Succot Lecture Part One: “As If”
If you would examine the Mitzvot from a halachic perspective, from a purely halachic perspective, of all the mitzvot which is the one that halacha considers mechanically the most difficult?
Whoever it was who said Succah is correct. If you look from a purely halachic perspective, the most challenging of all Mitzvot to mechanically prepare for is succah. Succah, and I’ll prove it you. What happens if you have an open gap of a little less than 3 tefachim, 3 hand-breadths. What’s the halacha? Do you have an opening or not?
You may not see it, but when Moshe Rabbeinu was on Har Sinai, Hashem said well, its less than 3 hand breadths, 3 tefachim, “lavud” – there’s no problem, it’s covered.
What happens if I have an awning sticking out of the side of my house, so the wall of the house does not actually touch the succah because the awning is in the way? What do you say. There’s no awning there. If its less than 4 amos then don’t worry about it, because that’s not an awning, the wall is bending towards the succah. Dofen akuma, the wall is bent. And you can use it as one of the walls of your Succah.
And what happens if you have 4 poles that are just sticking up from the bottom and they don’t go all the way to the top, you’re wrong – gud asik – the poles go all the way up. You know what I mean.
It seems that building a Succah is so challenging that God had to give us “magical” help to build it; We couldn’t build four solid walls exactly as required by law!
It’s like the famous story of the guy who built a succah using all these different halachas and he was robbed so the police came and they said, of course you were robbed, there’s no wall here. He said, what do you mean there’s no wall, dofen akumah the wall is bent, you just don’t see it. There’s an open space. No, no, no, that’s not an open space, you know – lavud, its less than 3 tefachim, not a problem.
Why in this halacha, more than any other, do you have all of these imaginary walls as if the walls bent? As if the open space is not there. Everything is ‘As If’ on succah.
In fact, why do we shake lulav and esrog 7 days? Where did they originally shake lulav and esrog the whole Yom Tov? In the Beit Hamikdash, only in the Beis Hamikdash. Otherwise, they just did it on the first day. So why do we shake all Yom Tov – ‘as if’ we are in the Beit Hamikdash.
So the 1st principle of succas comes even as we are building our succah and that principle is called ‘as if,’ because the only way we can take everything we achieved over Rosh Hashana, the aseres yemei teshuva and Yom Kippur is to have the capacity to think of ourselves ‘as if’, as if I can continue to be what I was on Yom Kippur. As if, I can see my self, and I look at myself and I wonder its feels that I have the same imperfections that I had before Yom Kippur, but I have to see my self as if they are not there.
The first principle of Succos begins as we’re building the succah. ‘as if’ and this is actually at the crux of the most famous machlokes, the most famous debate between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer about the nature of the Succos we are trying to remember.
And there’s more…