Haftarah: Succot Day One:Everything is Upside Down
Zachariah 14:1-21: We reverse much of our reality on Succot. We move from our homes to the security and protection of a booth without a solid roof. Autumn, when much of nature is dying is filled with bursts of
color and new expressions of life. Succot is the time of “Asif” gathering, (Deuteronomy 16:13) which is also a euphemism for death, “and die on the mountain where you will ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor, and was gathered to his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:50) Succot is also a time of joy, “simcha”, which is also a euphemism for death; the laws of mourning are called the Laws of Semachot! Succot challenges our sense of reality.
It is a time of opposites, almost contradictions. It is the holiday on which we offer seventy Additional Offerings, corresponding to the seventy nations. It is the holiday that demands the participation of all nations. (See verses 16-19 of this Haftarah) It is also the holiday that separates Israel from the nations of the world. (TBAvodah Zarah 3a-3b) We bring offerings for all the nations, yet we decrease the number of offerings each day of the holiday as if to decrease their importance.
Zachariah uses this prophecy to describe the reversal of what we perceive to be the order of creation in the “Final Days.” Light and darkness will be confused. (Verses 6-7) The boundaries imposed on water ion the third day of creation will be suspended. They will overpower the world. Israel itself will be split against itself. (Verse 2)
We will achieve clarity of the most difficult concepts of the Torah only after our perceptions of reality are challenged (TBPesachim 50a) In the “new reality” described in this prophecy we will be able to understand the most esoteric concepts of purity and impurity. (Yismach Moshe, Chukat, page 67b)
Succot is a tantalizing taste of what will be when clarity is restored to God’s creation. This holiday is a challenge to our perceptions. Can we step outside of the boundaries of our world and look through the cracks in the s’chach, the roof of our Succah, to perceive God’s Presence in creation? We do not have to wait for the time described by Zachariah. We can use Succot to look at the world, “Yiscah”, the same root as “succah” (Rashi; Genesis 11:29) with a fresh perspective, searching for the clarity that comes only when we are willing to suspend our preconceived notions and definitions. We will then understand which “reality” is really upside down.