Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sukkos Stories

dIt was the first morning of Sukkos in Lizhensk, and something was bothering Reb Elimelech. There was something in the air; something that just didn't seem right. He paused in the middle of hallel, and began to walk around the shul with his nose in the air, trying desperately to find the source of his disturbance. After davening he made his way, once again, around the shul, but before he walked out the door, his olfactory senses directed him to the esrog in the hand of the last man, in the last row, in the last seat. Reb Elimelech rushed over: "What is it about your esrog that emits the scent of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden)?" he asked after taking in a long steady whiff. "Where did you acquire this esrog?" The man said that it was a long and not-so-exciting story, but if the Rebbe wished, he would tell it over.

"I live in Strelisk. I'm not a wealthy man, but I make a living. Every year before Sukkos I save money, even months in advance, so that I could buy a fancy and pleasing esrog. I save up 50 gulden, and make my way to Lemberg for the purchase. When I stopped this year at an inn on the way to Lemberg, I was woken in the night by screams and shouts outside of the inn. I made my way downstairs to see what the commotion was all about. Apparently, a ba'al agalah (wagon driver) needed to buy a new horse. His trusty horse had broken its leg, and the driver would lose his livelihood without a new horse by the next day. He begged the innkeeper to sell him a horse, which the innkeeper tried his best to do, but the price was way beyond the ba'al agalah's budget. The horse cost a total of 50 gulden. The driver begged the innkeeper to lower the price, but to no avail.

"And so I asked the innkeeper if he would give the driver the horse if I would pay him 45 gulden in cash. He agreed, and the ba'al agalah, astonished, thanked me profusely, and offered a free ride to any destination at any time.

"When I arrived in Lemberg I bought the best esrog I could find with only five gulden: Small and unattractive. When I got home, my wife and I agreed that we would be laughed out of Strelisk with such a tiny, ugly thing. And so we set out to Lizhensk to be in the company of the Rebbe, where we knew we would be accepted no matter how displeasing our esrog was."

"This is truly an amazing story," said Reb Elimelech. "Now I understand why the scent of Gan Eden has been wafting through the shul all through davening. You are really a lucky man, and you truly deserve this esrog. I'd like to hold it for a few minutes before you go home."

Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was once so excited and so anxious about making the bracha (blessing) over the lulav and esrog on the first day of Sukkos, that he broke the glass esrog case because his hands were shaking so intensely. It was only after he made the bracha that he realized that his hand was bleeding.

The Rizhiner's youngest son, Reb Mordechai Feivish, would spend several hours concentrating on shaking the lulav and esrog. He shook so intensely at times that it looked as though he was going to faint. Once, he coughed up blood out of exhaustion, not realizing that he had stained his esrog with his blood. 

And this recalls the story of the second Skverer Rebbe, Reb Dovid, who while slicing a piece of bread, sliced into his finger, and did not take notice of it right away. When his wife saw blood dripping from the counter she ran for the doctor. While the doctor sat at the table stitching up Reb Dovid's hand, Reb Dovid sat immersed looking into a sefer. Such was his prishus (separation from earthly happenings).

And this, of course, recalls the story of the "Ezkara Gedolah" of the first Modzitzer Rebbe. Read Inspiration Under the Surgeon's knife by clicking "Modzitzer Rebbe" on the right side column.

A few days before Sukkos one year, the Chassam Sofer was interviewing two prospective students for his illustrious yeshiva in Pressburg. There was only one slot left open for the new zman (session). One turned out to be a young man of extraordinary learning, while the other turned out to be quite average. The Chasam Sofer's mind was made up. He accompanied the bachurim off the grounds of the yeshiva and, on their way out into the yard, they saw the sukkah being erected. One bochur, the talmid chochom, stepped onto the schach (bamboo used for the top of the sukkah) on the ground, and the other walked around the schach. Said the Chasam Sofer later, "for someone to trample on a mitzvah?" And now his mind was made up for sure.

According to Abudraham, the reason that the lulav is waved several times during davening is because it signifies a gesture of triumph. Just as kings wave their flags over territories they have won from their enemies, so too do we wave the lulav to proclaim victory over the accusers on Yom Kippur.

1 comment:

Yisrael said...

great, thanks!