Epilogue: Three Questions We Didn't Answer About Sukkot
Is Hoshana Rabba the Key to Understanding Sukkot?
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
In this premium webinar, Rabbi Fohrman goes into more detail about the fascinating Biblical language and themes surrounding the holiday of Sukkot.
What I want to talk to you about tonight is Sukkot, the rest of the story. You may have gotten a chance to have taken a look at the Sukkot video that we put out. It's actually the first year that we ever did put out a Sukkot video .Sukkot is one of those holidays that gets crammed on the Jewish calendar. You spend your time preparing and preparing for the Yamim Noraim, for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and then all of a sudden, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are over, and you rush into Sukkot and you barely have any time. You're building your sukkah, you're getting a lulav and etrog and you're doing all that stuff. So maybe a lot of you didn't have a chance to take at our Sukkot lectures, but if you haven't yet, go back and look at them. Our video editors did a splendid job and it was fantastic to research.
It all started with an observation that Immanuel Shalev had, which he shared with me about six months ago, and we built the course over time out of that. As I mentioned, we were only able to put in the course a certain amount of it, and this is organic material that builds in interesting ways. I want to fill you in today with what I see now as the rest of the story.
A Deep Dive Into The Sukkot Story
I don't know if I've yet glimpsed the entire rest of the story. I think there's probably more there than meets the eye, or certainly my eye now, but I want to give you a sense of some of the larger themes that are going on behind the scenes. I think the way that we're going to do it is this. I'm going to try to give you a quick recap of some of the main points that I want to expand from that Sukkot video. I'll give you some of the questions, which you've seen before, but I also want to augment them with a whole bunch more, a lot of new material and see where it builds out with you.
Answering The Big Questions In The Story Of Sukkot
We began our Sukkot course with a couple of questions. I suppose the main question we began with is – we played a little game called big question/small question. The way the game worked is, you had to look at the three pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot and play big question/small question – or rather big holiday/little holiday or big deal/little deal.The point of this was really to point out that when you look at the other holidays, like Shavuot and Passover, they really celebrate big deals. Revelation, Shavuot, it's a very big deal. The Exodus, a very big deal. But if you look at what Sukkot celebrates at face value, it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. Why is there a whole holiday to celebrate it?
If you go to Parshat Emor, if you go to Leviticus 23, you'll see the reason in the text for Sukkot. Ki basukkot hoshavti et B'nei Yisrael behotzi'i otam me'eretz Mitzrayim, because God caused us to dwell in sukkot when he took us out of Egypt. It's kind of anticlimactic. I mean, we had to sleep somewhere, so big deal; we slept in sukkot. Why do we have to have this whole holiday celebrating the fact that we slept in sukkot? It just seems like a strange thing to celebrate.
In addition, the language of the verse in Leviticus 23 is problematic, because it says, Ki basukkot hoshavti et B'nei Yisrael behotzi'i otam me'eretz Mitzrayim, which literally translates to, "I caused you to dwell you in sukkot when I took you out of Egypt." That, when I took you out of Egypt, is a little odd because, at face value, God took us out of Egypt, and for 40 years we slept in sukkot. It wasn't just specifically when he took us out of Egypt that we slept in sukkot, so why say it like that?
This led us to another question, which is that the holiday of Sukkot is different than all the other holidays, in the sense that it doesn't seem to celebrate a particular discrete event. The Exodus happens at a particular point in time. Revelation, Shavuot, happens at a particular point in time. But if you look at Sukkot, it happened over 40 years, night in and night out. It doesn't seem to happen at a particular point in time.
These were the opening questions in the video that we asked, and then I began to lay out a theory. What I want to do now is to back up and suggest to you that the theory that we began to sketch out there, which I'll share again with you in a moment, actually has many, many implications, which go beyond the video. What I want to do is clue you in on a few more questions you can ask about Sukkot and really Passover in general. So let me throw in a few questions, which didn't make it into the video.
Studying The Origin Of Sukkot In The Bible
One of the strange things about Sukkot is that, if you think about it, one of the ways in which it is an outlier among the three pilgrimage festivals, Sukkot, Shavuot and Passover, is that the event that it commemorates is apparently never mentioned in the text outside of the verse that tells you about this holiday. Imagine if you never knew about the Exodus in the Torah, and the only way you knew about the Exodus is because you looked in Leviticus 23 and there was a holiday called Passover. The Torah says, by the way, you should always celebrate the holiday called Passover because God took you out of Egypt. You'd think that was a little strange, right? I mean, you would say, but where's the story about God taking me out of Egypt? That's why, of course, the whole first half of the book of Exodus is devoted to the story of God taking us out of Egypt. We hear about the story of Exodus and then in Leviticus 23, we hear about this holiday that commemorates that story back in Exodus. Same thing with the Revelation. You hear about the Revelation in the middle of Exodus and there's a holiday that commemorates the Revelation later on in Leviticus.
When it comes to Sukkot, though, that pattern is broken, because all you have is Leviticus 23 telling you that you should celebrate this holiday called Sukkot. Ki basukkot hoshavti et B'nei Yisrael behotzi'i otam me'eretz Mitzrayim, because when I took you out of Egypt, I caused you to dwell in sukkot. Now, if it were not for that holiday, if it had never mentioned that you were supposed to celebrate this holiday, we wouldn't know the event that we're supposedly commemorating, because never anywhere else in the Torah does it specifically say that we slept in these huts. The only way that we actually know that we slept in these huts is because there's a verse that says we're supposed to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot. We do that because we slept in these huts, but it's never told to us in the story part of the Torah. It's just told to us as a law.
We never hear anywhere throughout the book of Exodus, throughout the book of Leviticus, throughout the book of Numbers, we never hear anywhere the fact that the Israelites actually slept in sukkot, so isn't that strange to have a holiday that commemorates an event that doesn't seem to exist within the story part of the Torah? Are you with me? It just seems a strange kind of thing, so let's add that question to the mix. Okay. A couple of other questions that I want into the mix that didn't make into the video. Let me just consult my notes here. What else do we have?
The Sukkot Dispute In The Torah
Okay. We have this famous dispute – and I mentioned it in the video – between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva, these two Tanna'im in the Talmud. There's a famous dispute as to what exactly the holiday of Sukkot celebrates. One of these great Sages says it celebrates the fact that we slept in sukkot. The other Sage says it celebrates the ananei hakavod, these clouds of glory that God provided for protection to the Jewish people. What's strange about that is imagine being the Tanna, the Sage, that went out on a limb and said that what Sukkot actually commemorates is these clouds of glory. Ki basukkot hoshavti et B'nei Yisrael behotzi'i otam me'eretz Mitzrayim. It's very strange because, again, it's not what the text says. In other words, where did he have the audacity to say that?
I mean, think about what this means. It means that a verse, which plainly tells you about a holiday, should not be interpreted literally. It's just a really odd thing to say, right? We never have that with Pesach. We never have that Shavuot. Imagine that the Torah talks about Pesach and says that it celebrates the Exodus and we have some vague, nonliteral interpretation of that. No, it commemorates the Exodus here. You heard about the Exodus over here. All of a sudden, you have one of these Tanna'im coming along and saying that no, there were these clouds, and that's what it celebrates.
The question you have to ask is, well, if it's a holiday that's really celebrating these clouds of glory that protected the Israelites when they slept – aside from the fact that we don't actually seem to have a verse that specifically says that when we were sleeping, the clouds of glory protected us – you would expect the verse that talks about the holiday to say that. Don't say, Ki basukkot hoshavti et B'nei Yisrael behotzi'i otam me'eretz Mitzrayim, because in huts I made you sleep when I took you out of Egypt. Say, I put up these clouds for protection for you. So why is it that the Torah's so cagey about these clouds if they really existed? Question number two.
Okay. Question #1, how come we never hear about the sukkot in the story of coming out of Egypt itself? Question #2, what's the deal with these clouds of glory? Why is the Torah being so cagey and not really telling us about the clouds of glory when it says, Ki basukkot hoshavti? Okay.
Connecting The Themes Of Sukkot & Pesach
Another thing, which is kind of interesting, again, going into the Talmud here, is the Talmud sets up an interesting kind of equivalence between Pesach and Sukkot. According to the Gemara, there's what's known as a gezeirah shavah, which is one of the 13 hermeneutical principles for interpreting the Torah, which is based upon the fact that both Sukkot and Passover, their first day is the 15th of their respective months. The Gemara expounds that connection, makes a 15 to 15 connection from which various laws are derived. Such as, for example, the notion that the Rabbis say, you're supposed to eat at least an olive's volume, you know, a basic amount of matzah on the first night of Pesach and correspondingly, you're supposed to eat in the sukkah on the first night of Sukkot that same amount. It just seems like a random thing, this connection between the two holidays, based upon this 15 to 15 connection, but I think that the approach, which we began to develop, helps flesh it out. I want to get to that with you in a moment also.
Finally, I want to raise another thing and this is something, which I just stumbled on really over the holiday of Sukkot myself, and it's the following.
The Origin Of Sukkot Traditions
We have this strange custom on Sukkot. It's called the hoshanot custom. Basically, they're these parades around the synagogue, everyone holding their lulav and etrog, walking around, singing these piyyutim, these poems, and the refrain is Hoshana, hoshana, save us, save us. The question is, where did that refrain come from, the notion of save us, save us? Why is it that we say that on Sukkot?There's this tradition that the Sukkot is really the end of the days of judgment. It's the end of the Yom Kippur-Rosh Hashanah period of the days of din, of judgment. So maybe, you know, save us because it's the last moments of judgment possibly, but I think that there's something more going on with this notion of hoshana, please, save us.
I want to talk about that with you. And the clue -- and here I want to acknowledge David Eisman, who's a rabbi that is one of the members of our shul that I lead, a Sephardi minyan at the Young Israel of Woodmere. He tipped me off to this. There's a very suspicious Rashi and I'll share it with you. I'm actually going to share the screen here with you for a moment. This is going to be goodbye to my face for the moment and you're going to see some text. More or less, most of this text is in Hebrew and English, but some of it's in Hebrew, so I'll translate it. Let me show you this Rashi in Masechet Sukkah. Let me put this screen up for you. Hopefully, you should see it and you guys can put up on the questions if you don't see this, but if you -- let me just scroll down all the way to the bottom here.
Here's this language of Rashi from Tractate Sukkah on 45a. I'm just going to translate because I only have the Hebrew here for you. Rashi is saying something here, which is very un-Rashi-like. It's this almost very weird Kabbalistic thing. Make sure you're sitting down for this because this is a pretty strange thing that Rashi says. Again, I'm just going to read it for you without comment, whatever.
The background of this Rashi is that there's this phrase, this ancient phrase that goes to back to more than a thousand years that people say on Hoshana Rabba, the very last of the days of hoshanot, which is the seventh day of Sukkot. On Hoshana Rabba, the seventh day of Sukkot, so the phrase that you say is, Ani vaho hoshi'ah na. Now the question is what does that even mean, "Ani vaho hoshi'ah na"? Hoshi'ah na means please, save us. What does ani vaho mean? Nobody even knows what that means. What's strange about it is ani is a word that means I, so I and something hoshi'ah na, but what's vaho? Vaho is not even a Hebrew word. There's no word. It just seems like a nonsense word. So what does this nonsense phrase mean, Ani vaho hoshi'ah na?
So here's Rashi, I kid you not. I'm just going to read what Rashi says here. It's just really wild. Rashi says that -- here's what's going on here. Rashi says, B'gematria ana Hashem ve'od mishivim veshta'im shemot hen hanekuvim beshalosh mikra'ot hasemuchin beparshat vayehi beshalach, vayisa, vayavo bein machaneh, vayet Moshe et yado. Basically, what Rashi was getting at is the following. If you could see this ArtScroll, in their machzor, they comment on this on Page 366 or so, I think. You could actually see this outlined. But here's what Rashi says. Rashi says, it just so happens that in the Torah there are three consecutive verses, somewhere in the middle of the Book of Exodus. If you look at those three consecutive verses, you're going to find that each one of those consecutive verses, one after another, has exactly 72 letters in it. Okay.
Rashi then says the following. Imagine those three verses almost as a yardstick, 72 centimeters long in each case, 72, 72 and 72. Now imagine you just lined up those verses that way and then you folded the yardstick. So imagine you took the first verse, just kept it the way it is. You took the second verse that's 72 letters and you just folded it and tucked it under the first verse. Then, you took that third verse and you tucked it under the second one. Basically, the way you'd read them is you'd read the first verse going forward, then the second verse going backward because you'd tucked it under the first verse and then the third verse going forward again, and it's 72 letters. Now, you have a grid of 72 by 3 letters. I kid you not. Again, I wouldn't lie to you. Little old me, I wouldn't do it to you.
This is what Rashi really says. You have this grid of 72 by 3 letters. Rashi then says that if you take that grid of these 72 by 3 letters and you slice them down vertically, so you're going to find 72 sets of three-letter combinations. Rashi says each one of those 72 three-letter combinations is a name of God. There are 72 of these hidden names of God and they are made out of the three letters that you get from this combination. Taking these three 72-letter verses, forward, backward, forward, slicing them and dicing them, don't try this at home, and these are 72 names of God, three letters each.
Rashi then goes and says that if you take the first of those letter combinations, you're going to get Vaho, Vav-Hei-Vav. Now just take 72 and take the first half of that from 1-36, take the first slice over there, you have vaho and then take the second half from 37-72 and take the first slice of that second half, you're going to have ani. That's where you get Ani vaho hoshi'ah na from. Now you understand why we say Ani vaho hoshi'ah na? I mean, this Rashi just defies logic. Like what is he even talking about? It just seems like this strange hocus-pocus. Anyway, why are picking these three verses out of a hat that just seems to have 72 letters in them? It just is a really odd thing.
I can't pretend to give you an exact explanation of what's going on in the Rashi, but I do think that the Sages who were saying this saw what we began to see in those Sukkot videos. I think what you are going to see is that there are these layers in these rabbinic interpretations, which are coming off of the textual evidence that we talked about in our sukkah videos. It just so happens if you're wondering which verses they are, let me just show them to you. A little bit farther up I think I outlined them. Yeah, they're right over here. Just so you know, we're now reading from Exodus 14. If you scroll down next to this 14, to verse 19, the verses that Rashi is talking about are right over here – I'm going to highlight them for you so you can see them – are Verses 19, 20 and 21.
Vayisa malach ha'Elokim haholeich lifnei machaneh Yisrael. This was the first of the 72-letter verses. And an angel of God, which was going before the people of Israel, then went and traveled behind them. This is the story of the crossing of the Red Sea.
I'm just going to give you a little bit of background. Israel, they are crossing the Red Sea and what happens is that Egypt is running behind them and is chasing after them. What happens then is that there is an angel of God that's traveling before them and it's actually the cloud. There is this pillar of cloud that's traveling before them, so the pillar of cloud then leaves its position before them and goes behind them.
Vayisa amud he'anan mipneihem vaya'amod mei'achareihem, that pillar of cloud stops traveling before them and goes behind them to protect the people from the onslaught of the Egyptians behind them. Vayavo bein machaneh Mitzrayim u'vein machaneh Yisrael, and the Egyptians are running after them and the cloud separates and becomes a barrier between the approaching Egyptians and the rear flank of Israel, vayehi he'anan v'hachoshech vaya'er et halailah v'lo karav zeh el zeh kol halailah, and the Egyptians were not able to approach and cloud protected them.
These are the verses here. And the next verse talks about the actual splitting of the sea when Moses lifts up his hand and splits the sea. These are the three 72-letter verses that Rashi points to and in this almost hocus-pocus thing to get these names of God, ani vaho hoshi'ah na. So what is exactly going on over here with this Rashi trying to explain this strange Mishnah? The Mishnah tells us we that say these words ani vaho hoshi'ah na, and Rashi is explaining how it is that we got them.
Let me begin to put this together with you and lay out the theory and some of its implications. By the way, one other question actually, while I have you.
Uncovering Deeper Biblical Connections To Sukkot
Another question, which I don't think we really addressed in our series and I'll try to bring you to it is -- here let me show you here. It is Verse 37 in Exodus, Chapter 12. Here is this verse that mentions – and it just seems like a little, trivial thing, but as the Israelites left Egypt for the very first time, it tells us where they encamped and it tells us where they traveled to when they encamped there. Actually, let me introduce it this way, and I'll get to the extra point. Going back to our video series, I began to answer some of these questions with the following observation. I mentioned at the beginning of this webinar that the keystone insight for me came from a comment that Immanuel Shalev made to me about six months ago. Really, that was just the tip of the iceberg, and everything really built up there. I remember Immanuel, sort of, bursts into my office and says the following. He says, take a look at this verse over here. This is the Verse 37, the one that I was just talking to you about. He says, do you think that it's a coincidence that just as Israel leaves Egypt, the very first place that they encamp is the place called Sukkot?
Vayisu B'nei Yisrael mei'Ramseis, Israel traveled from Rameses, Sukkotah, to a place called Sukkot, k'sheish mei'ot elef ragli hagevarim levad mitaf, 600,000 people aside from children. Is it a coincidence that everybody travels to this place called Sukkot? Especially because, go back to Leviticus 23: why is it that we celebrate Sukkot? We celebrate Sukkot because it says Ki basukkot hoshavti et B'nei Yisrael b'hotzi'i otam mei'eretz Mitzrayim, that God caused us to dwell in sukkot when he took us out of Egypt. And here we are, just after he took us out of Egypt, and we're dwelling in sukkot. Except, it's not sukkot in terms of huts, it's Sukkot in terms of a name of a place in which we encamped. Is that a coincidence? It doesn't seem to be a coincidence.
If we just unpack the implications of that – so basically, here is the argument that we made in the videos. We'll just follow those along now. We said, what's the big deal about sleeping in Sukkot? Who cares that we slept in a place called Sukkot? Why would we celebrate that forever more? We said, it seems like the Torah is counting on us to remember something from the Book of Genesis.
In other words, when it says Basukkot hoshavti et B'nei Yisrael b'hotzi'i otam mei'eretz Mitzrayim, that we celebrate this holiday because God caused us to dwell in these huts, it probably does mean huts, but the huts are connected to this place called Sukkot. In other words, the place was called Sukkot after the huts that probably the people slept in. Why doesn't the Torah go and tell us about the huts? Because it is banking on us, as it were, to remember some verses back in the Book of Genesis. Back in the Book of Genesis, we heard about Sukkot one more time. Let me show you back it is in Genesis what it is I am talking about over here.
Here is Jacob leaving the house of Laban. When he leaves the house of Laban, it just turns out that after he escapes Laban's house and after he escapes Esau, the very first place he comes to – right down over here. I'm reading now from Genesis 33, if you look what happens, it says, V'Yaakov nasa Sukkotah, Jacob went and he traveled to Sukkot, vayiven lo bayit, and he made himself a house there, ul'mikneihu asah sukkot, and for his cattle he made these cattle pens, these huts and then it says, al kein kara shem hamakom Sukkot. That's why they named the place Sukkot. It's very clear in Genesis why it is that they named the place Sukkot. They named the place Sukkot – in this case, Jacob named the place Sukkot – because of these cattle pens that he made for his cattle.
In Exodus, when we say we came to this place called Sukkot, it sounds like the verse in banking up you remembering what happened in Genesis. In Exodus, there was a place called Sukkot, named so because Jacob built these sukkot, these cattle pens for his cattle. Obviously, there's going to be this other place, which geographically is separate, a very different place. But when Israel comes out of Egypt and they make sukkot, it is probably also because they made cattle pens for their cattle.
By the way, just in case you were wondering, it sounds like that's exactly what happens because the Torah goes out of its way when it says that the Israelites came to Sukkot. Vayisu B'nei Yisrael mei'Ramseis Sukkotah, this now is Israel, not just Jacob, when Israel went to Sukkot when they left out of Egypt. They were not just one man and a family. They were K'sheish mei'ot elef ragli hagevarim levad mitaf, 600,000 people along with children. They were traveling with many people.
V'tzon u'bakar mikneh kaveid me'od. Why are you telling me about this now? You are telling me they had lots of cattle; hint, hint. They had lots of cattle and the idea is well, that's probably why the place was called Sukkot because just like Jacob, they had lots of cattle. They must have made cattle pens for their people and that's probably why they called it Sukkot. I gave the example of shantytowns. If you look on Google Maps, you'll see there's a bunch of places called shantytowns, probably named so because once upon a time people made shanties there.
The same with Sukkot. Jacob made a shanty, made this little hut. He made a hut for his cattle while he slept in a nice house. Well, generations later, it wasn't just Jacob who left slavery, so to speak, at the hands of Laban and found himself in these sukkot – found himself building a house for himself and making these sukkot as cattle pens but Israel had a similar kind of experience. They too were leaving slavery. The first place they came to was also a place called Sukkot. They also had lots of cattle. The only difference is that they didn't have houses. Jacob was just one guy and when he was one guy, he wasn't going to – he could make a house for himself, he stayed there for a while, nice cattle pens for his cattle, everything is wonderful.
Israel did not have the luxury. They were there for just one night and they were 600,000 people. They couldn't put up a metropolis, so they were stuck. All they had were cattle pens and in those cattle pens, they slept along with their cattle, with Bessie the Cow and Millie the Sheep. This was the first night and this seems to be the night that we are commemorating.
Now what I want to do with you is actually just read through these verses and see what we find. This is a little bit different than how we do it in the video series, but just watch what happens as we read these verses.
Vayisu B'nei Yisrael mei'Ramseis Sukkotah, the people left from Rameses and they came to Sukkot. Now the question I want to raise with you here is why is it so important to tell us the name of the staging area that the Israelites left from Egypt? If it's important to tell us that they were in sukkot for whatever reason, that they slept in these cattle pens, okay, fine. Maybe I get that, but why do I care exactly where they left from? Why couldn't it just said, and the Israelites, they left from Egypt wherever – they obviously got together somewhere and left from Egypt – and traveled to Sukkot? Is it important that they traveled specifically from Rameses to Sukkot? We are going to come back to that. What was Rameses about? What was so special about Rameses?
Let's keep that in mind and go a little bit further. V'gam eirev rav alah itam v'tzon u'bakar mikneh kaveid me'od. They had lots of cattle. They made these sukkot for their cattle, these pens. Then, here is the interesting thing as we talked about in the video series. Vayofu et habatzeik asher hotzi'u mi'Mitzrayim ugot matzot ki lo chameitz ki gorshu mi'Mitzrayim v'lo yachlu l'hitmahmei'ah v'gam tzeidah lo asu lahem. That night, they baked their half-baked bread. They didn't have time to bake their bread; it didn't have time to leaven. They baked matzah that night because they were sent out of Egypt so fast that they couldn't actually make bread and they didn't have time to pack anything.
In the video series, I asked you to imagine what that night would have been like. That night seems to bifurcate into two holidays. There seem to be two holidays, each commemorating a discrete event. It's not the case that Sukkot commemorates 40 years of the desert. It commemorates one night, the very first night, the night we slept in sukkot, the night we ate matzah. Passover commemorates it from the perspective of what we ate. Sukkot commemorates it from the perspective of where we slept. We ate this half-baked bread. We slept under the stars with Bessie the Cow and Millie the Sheep.
As I argue to you in the videos, this was the moment of great trust, the gift of trust, which Israel gave to God. And Jeremiah talks about this, Lechteich acharai bamidbar b'eretz lo zeru'ah. God is talking and saying that, you followed me into the desert, in a place where there was absolutely no way to make any food. You trusted that I would be there for you and you were willing to sleep that night. That night, if you imagine what it was like, like we talked about in the videos, there was that, sort of, mixed bittersweet feeling. On the one hand, you're free, the first taste of the air of freedom. Yet, on the other hand, you are terrified. Because why? Look in the next verse; the next verse tells you because.
U'moshav B'nei Yisrael asher yashvu b'Mitzrayim sheloshim shanah v'arba me'ot shanah. The settlements that Israel had settled in Egypt was 430 years. Why are we hearing about that now?Vayehi mikeitz sheloshim shanah v'arba me'ot shanah, and after 430 years, vayehi b'etzem hayom hazeh, on that very day, yatzu kol tzivot Hashem mei'eretz Mitzrayim, everyone left Egypt. Leil shimurim hu laHashem, it was a night of guarding; God was watching over us that night, hu halailah ha'zeh laHashem shimurim l'chol B'nei Yisrael, a night when God watched us. For generations, God watches us this night.
Look at that verse. For 430 years, U'moshav B'nei Yisrael asher yashvu b'Mitzrayim, we had settled down in Egypt, literally settled down. Now think about the holiday. We celebrate it, Ki basukkot hoshavti et B'nei Yisrael. There's that contrast. For 430 years, we were settled in Egypt. You knew where your next meal was coming from and you knew that there was going to be a roof over your head that you can sleep under. What keeps you a slave?
What are the two most basic things you need in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? Two most basic things you need – really they both come from the land – is the gift that land gives you for shelter, a home, and the gift that land gives you in nourishment, agriculture. Those two things are the two most important things we can ever have, food and shelter. If you don't have those needs, you're absolutely stuck. You have to have food and shelter.
The great perverse bargain of slavery is that the slave thinks he has free food and shelter. If I am not a landowner, if I am alienated from a land because I am a slave, because I am just a serf, so I don't have a natural connection from a land, from which I can be nurtured and get the food of the land. I don't have the natural connection of land, where land will give me a home and put a roof over my head. I'm just a slave. I don't have a connection to a land. I am willing to sell myself for a roof over my head, to know where my next meal is and that's what keeps me into slavery, but at least I know that my basic needs are taken care of if I don't feel that I can take care of them myself because I am not a landowner.
Indeed, if you think about what kept Israel tethered to the idea of slavery, even when they were in the desert, was this notion that you know, Zacharnu et hadagah, we remember the fish, asher nochal chinam, that we ate free of charge in Egypt. It felt like it was free. It always there, except that you paid with your freedom for those fish, cucumbers and those watermelons. You left the land of plenty, with a roof over your head, where you had been settled down – back to Verse 40 over here – where you had been settled down for 430 years. Then one night, Vayehi b'etzem hayom ha'zeh, in one night you left and you put yourself in God's hands and God took care of you. Leil shimurim hu laHashem, it was a night of protection. God responded by protecting you. You woke up in the morning and you were safe and sound.
Now let me come back to a couple of the questions that I raised with you, which were not part of our regular video series. Let me show you how this approach begins to answer some of those.
Connecting More Meaning To The Story Of Sukkot
First, let's talk about Rameses. I asked you before, why was it so important that they left of all places, the city of Rameses? Do you remember anything about Rameses? What do you remember about the city of Rameses? What kind of city was that? What do we know earlier from the Torah about Rameses? What kind of city was Rameses? First of all, we know who built it. The people who built Rameses were the Jews themselves, the Israelites themselves. They were slaves in Egypt. It wasn't a shanty. It's actually the opposite of a shanty.
We know about two special slave cities that Israel built all the way back in the beginning. Yes, they were storage cities, very good. What kind of storage cities? They were silos, cities full of grain. There was no place more secure than Rameses. Egypt was the breadbasket of the ancient world. Everyone came to Egypt during times of famine and when you came to Egypt for famine, you came to Rameses. Rameses was the place Egypt built to store all the grain.
It seems to even have been a reaction from the famine that happened from the time of Joseph. In the times of Joseph, Joseph created this elaborate administrative system to create storage facilities in Egypt for the grain in which they had. Of course, Egypt has the Nile, so they have a source of irrigation in an otherwise very arid climate that they can actually create food even in times of famine, even in times when there is no rain. It seems that the next Pharaoh, paranoid and not wanting to have to rely on a Joseph, on a foreigner, on an Israelite, to get Egypt through the next famine, so he says we can have our own storehouses. We don't have to rely on Joseph to build storehouses. We can enslave Joseph's people and make them build storehouses for us and that became Rameses. Vayiven arei miskanot l'Paroh et pitom v'et Ramseis, they built Rameses.
Rameses is emblematic of the storehouse city, the place that as a slave, you're enslaved and you know when your next meal is coming from. If you think about at the end of the video, one of the things we talked about is when it is that we celebrate Sukkot because it is, kind of, interesting. If it's really true that Sukkot commemorates our first night in the desert, we don't actually celebrate it on the anniversary of that first night in the dessert, 15th of Nisan. We celebrate it exactly six months later.
The theory that I suggested to you at the end of the video was because the Torah says that you celebrate Sukkot as a harvest festival when you gather in all your grain. Now remember, of course, the agricultural cycle of the ancient world and even nowadays too. You plant in the spring, you harvest, you cut the grain later on in the spring and then all summer long the grain is in the field drying out until you can bring the grain into your house. It's only then that you are finally secure, that moment, when you bring all the grain into your house, where your house becomes Rameses. The idea is that a house is a very, very secure place and you can be lulled into thinking that security is complete.
The Torah is saying that even when you are secure, even when you are no longer a slave, even when you really know when your next meal is coming from because you think you have it all, you have security, leave and take a journey. Go into your sukkah at the time of year in the fall, when you finally bring home your grain. Leave your house that has become your agricultural fortress and go into this little hut. It's what your forefathers did when they left Rameses. Recreate the journey from Rameses to Sukkot the journey from a fortified house to a little tiny hut. That's what I wanted to tell you about Rameses.
Now let me just point out something to you. It's something remarkable that, frankly, just perfectly honest here, that I just found tonight. Let me save that for you. If I have a little bit of time at the end, I'll try to share it with you. I just discovered tonight a really very fascinating contrast between Passover and Sukkot.
Speaking of Passover and Sukkot, by the way, you can now think about this 15th and 15th connection. There is something to it. Passover and Sukkot really are so much related. They're really the same holiday. It's just that one holiday is expressing the celebration in terms of where we slept that very first night when we put ourselves into God's arms and asked for God's protection. The other way we express it is through a holiday that commemorates what it is that we ate that night. Sukkot and Passover are really, really just two sides of the same coin.
You know what, let me actually just show you this piece now because it's actually related to this. Here is what I found tonight; again, kind of, crazy. Let me take you back to Page 1 of this little source sheet. Here you have Exodus 12. Exodus 12 gives you the laws of the Paschal Offering. Look at all the red. Do you see those words in red? These are the laws of the Paschal Offering. Look at the preponderance of the word house. Everything is about house. Veyikchu lahem ish seh l'beit avot, everyone should take a lamb for the house of their fathers, seh la'bayit, a lamb for each house. V'im yimat habayit mih'yot mi'seh, if the house is too small for them to finish off one lamb, then u'shcheino hakarov el beito, the neighbor that's next to the house should then count themselves into their group.
Later on, V'lakchu min ha'dam v'natnu al shtei hamezuzot v'al hamashkof al habatim, place the blood on the lintels of your doorways, on your houses. Everything is house, house, house, over and over again. L'ot al habatim, the blood is a sign upon your houses. Tashbitu se'or mi'bateichem, when you get rid of chameitz you should get rid of chameitz (leavened bread) mibateichem, from your houses. Lo yimatzei b'vateichem, they shouldn't find in any of your houses any chametz. You should eat in your bateichem matzot. Lo teitzu ish mipetach beito ad boker, no one should leave the opening of their house until morning. Everything is house, house, house. Isn't that interesting?
Think about these two holidays that commemorate the same event, Passover and Sukkot so to speak; that first night out, the first night leaving. Passover commemorates from the perspective of what we ate. We ate matzah, unleavened bread, but where were we sleeping at that moment? Well, first we were sleeping in batim, in houses. What's a house, but the opposite of a hut? Then, Sukkot flips it. If you think about the holiday of Sukkot, on the holiday of Sukkot you could eat bread, you could eat whatever you want, regular read on that holiday, but you eat in this, sort of, shanty. There is this play off of batim and sukkot, houses and sukkot. But here is the really interesting thing I want to show you. I am not quite sure what to make of it. I'll just leave this as a parenthetical excursion. Again, I just found this, but I wanted to share it with you.
Understanding The Symbols Of Sukkot
Take a look at this verse with matzah. It says U'shmartem et hamatzot, that you should watch over these matzot. By the way, let me ask you a strange question. Does it ever bother you at the Passover Seder? I bet this bothered you at the Passover Seder. Let me just ask you a question. Here you are at the Passover Seder. Did the following question ever bother you? Why do we eat matzah on Passover? It's not so clear if you actually look at the verses. The verses which I had just read to you before say we eat matzah because the night after we left Egypt when we were in sukkot, we ate matzah when were in those huts. So you might answer your kids when you say, here is why we eat matzah on Passover because the first night out when we're sleeping in sukkot we were eating matzah. Okay.
By the way, I don't know how many times it says bayit. You can look it up in that source sheet. I'll try to send it to you. I think I might have missed a few, but I wonder if it's a significant number.
Anyway, so you might tell your kids we eat matzah because the first night out we ate matzah when we didn't have any time to bake bread. Now look at Exodus Chapter 12. If you read Exodus Chapter 12, this chapter, which I was just reading to you, the night before we actually eat matzah in sukkot, the night when we were still in our house, when we were still in Egypt, we were still slaves; we get a command. Listen to what the command is. God says when you eat the Paschal Offering tonight, you should eat it, U'matzot al merorim yochluhu. I am reading now from Verse 8 in Chapter 12. You should eat matzot together with bitter herbs. You should matzot that night. We were commanded to eat matzot that night the night before we ate in the sukkot.
It sounds like the night after you ate in sukkot you're so surprised you're eating matzah because you didn't have time to bake your matzah. Well, hello, you commanded us to eat matzah the night before. Interestingly, the night before we're not told why we eat matzah. We just get this inexplicable command to eat matzah together with bitter herbs and then we're told this should be recreated every year. There's going to be this holiday. It's going to be called Chag Hamatzot and we should eat on Chag Hamatzot matzah because we have to eat the Paschal Offering with matzah and bitter herbs without any explanation. It's really odd. How could you tell us to eat matzah the night before we're supposed to commemorate it? It's the strangest thing in the world. But here is the really spooky thing. Look at this verse that talks about the matzah.
I'm now at Chapter 12, Verse 17. U'shmartem et hamatzot, you should watch over those matzot, ki b'etzem hayom ha'zeh, because on that very day hotzeiti et tzivoteichem mei'eretz Mitzrayim, I caused your hosts to leave the land of Egypt, u'shmartem et hayom ha'zeh, and you should watch over this day l'doroteichem, for generations, chukat olam, forever. That's what you should do. Now let's just scroll down a little bit. Let's actually get to the moment -- this is all, by the way, before they left Egypt. This is part of the command. When they are in their houses, they are told that in the future they are going to have to watch over the matzot because on this very day I took you out of Egypt. Now let us scroll down to when they actually leave and they are actually in Sukkot and they're actually eating matzah because they don't have time to bake any bread. A day later, basically.
Oh my gosh, you find almost exactly the same language, with some inversions. Vayehi mikeitz sheloshim shanah v'arba me'ot shanah, and after 430 years, vayehi b'etzem hayom ha'zeh, on that very day, yatzu kol tzivot Hashem mei'eretz Mitzrayim, all of the hosts of God left Egypt. Leil shimurim hu laHashem l'hotzi'am mei'eretz Mitzrayim hu halailah ha'zeh laHashem shimurim l'chol B'nei Yisrael l'dorotam, it was a night of protection, that God protected us when we left Egypt that night; it was a night of protection to all of Israel for generations.
These are remarkable verses here. The first verse talks about Passover. The second verse talks about Sukkot. There is one night that separates them. These verses over here are the night before we left. When we were in our houses, we were told this verse and then the night after we left when we're sleeping in sukkot, right after we're sleeping in sukkot, we're told this verse. Look at the differences between these verses. See if you can contrast these. I am going to read them one more time. As I read, see if you can put up – what do you see as a contrast from verse one to verse one? In so many ways, they are similar.
Here is the first verse, the night before they left. "U'shmartem et hamatzos," watch over those matzot, "ki b'etzem hayom ha'zeh," because on this very day, "hotzeiti et tzivoteichem mei'eretz Mitzrayim," I caused your hosts to leave the land of Egypt, "u'shmartem et hayom ha'zeh," and you should watch this day, "l'doroteichem chukat olam," for generations a law forever.
Now the next verse. "Vayehi mikeitz sheloshim shanah v'arba me'ot shanah," and it happened after 430 years, "vayehi b'etzem hayom ha'zeh," on this very day, "yatzu," they went out, "kol tzivot Hashem mei'eretz Mitzrayim," all the hosts of God from the land of Egypt. "Leil shimurim hu laHashem," it was a night of watching for God, "l'hotzi'am mei'eretz Mitzrayim," to take them out of the Egypt, "hu halailah ha'zeh laHashem shimurim," a night of watching for God, "l'chol B'nei Yisrael l'dorotam," for all of Israel for generations. Notice all these connections. Can you find the discrepancies? How do you see – how they are connected and how are they discrepant? I will begin to show you some of the connections.
You see generations over here? "L'dorotam" for generations, "l'doroteichem" for generations. "Ushmartem," see this verse that you should watch over the matzot and you have it twice. "Ushmartem," and you should watch over, "leil shimurim hu," a night of watching and then again, "shimurim l'chol B'nei Yisrael," watching twice. "Tzivoteichem mei'eretz Mitzrayim," God taking hosts out of Egypt. It's all connected, but don't just look at the connections. Look at how they are different. What are the discrepancies between verse one and verse two? What'd you find? Let me see if you guys found anything here.
Good. One of you said, taken versus went out, and three of you upvoted that. That's absolutely correct. Look at Passover, the verb for went out. "Ki b'etzem hayom ha'zeh hotzeiti et tzivoteichem," with Passover on that very night I took you out of Egypt. Now look at the verb with Sukkot. "Vayehi b'etzem hayom ha'zeh," it happened that very day, "yatzu," they went out. Fascinating. "Hotzeiti," means God took them out. Then the next night, "yatzu," they took themselves out. They just left. What happened to God? Very strange.
What are some of the other discrepancies? Good. Four people upvoting, people do the keeping versus watching, versus God doing it. That's absolutely correct. Look, "U'shmartem et hamatzot," who is the one who has to watch the matzot? People do. But who is the one who has to watch the next verse, a night later? "Leil shimurim hu lahashem," God's the one who does the watching. Fascinating. What else?
Good. "Tzivot Hashem," and the other is "tzivoteichem," the word for hosts. In Passover, who are the people? "Hotzeiti et tzivoteichem," I took you out of Egypt, your hosts. But on Sukkot, I took "Tzivot Hashem mei'eretz Mitzrayim," the hosts of God out of Egypt. Very fascinating. Everything is the inverse over here. "Doroteichem," versus "dorotam," also correct. Okay. Yes, night and day as well.
Let me suggest to you a possibility. Again, I just saw this an hour ago, so there may be more to the picture than this, but at least this much. It seems that in Passover, what did God ask us to do? Go back for a moment to your memories of how that night went. We were there alone in the house. We were told to eat matzah, but we weren't told why. We were told to do the strange Paschal Offering. What was the matzah at that point? The matzah was just a symbol, that's all it was. The matzah was a symbol and the Paschal Offering was just a symbol. No one knew why. It was just a strange bunch of things that we did. It was something, which we were told to do because that is the symbolic thing that you would do to commit yourself to get out. Then, what happened? Then, God took us out. Go back to the text for a moment.
What happened? "Ushmartem et hamatzot," God says there's this symbol that I want you to keep. Watch over this symbol forever, this matzah. It's a very special symbol. Why was it a symbol? God knew what was going to happen the next day. It's a symbol that, it's almost as if God says if you want to get yourself ready to go out, show me some conviction on your behalf. It's almost like a dry run for the Exodus. We're going to do a dry run.
You're in your houses now. This isn't for real yet; you're in your houses. Show me while you're still in the security of your house that you have some faith that you are willing to take the God of the Egyptians, sacrifice it, put the blood on the doors and go through this symbolic ritual involving matzah. Go for a dry run. If you do, God is going to take you out of Egypt. "Hotzeiti et tzivoteichem." On this day, I took you out of Egypt. I am the one. God is the one who takes you out of Egypt. God is the one who does it.
Then, you have a law to do. "L'doroteichem chukat olam," for generations it's a law that you have to do, that you that have to watch over this matzah. But why are you doing this? Because tomorrow night it's going to be the real thing. Tomorrow night, do you know what's going to happen? You're not going to know where you're sleeping. You're not going to know what you're eating. That's the real light of matzah. It's not just a symbol anymore; it's for real. You're going to end up leaving so fast that you won't even realize that you didn't bother packing any food for the way and all you have is this half-baked bread. Now, you'll understand why you were eating matzah the night before. You were getting yourself ready symbolically for what are you actually experiencing now.
When you were in your house, God says, this is the last night in your house. Soon it's going to be like this. And here you are, you're eating matzah and you had the willingness to go out that night without even knowing where you were sleeping, without even knowing what you were eating, putting yourself in God's arms. When you did that, you began to earn something.
Understanding the Deeper Significance Of Sukkot
Through that trust that you placed in God, you earned God's care. God reciprocated with care.
The first time around God took you out; God took you out for free. He just did it on his own. The second time around, you earned it. "Yatzu kol tzivot Hashem," you left. You made the decision to leave now. With the decision that you made to put yourself in God's hands, to trust God when you had no right to expect that things would go well, you did that out of love. You left. You made a choice and that responsibility was yours, and God lovingly agrees that it was your choice to do this.
"Yatzu kol tzivot Hashem," and God says, do you know who you are at this time? You're not tzivoteichem, just a bunch of hosts. Now, you're my hosts. You put yourself in my hand you gave yourself to me. I'll take responsibility for you. "Leil shimurim hu," last night I told you, for generations, you would have to watch the matzah. It was just a symbol that night, but look at what you did now. Now, you're eating matzah for real; this little bread that you don't know where it's coming from.
You're in your huts with Bessie the Cow, and it's for real. You don't have a place to go and you're putting yourself in my hands. This is real. Do you know what? God says I am going to reciprocate that. "Leil shimurim hu laHashem," I am going to take care of you. You're going take care of the matzah from the night before. But now, that you're eating matzah for real now, I am going to take care of you. Every night, every year, I am going to remember this night on the 15th of Nisan. It's a night that I take care of you. Instead of a law that you have to keep "L'doroteichem chukat olam," a law forever, it's a "leil shimurim," that God will provide for you for all of Israel for generations.
I am actually out of time with you. I am just three minutes overtime, but let me just take you to finish up this very last idea and come back to the cloud of glory. Let me take you back to this little sheet and I will be done with you in about five minutes here.
The Symbol Of God's Cloud
I asked you before where did these Tanna'im from the Mishnah in Sukkah, where did they come up with this idea of Sukkot commemorating something other than Sukkot, these clouds of glory? Where did that come from? Where did hoshi'ah na come from? Where did ani vaho hoshi'ah na, this strange 72 by 3 grid of letters, Rashi in Sukkah? It's such a strange thing. Where does it all come from? Again, I am indebted to Immanuel Shalev who found the following. Really quite fascinating.
Let me ask you a question. If you want, you can take some guesses on this. All right, here is my question for you. When did the clouds first show up, this pillar of clouds, these clouds of glory? We know that they accompanied them for the 40 years in the desert, God's clouds of glory. Trivia question on the Bible, when did the clouds first show up? When is the first mention of the clouds? You'd think, well, the clouds are going to protect them, the clouds are always going to be there, so right when they leave Egypt they get clouds. Wrong. When is the first time you have the mention of clouds?
Intercepting arrows? Good guess. That's not true, actually. There are clouds even before. Let me show it to you right over here. "Vayikach Moshe," – I want to make sure I am showing you the right thing. Here is Moses, they are leaving, they're taking the bones of Joseph, they're leaving Egypt and all of a sudden, "Vayisu mi'Sukkot," they left Sukkot. Remember, the first place they were in was Rameses, so from Rameses to Sukkot there are no clouds. But now, all of a sudden, "Vayisu mi'Sukkot," they left Sukkot, "vayachanu b'Eitam," and they go to Eitam, the next place at the edge of the desert. All of a sudden, "Va'Hashem holeich lifneihem yomam b'amud anan," God is walking before them with this pillar of cloud, "lanchotam haderech," to show them the way. Fascinating.
This is the first mention of the clouds of glory right after, the verse after it says they left Sukkot. When did the clouds come? The clouds came right after they left Sukkot. Why? Now you know where the Rabbis of the Talmud got it from. They saw what we saw. They understood that right after Sukkot is the first time they got the clouds of glory. Evidently, something happened in the place called Sukkot that made God reciprocate with clouds of glory. That's "Leil shimurim," the night that I took care of you because you put yourself in my hands, so I had to reciprocate. All of sudden, here's the clouds, but then look what happened.
What's the purpose of the cloud? The first night, the purpose of the cloud is actually just a GPS device. Look at what the verse says, "Va'Hashem holeich lifneihem yomam b'amud anan," God went before them with a cloud, "lanchotam haderech," to show them the way. It's just GPS; it's just directional. "V'lailah b'amud eish leha'ir lahem," and at night it was a pillar of fire, which was just a nightlight, "lalechet yomam va'lailah," to show you the way by day or by night. Then it says, "Lo yamish amud he'anan yomam v'amud ha'eish lailah," which means the cloud never left its position from in front of the people. Why did it never leave? Why does the Torah go out of its way to tell me it never left?
The answer is because what was the purpose of the cloud? Here are the verses I was reading. "Vayisu mi'Sukkot vayachanu b'ktzeih hamidbar," they left Sukkot. Right after they left Sukkot, the very next verse, here is the cloud. "VaHashem holeich lifneihem yomam b'amud anan," that God is going before them in the pillar of cloud, but the purpose of the cloud was just to show them the way, which means the purpose of the cloud was not yet protective.
The cloud wasn't there to protect them. It was only a GPS device to show them the way, which explains the next verse. Why it says, "Lo yamish amud he'anan yomam," that's why the cloud never moved. Obviously, why didn't the cloud move? If the cloud is a GPS device, obviously it has to travel in front of the people to show them the way. So the cloud would never move because that was its only function.
Isn't it strange, and with this, I'll leave you, that the cloud it says would never move? But then, a moment later, a couple verses later, about two chapters later, the cloud moves after the Torah said it was never supposed to move. When did the cloud move? Ah, now we get back to that verse, which I mentioned to you all the way back at the beginning of the webinar. Look what happens at the Sea of Reeds. Why is Passover a seven-day holiday? Passover begins the night we left, but on the seventh day, it commemorates the other holy day of Passover. The seventh day commemorates the splitting of the sea, the Seas of Reeds.
Now, if it's true that Sukkot and Passover commemorate the same night but from different perspectives. Isn't it interesting that Sukkot is also a seven-day holiday? So Immanuel Shalev says, if Sukkot is a seven-day holiday, it means the seventh day also commemorates the splitting of the sea. Well, look what happened on the seventh day, the seventh day of Sukkot and Passover. The Egyptians all of a sudden were chasing after the Israelites and when they're chasing after them, all of a sudden the cloud moves. "Vayisa malach ha'Elokim haholeich lifnei machanehYisrael vayeilech mei'achareihem," the cloud that was never supposed to move, all of a sudden moves and goes behind them. Why? "Vayisa amud he'anan mipneihem," it leaves going in front of them, which it was never supposed to do and goes in back of them. Why? Because "Vayavo bein machaneh Mitzrayim u'vein machaneh Yisrael," because it was protecting the Israelites from the onslaught of the Egyptians.
I want to leave you with this image. Years ago, I think it was 1990-something or other, so I saw the movie Apollo 13. I don't know how many of you saw the movie Apollo 13. There was a scene there, which I think actually happened in real life. I don't know if you remember the scene, if you saw the movie, where the spacecraft is crippled. There has been an explosion and the main engine is not working. At that point, they're figuring, like, how are we going to get the crew back alive? We don't even have an engine to work with anymore. They realized that there really were two spacecrafts. There is the main spacecraft, but there is also the lunar module.
The lunar module is just supposed to take the astronauts down to the moon and back up. It is not really designed for long-term space flight. But they said look – Gene Kranz, the head of flight control, says the lunar module just became a lifeboat. We're going to use the engine on the LEM, the lunar module, to take us all the way back to earth. Now at that point in the room, they're discussing this with a bunch of engineers. The guy from Northrop Grumman, who designed the LEM, raises his hand and says we can't do that. Gene Kranz says, why not? He says the LEM wasn't designed to do that. At which point Gene Kranz says, I don't care what the LEM was designed to do. I care what it can do. If it can protect them and take them back, it's going to do that.
It almost feels like that kind of moment. Think about the cloud. The cloud wasn't designed to protect them. It was designed as a GPS device, but out of God's love, God says that He is going to change it. He's is going to take that cloud and use it for protection because I don't care what it can do. This is what's on the ground. This is what's available. We're going to use the cloud to do something that it was never designed to do, to protect them. Why? Because God says, "Leil shimurim," it's a night of protection. They put themselves into my care and I have to protect them. What's really happening on Sukkot is the evolution of the clouds of glory into protective devices. This is what the Sages saw.
The Real Significance Of Sukkot: Celebrating God's Love & Protection
Everybody agrees that people slept in sukkot on the first night of Sukkot and everybody agrees there were clouds of glory. The only question is what it is that we are celebrating. Are we celebrating our heroism that we slept in sukkot or God's heroism that He responded to that with clouds of glory and the clouds of glory evolved? The night after we slept in sukkot, we woke up and there were these clouds of glory leading us. They evolved from mere GPS devices that when we needed protection they were there to protect us at the Sea of Reeds and they did what they weren't supposed to do. This godly thing that was only supposed to be a GPS device did something it was never supposed to do. It protected us and never stopped protecting us. God did that for us out of love.
The Hebrew words that describe the salvation of the sea are "Vayosha Hashem bayom hahu," that God saved us that day. What do we say over and over again on Sukkot? Hoshana, hoshana please save us, please save us like you saved us the first time with those clouds of glory. Please save us.
If you look, the first time around, the Israelites didn't say please. They were too scared. They screamed and God saved them anyways. This time, we relax and say please, please save us, please save us, please save us.
Now, I will show you one last thing and let you go. Isn't it interesting? Remember that strange, strange Rashi, where Rashi talks about why it is that we say ani vaho hoshi'ah na, these strange names of God? Why is it that we say that? Because there are these three verses that are 72 letters each and if you slice them in a certain way, it's ani vaho. Where did he come up with three verses out of nowhere that are 72 letters each? What verses are they? Rashi says they it's these three verses on your screen. In the story of the splitting of the sea, Verse 19, 20 and 21, it's the exact verses that describe the movement of the clouds of glory from before the people, to behind them. It's when the clouds of glory became protective.
These are the verses. "Vayisa malach ha'Elokim haholeich lifnei machaneh Yisrael vayeileich mei'achareihem." These verses that celebrate God's protection, these 72-letter verses, these are the verses we use when we say hoshana ani vaho hoshi'ah na. When? On the seventh day, on Hoshana Rabba that commemorates this exact event, the splitting of the sea. The Sages saw all this. We are not the ones who made it up. The Talmud saw all this all the way back.
This is what Rashi is talking about. This is why we say ani vaho hoshi'ah na. We are invoking, we are reliving the salvation that God gave us at the sea. We're reliving the experience of the clouds of glory, this protective cover that God gave us as a way of reciprocating the trust that we gave to God when we slept that night in sukkot. I'll leave you with those thoughts. I'll stick around with you for another minute or two and just take a quick look through your questions.
If the clouds were not supposed to move, then how were they a GPS?
No, let me explain that. I'm sorry if I was unclear about that. What I meant by that is they weren't supposed to move from in front of the people. In other words, as the people moved they moved along with them. Relative to the people, they were always at the front except for the moment when they became protective, when they went from before the people and went behind them. They moved, but relative to the people, they were always in the front.
This Shabbos, I realized that the original cloud – three upvotes – is in the brit keshet; anan, anan, anan.
That's actually very interesting. Somebody mentions that the very first time that you have a cloud, perhaps a cloud of glory, might well be in this past week's parsha, which was Parshat Noach, where you have a cloud of glory out of which the keshet comes, the rainbow. It's also interesting, by the way, that the rainbow is also protective because God says I am never going to allow the destruction of the world to take place again and the rainbow is the sign. The very first protective cloud that came to God, interestingly, might come all the way back to Parshat Noach. Very interesting. Thank you for that. I hadn't thought of that.
Is there a way of understanding – two upvotes – the Vilna Gaon's idea of the clouds referring to the second set of clouds after the sin of the golden calf and this?
Interesting. Apparently, the Vilna Gaon -- I wasn't aware of that – says that the clouds of glory are the second clouds, not the first clouds. My approach actually is probably the first clouds, the ones that were before the sin of the golden calf. I am not going to venture a guess as to that, but it's a good point. It could be the Vilna Gaon would disagree with this approach.
How could we find out how Rashi lines up the three verses to get the words we say?
Yes, if you want to see that take a look at the ArtScroll Sukkot Machzor, Page 366, lays out the array for you. But it's 72, 72, 72 and if you want to see which verses they are, they're Verses 19, 20 and 21 in Exodus 14. That's the way to find it.
This little set of verses has 72 names; that's correct. According to Rashi, there are actually 72 names of God and they are very, very special verses. I think that's pretty much it. I want to thank you guys for being a part of this.