Rabbi Mayer Twersky
Rabbi Mayer Twersky

Succos: A Call to Teshuva

As the sound of the final blast of the shofar signifying the end of Yom Kippur fades, we shift gears. No longer pre-occupied with the judgment of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we prepare for Chag Hasuccos, zeman simchaseinu. The kitel is returned to the closet, the Yom Kippur machzor and Rambam Hilchos Teshuva to their respective spots on the bookshelf. We hasten to put the finishing touches on our Succos,procure daled minim and cook for Succos.

In transitioning to Chag Hasuccos in the manner described above, we are making a major error. Allow the Maharsha and Malbim to explain.

The final lines of Maseches Megillah read as follows: Moshe decreed for Israel that they should inquire about and expound upon the matters of the day [, i.e. the current festival.] The laws of Pesach on Pesach, the laws of Shavuos on Shavuos, the laws of Succos on Succos" [Megillah 32a, Artscroll Schottenstein translation slightly modified.] Maharsha comments on the omission of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur from the Mosaic decree. He explains that the thrust of Moshe Rabbeinu's decree is that the seasonal mitzvos associated with the festivals (succah, matzah, abstaining from melacha on yom tov, etc.) ought to command our attention on the festivals. The dominant Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur - Teshuva - is not seasonal because "a person should be pre-occupied with teshuva throughout the year." (Maharsha¸ Chidushie Adgados to Megilla 32a)[1].

The haftorah for Shabbos Shuva opens with the following verse from the Book of Hoshea, "Return, O Israel, to Hashem, your God, for you have stumbled through your iniquity. Take words with you and return to Hashem, etc." [Hoshea 14:2-3, Artscroll, Stone edition translation]. The Malbim explains the double call to repentance. The initial exhortation is addressed to the Jewish people when they are distant from Hashem; return from afar to Hashem. Such a repentance is likely to arise out of fear (teshuva meiyirah). The navi then renews his call for teshuva. He exhorts us to build upon the foundation of the teshuva meiyirah, and repent again. Return to Hashem again- this time out of love (teshuva meiahava). According to Sefer Chasidim, the progression urged by the navi Hoshea is precisely he progression from Aseres Yemei Teshuva to SuccosAseres Yemei Teshuva, culminating in Yom Kippur, are a time of teshuva meiyirah, whereas Succos, building upon the foundation of Aseres Yemei Teshuva,is a time of teshuva meiahava. The way to capitalize on the teshuva of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is by expanding upon that teshuva and repenting again, in a deeper, more profound manner.

And thus while the kitel is rightfully returned to the closet and the machzor to the bookcase, Rambam Hilchos Teshuva ought to play a dominant role in our preparation for and celebration of Chag Hasuccos.

[1]Rambam's Hilchos Teshuva - incorporated into Sefer Hamadda, not zemanim - corroborates Maharsha's assertion. Of the sixty nine halachos which comprise Hilchos Teshuva, only five of them touch upon Rosh Hashana and/or Yom Kippur.

Copyright © 2008 by The TorahWeb Foundation. All rights reserved.