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10/6/2014

Sukkah 22: Seeing Stars | Torah in Motion

Sukkah 22: Seeing Stars


[1]

Rabbi Jay Kelman[2]


One of the basic requirements of a sukkah is that the s'chach provide more shade than
sun. This requirement, however, is more theoretical than practical. Already on the first
page of the masechet, the Gemara validates a sukkah built in the depths of a valley, even
though most of the shade comes from the mountains. As the Gemara explains, if we
"take away the mountains", the roof would provide most of the shade. This sounds quite
logical, as the mountains are extraneous to the sukkah, and the requirement to have
shade from the roof is meant to exclude a case in which the walls of the sukkah provide
most of the shade.
Yet the gemara takes this theoretical framework a step further. The Mishnah (Sukkah
22a) teaches that one may dwell in a sukkah medublelet. Shmuel explains that such a
sukkah is put together rather sloppily, with one branch of the s'chach tilted upwards
while another is tilted downwards. The broad air spaces between the pieces allow more
sun than shade to fill the sukkah. Nonetheless, had those boards been placed flat on the
sukkah, there would be more shade than sun; so we consider it to be such, and deem the
sukkah to be kosher.
Such a notion, at first glance, is rather surprising. If we need more shade than sun, that
is what ought to be necessary. Would one allow a mezuzah to be put on upside down
since, in theory, it could have been put up the correct way? Theory is nice in
the beit midrash, but halacha is the practice of Jewish law.
The next line of the Mishnah teaches that if the s'chach
is "as thick as a house even thought the stars cannot be seen from it, [it is] kosher".
Clearly, seeing the stars would be the ideal. "And He brought him [Abraham] forth
abroad, and said: 'Look now toward the heaven, and count the stars, if you are able to
count them'; and He said unto him: 'So shall thy seed be'"(Breisheet 15:5). The Jewish
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10/6/2014

Sukkah 22: Seeing Stars | Torah in Motion

people will one day be like the stars, too numerous to count and providing light
throughout the universe. The stars in heaven represent the great potential of the Jewish
people, the glorious future that awaits. Yet strangely we do not actually have to see the
stars!
While I do not have satisfactory explanations for the above perhaps the comments below
will shed some light on the above.
Pesach is the holiday where we celebrate our past, marking the formation of our people.
Hence, one who did not partake of the pascal lamb was to be "cut off" from the nation of
Jews. Sukkot, on the other hand, is the festival where we look forward to the future [2],
when the "canopy of peace will be spread upon us", when "all citizens of Israel will dwell
together in a sukkah". It is for this reason our Sages choose passages dealing with the
wars of Gog and Magog, and the ushering in of the Messianic Era for the haftarot of
sukkot.
While our past is rooted in historic reality, our future is rooted in our great potential. In
an ideal world the schach is meant to provide protection from the sun yet not so much
that we cannot see the heavens above. But we have not yet lived up to the ideal.
The sukkah represents our aspirations for the future. We built it with the realization that
there is much work to be done to actualize our potential. We are unable to see all that we
can do and our actions often leave us unprotected. We thus look up and pray for G-d's
protection from the many stormy winds that surround us.
[1] This is not meant literally, as the s'chach must allow for rain to get through.
[2] Of course, Sukkot also commemorates our wandering in the desert on our way to
Israel. The debate as to whether Sukkot primarily commemorates the actual huts we
lived in during our sojourn in the desert or the clouds of glory may reflect this very
question. Is Sukkot primarily to commemorate the past, or do we look forward to the day
when the clouds of glory will return? While this may seem like a philosophical debate,
Jewish law has ruled in accordance with the view that it is the clouds of glory we are
celebrating. For a legal analysis of this debate click here[3]
1. http://torahinmotion.org/sites/default/files/feb2.jpg
2. http://torahinmotion.org/users/rabbi-jay-kelman
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10/6/2014

Sukkah 22: Seeing Stars | Torah in Motion

3. http://torahinmotion.org/discussions-and-blogs/sukkah-2-its-who-you-know

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