rejoice and be happy in it" for this redemption will surely last forever, unlike the accomplishments of human beings, which do not last.

Alternatively, the Radak explains that the nations of the world are the speakers here, and they will say when the redemption comes, "This redemption is so wondrous that it could only have been done by G-d. Why then should we be upset at the Jewish people's success? Let us rather rejoice with them, for this is day that G-d made - the clear work of G-d."

I keep the word of the king, and the matter of the oath of G-d. (Koheles 8:2)

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Zunz explains that Israel says during its exile, "I keep the word of the kings of my host nations, and never rebel against them, because G-d made me take an oath on this matter." This refers to the oath in the last chapter of Kesubos (111a) that prohibits us from rebelling against the nations. On the contrary, we must always remember and teach our children the statement of our Sages (Berachos 58a), "A kingdom on earth resembles the kingdom in Heaven." We must be humbly grateful for the kindness and generosity of the leaders of nations, and show our gratitude in all ways possible. (Melo Ha'omer)

King Solomon expresses the same idea in another verse, "Fear Hashem, my son, and the king; and do not join changers" (Mishlei 24:21). The Malbim explains: Fear Hashem when it comes to matters of religion, and fear the king in matters of civil law; do not join those people who wish to change the political regime, to revolt against the king and replace him with a different government. For if you do this you are ignoring also the fear of Hashem, Who commanded that you fear the king.

When the children of Israel passed by the land of Edom on their way to the Promised Land, G-d told Moshe to warn the people, "They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. Do not start up with them!" (Devarim 2:4) Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said, "If when they are afraid of us the Holy One, blessed is He, told us to be very careful, now that we are in exile, surrounded by them, all the more so!" (Midrash Lekach Tov, Parshas Devarim)

Yishaya the Prophet said, "And the people did not return to the one who smote them, and they did not seek Hashem Tzeva-os" (9:12). The Gaon of Vilna explains: When Hashem causes Israel to be subjugated by a nation, the right thing is to accept their rule with love and humble ourselves under the hand of that nation. This is what Yirmiyah the Prophet said (27:17), "And they shall serve the king of Babylonia and live." During that subjugation we must seek Hashem with all our hearts. (Commentary of the Gra on Yishaya)

The prime example of the Jewish attitude toward gentile leaders is found in the story of Yaakov's meeting with his brother Esav, who wanted to kill him. He sent Esav a lavish gift, several herds of animals led separately by his servants. The Torah says that Yaakov instructed the first servant to tell Esav, "This is from your servant Yaakov, a gift sent to my master Esav." Then it says, "And he commanded also the second one, also the third one, also all those who went after the flocks" (Bereishis 32:20). Rabbi Kalonymus Epstein of Cracow (d. 1823) asks: Why does the Torah mention the second and third specifically, and the rest generally? It should say "he commanded the fourth and the fifth and the sixth," or it should just say "he commanded all those who went after the flocks."

The answer is that Yaakov's conduct was a model for the Jews in all future exiles, and the herds he sent symbolized the respective exiles. There are four exiles: Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome. The first three herds are mentioned specifically because they each symbolize the Jewish people's subjugation to one particular empire. But the fourth exile includes not only Rome but the many other kings and governments that have ruled over the Jews throughout the past 2000 years. Yaakov commanded us, his descendants, to follow his example in the first, second and third exiles, and in all subsequent exiles. If we do so, then just as Yaakov's bowing and gifts softened Esav's heart and transformed him into a friend who did him no harm, the same will be true of any nations who wish to harm us. When they see that we humble ourselves before them, not using belligerent words but rather words of appeasement, accepting their rule upon us, they will sweeten and be unable to harm us at all. (Maor Vashemesh, Parshas Vayishlach)

May the Merciful One raise up for us the fallen succah of David.

The source for this line in the blessing after meals is the verse, "On that day I will raise up the fallen succah of David, and I will close its breaches and rebuild its ruins, and I will build it as in days of old" (Amos 9:11). The commentators (Rashi, Radak and Metzudas David) say this refers to the royal dynasty of David.

The Zohar (Vayikra 6a) explains this verse in the context of a discussion on another verse in the fifth chapter of Amos. The chapter begins as follows: "Hear this thing, that I lament for you, house of Israel. The virgin of Israel has fallen and will never arise again." The Zohar relates that Rabbi Yehuda expressed his puzzlement over this verse to Rabbi Acha. He was aware of the answer often given that the verse is to be divided differently to read: "She will never fall again; arise, O virgin of Israel." (See the Gemora, Berachos 4b.) But this did not satisfy him, because the chapter is clearly meant as a lamentation, not a consolation.

Rabbi Acha replied that he had had this same problem, and asked Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who replied, "In all the previous exiles, G-d predetermined an end time, and at that time, the Jewish people returned to G-d; the virgin of Israel returned to her place at the time He decreed for her. But in this final exile it is not so; she will not come back on her own like she did the other times. This verse is the proof, for it says, 'the virgin of Israel has fallen and will never again arise.' It does not say that G-d will not raise her up. This is analogous to a king who became wroth with his noblewoman and banished her from the palace for a certain amount of time. When the time was up, the noblewoman immediately returned to the king. This happened one time, two times, three times. On the last time she was sent far away from the palace for a long time. The king said, 'This time is not like the other times, when she came to me. Rather, I will go with all the members of my palace and invite her back." When he came to her, he saw that she was lying in the dust. Who can imagine the glory of the noblewoman at that time, and the king's overtures to her, until the king took her by her hands and raised her up and brought her to his palace, and swore that he would never part from her again. So too, every time the Jewish people went into exile, when the time came she returned and stood before the king, but now in this exile it will not be so, but rather the Holy One, blessed is He, will hold her hands, raise her up, appease her and return her to His palace. And this is why it says, 'On that day I will raise up the fallen succah of David' – she will not arise again as in previous times, but I will raise her. Who is 'the succah of David'? This is the virgin of Israel. This is her glory and praise."

The Zohar continues and says that this is the meaning of the verse, "Rejoice exceedingly, daughter of Zion; call out in joy, daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your king will come to you" (Zechariah 9:9). He will come to you, and not you to Him. He will come to appease you, to raise you up, to pay you up, to bring you to His palace and to come together with you in an everlasting union.

According to this, we can explain the Gemora in Berachos 4b: Rabbi Yochanan said, "Why is there no verse beginning with nun in Ashrei (i.e. Tehillim Chapter 145)? Because it alludes to the downfall of Israel, as it says, 'The virgin of Israel has fallen and will never arise again.'" Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchok said, "Even so, David supported them in the next verse with his prophetic inspiration: 'Hashem supports all the fallen.'" The meaning is that although Israel will never arise again on her own, Hashem will support her and raise her up, as the Zohar explains.