Rabbi Tzvi Hollander, a frequent guest to our community, once shared a chiddush, a novel idea, with me regarding the Pesach Seder. He said when it comes to the Seder, we are all guests, even the Baal HaBayis, the host.
As a result, when the Seder falls on Friday evening, we don’t sing Shalom Aleichem. When it comes time to say the blessings after the meal, the head of the household leads, whereas normal Shabbos custom is to appoint one of the guests to lead.
How is this the case?
Rabbi Hollander explains that the Seder is one of HaShem’s Holy Convocations. As a result, HaShem is hosting us during Pesach, and we are the guests at His table. Therefore, the Baal HaBayis is also a guest at the seudah, presenting us with a unique approach when Pesach and Shabbos unite.
This got me thinking…why don’t we do these things by Succos?
When it comes to the intermediate days of Succos, for Shabbos we still maintain our year-round traditions of Shalom Aleichem, the call for bentching, and appointing a guest to lead.
We leave the safety of our domain and go into a dwelling built on bitachon, trust. If we are in the dwelling of the Shechina, shouldn’t we apply the same notion here as well? Shouldn’t this Holy Convocation that is literally in HaShem’s domain instead of our own be reason enough to apply the same changes we make for Leil Seder of Shabbos?
While you ponder this point, I’ll take advantage of this opportunity to set the stage.
This season of Yomim Noraim is filled with awe. Not dread – awe. It’s essential to recognize this difference.
It is an especially auspicious time of Heavenly Tribunal, one that is in our favor. Hashem loves us on the deepest level and only wants the best for us. As a result, He gave us the calendar so that we can prepare adequately.
During the time of Elul, we take the opportunity to do introspection. The King is in the fields and we meet with Him. We spend time with Him, much like a getaway to Cannon Beach with the beautiful romantic sunset painting purple clouds, rays of red touching the deep blue sea. This is Elul – a period of intimacy with our Creator to connect deeply once again.
During Selichos, as Elul comes to an end, we do teshuvah. After a time of unparalleled intimacy, we recognize where we need to improve in our relationship with Hashem. He always deserves better from us, and the proof is that we can still improve. The Torah is our Kesubah, our wedding contract, with Hashem, and every area that we aren’t fully holding is an area we need to work on. Even more so, as we are the Bride, the Torah is HaShem’s promise to us. One of those promises is for Him to be our King.
With Rosh Hashanah, we have an amazing procession. The King leaves the fields and it is our job to escort Him back to the throne where He will judge the world. Dovid HaMelech escorted the Torah with unbridled passion and commitment. With his example, we also should do this with simcha and song, parading on all sides. HaKadosh Baruch Hu redeemed us and brought us to this occasion. We know He will judge us favorably, and thus there is no need to dread. There can be only bitachon expressed with awe. We just did intense work on drawing close and building a deep bond, so of course we can trust in a favorable judgment.
While the Machzor is filled with liturgy that is quite intimidating (and it’s all true), it’s all for the absolute good. When we see something scary, it’s only our lack of perspective, and this is where bitachon kicks in.
On Yom Kippur, we continue our teshuvah to the max, taking it to 11, as a result of the beauty in front of us: on this day that has the power of teshuvah, we can be fully cleansed.
The red string turns white, and we rejoice.
Since our davening replicates the Temple service we no longer have, it takes time to go over the details. Amazingly, Hashem also allows us to transcend the limits of our own repentance and use the energy of this day to go farther than we could any other day.
Once we leave this season, we are pure and holy, and given precious few days to set up the Succah – our Chuppah with HaShem.
We dwell in this sheva brachos setup where we are completely reliant on His goodness. We shake the arba minim, the four species of the lulav and esrog, declaring our allegiance to our Lover, and He in turn provides our every need. It is a season of our rejoicing, seeing HaShem once again. During this time, each day is a different day for the nations of the world to bring their offerings to HaShem, and then we have Shemini Atzeres.
Here in the diaspora we have two days of yom tov (a bonus round of sorts), so Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah are on different days. In Eretz Yisroel they are one and the same. All the nations have finished their offerings, and Hashem says He wants one more day with us…just stay…don’t go…let’s have a little more alone time together. And so, it is apropos that we finish our cycle of Torah reading and make a Siyum with HaShem, parading the Sifrei Torah, dancing, singing, and being merry with Ribono Shel Olam for having given us this covenant with Him – one where we know He takes care of all our needs.
This season is one of beauty and love, not fear and dread.
As Rabbi Daniel Borsuk pointed out at Shalosh-Seudos of Mattos-Masei this past Tammuz, for Pesach we bring a plate to the table and that’s our remembrance of the Beis Hamikdash. However, when it comes to Succos we don’t bring a leaf to the table. Instead, we go out to dwell with HaShem, which is an elevated level.
Thus, we see the answer is this: by Pesach we envision emunah at the seudah, guests of the King, and by Succos we apply bitachon in the Succah, living in the King’s dwelling. The first we are guests, freed. The second, we are family, rejoicing. This is, in fact, the key: from the season of our redemption to the season of our rejoicing.
This is a season where we have chaggim to infuse us, build us, and power us up for the new year. Let’s not waste a moment and get the most we can from this time of intimacy with HaShem. Let’s engage with simcha and awe and declare once again, HaShem yimloch l’olam va’ed, HaShem will reign forever and ever.
May we all have a G’mar Chasima Tova, a good final sealing in the Book of Life, and may the Temple be rebuilt speedily and in our days.