Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot

October 27, 2016


Shabbat Chol haMoed Sukkot: The Haftarah read on Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot

The Haftara read on the Shabbat of Chol HaMoed Sukkot comes from Sefer Yechezkel, Chapter 38.  This is the prophecy of Gog U'Magog.

Gog is a ruler over Magog who attacks the Jewish people after the Jewish people have come together in Israel. Hashem warns that Gog, along with Gog's allies will be defeated by the Hashem's supernatural disasters.

What did Chazal have in mind by connecting this prophecy with the Chag of Sukkot? The Yalkut Shimoni (653) connects two pesukim, one from the Vayikra, 23:42 and one in Yishayahu, 4:6).  The Pasuk in Vayikrah commands us:   

 ...בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים 

one should dwell in sukkot for seven days.  

The pasuk in Yishayahu says:  

וְסֻכָּה תִּהְיֶה לְצֵל-יוֹמָם, מֵחֹרֶב; וּלְמַחְסֶה, וּלְמִסְתּוֹר, מִזֶּרֶם, וּמִמָּטָר

And there should be a sukkah for shade by day and for refuge and shelter from downpours and rain.

The Radak suggests that the name Gog and Magog are related to the Hebrew word for Gag - roof.
A roof is a stable and sturdy structure, made by people, which offers a person protection, a sense of security or comfort. This, of course, is the antithesis to the temporary dwelling within the sukkah, with a "roof" of s'chach, which offers no protection from rain, wind and cold (or even potential hurricanes!). It is for that reason that Rabbeinu Tam disqualifies a "rainproof" sukkah for the mitzvah.  

Yechezkel depicted the empire of Magog as an arrogant people, dependent on themselves alone and overconfident in their ability as individuals to achieve and overpower others.  Through its own resources and talents, they believe that they will endure under the "roof" they built for themselves.

The Radak explains that the Mitzvah of sukkah, of course, conveys this dependency on Hashem alone.  We are a nation who does not rely on our creativity, talents and strength alone.  Our efforts are nothing without Hashem's ongoing support and protection.

Perhaps adding to why we read this specifically on Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot:  Shabbat is the time where we rekindle our awareness of Hashem as borei Olam, the creator of the world.  the One to whom everything is formed and dependent.  This recognition coupled with the appreciation of what the fragility and instability of the sukkah represents to us reminds us of the protection and embrace of HaKadosh Baruch Hu in our lives.

As disappointing as rain or challenging weather conditions might be during Sukkot, perhaps it there is a positive perspective to witness the fact that the sukkot as a structure is not sufficient to protect us.  It is Hashem alone. This is presented to us on Sukkot. The representation of the  "gag" - human self reliance of the sturdy roof juxtaposed with that of the sukkah - our sense of vulnerability, serves to remind us of the important message of true dependency and acknowledgement of Hashem's protection over us in our lives. 

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

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