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Tuesday
Oct152019

G-D, MY BESTIE

If the Sukka represents G-d’s love for the Jewish people, wouldn’t the Baal Shem Tov, the great champion of Ahavas Yisroel, want to beautify his Sukka in every way possible? Why then did he rely on leniencies?

By Rabbi Boruch Merkur

The Baal Shem Tov’s Sukka relied upon every conceivable leniency. Would you have eaten in it?

On Chol HaMoed Sukkos, the prominent rabbis of Mezibuzh paid a visit to the Baal Shem Tov, who lived there. After inspecting the Sukka he had constructed, the rabbanim pronounced it pasul, not fulfilling the Mitzva. Compelled into a halachic debate, the Baal Shem Tov asserted the legitimacy of his Sukka, but they would not relent. He then leaned his forehead upon his hand and a note [miraculously] appeared in his palm, stating: “The Sukka of Reb Yisroel is kosher —(signed) Malach Matat, Sar HaPnim (The Angel Matat, Minister of the Interior).” (Sichos Kodesh 5727, pg. 49-50)

Why such drama and extravagance? Certainly the holy Baal Shem was not showing off his connections in high places. Why didn’t the Baal Shem Tov build a Sukka that stands up to scrutiny without the need for Heavenly signs?

Moreover, Pri Eitz Chaim (Shaar Chag HaSukkos, Ch. 4) describes the shape of a Sukka as a G-dly embrace:

The walls of the Sukka should consist of [at least] two proper halachic walls as well as a partial third wall that can be as small as a handbreadth wide, analogous to the three sections of the right arm [including the hand], etc., embodying how “His right arm embraces me.” (Likkutei Torah, Drushim L’Sukkos 79b)

If the Sukka represents G-d’s love for the Jewish people, wouldn’t the Baal Shem Tov, the great champion of Ahavas Yisroel, want to beautify his Sukka in every way possible? Why then did he rely on leniencies?

***

Addressing the topic of G-d’s love for the Jewish people, the Rebbe reveals a maamer that remained a hidden treasure for fifty years. The Rebbe simply revels in the Rebbe Rashab’s revolutionary maamer of 5666, “Ki Naar Yisroel V’Ohaveihu – I fell in love with the Jewish nation when he was still a child.” The Rebbe Rashab did not prepare this maamer in advance; it was uniquely delivered on the fly, “coming to him as he delivered it”:

This maamer features provocative ideas unlike any of the other maamarim of the Rebbe Rashab, nishmaso Eden. In fact, I have not found the likes of it among other maamarim either.

Considering the style of the Rebbe Rashab’s maamarim, it was not at all expected that such “fantastical” statements would be printed. But now, upon the completion of fifty years [since it was said in 5666], a jubilee, it is fit to surface. Although the maamer had not been previously circulated, for whatever reason – it has now been delivered [i.e., the Rebbe presented his own version of the maamerHisvaaduyos 5716, pg. 116 ff.]. Since “all depends on mazal … surely there is a reason On High [to permit it now]. (Ibid, pg. 133)

The maamer explains the verse, “Ki naar Yisroel v’ohaveihu,” to mean that G-d loves the Jewish people because of our youth (unlike commentaries such as Rashi who maintain that G-d loves us despite our being juvenile). The Midrash tells of a king with several children who is most enamored by his youngest child. Indeed, it is human nature to love specifically the naar, the youngest.

Parents love their children as an extension of themselves, a kind of self-love. But a young child, a naar, is the subject of universal love. Everyone is affected by a young child, regardless if he or she is related. The Zohar teaches that the presence of a child not only assuages one’s anger, it makes him childlike and happy. Indeed, “There is no love like the love of a young child” (Zohar III 277b).

The maamer discusses how the great Minister of the Interior is called “naar,” small, but only in the lower realms:

During weekdays, Malach Matat is referred to as “naar,” for then he resides in [the lower worlds] BY”A in a state of katnus-smallness, youth, diminution … whereas on Shabbos, Matat ascends to seiva, aged maturity … Likewise regarding souls, there is an aspect called “naar” … but unlike angels, who are only called “naar” in BY”A – not when they ascend to Atzilus – there is a level of souls that is called “naar” even in Atzilus. (Ibid, pg. 578-579)

A Jew appears before G-d with simplicity and innocence. It is this youthfulness, this katnus, that G-d adores. From this Divine source, compassion and love for young children becomes part of human nature, whereby a young child “calls and elicits b’chinas ha’atzmis” (Ibid, pg. 574), an inherent love for something genuine and childlike.

The Rebbe references this maamer in a sicha of 5750, taking G-d’s love of a Jew even further:

G-d is “Dodi – my Beloved.” He expresses His love for Jews (“Naar Yisroel v’ohaveihu – I fell in love with the Jewish nation when he was still a child” —Hosheia 11:1) to the point that “V’Dodi” becomes totally devoted, as it were, to “li – to me,” to every Jew, so that every Jew genuinely knows that G-d is his grester un bester “guter fraind,” his greatest and best “close friend” (as it were). This loving, personal relationship is openly revealed … and eternal. (Seifer HaSichos 5750, pg. 689)

Here the Rebbe uses four terms to describe the close friendship and love of G-d to the Jewish people. It is awesome to contemplate how the Judge we stood before on the Yomim Nora’im is our best friend!

***

By bringing down Matat Sar HaPnim, the Baal Shem Tov illustrated how a true leader is prepared to descend from his ivory tower in a show of solidarity with his people, the beloved child. The shade of the Baal Shem Tov’s Sukka protected even those who didn’t have the means or inspiration for this holy Mitzva – that they too should find shelter and favor in G-d’s eyes. Chag sameiach!

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