Over the festival of Sukkos, we leave our homes and move into a ‘Sukkah’ – a temporary dwelling. The main custom is to make a blessing over expressing our sitting or ‘dwelling’ in a Sukkah before eating, but not before sleeping. Why then is the text of the blessing referring to ‘dwelling’ rather than eating?

 

Similarly, even though we take four species on Sukkos, the blessing refers to only one of them: the lulav (palm branch). Why?

 

 

The ‘Griz’ – the Rabbi of Brisk, Rabbi Yitzchak Solovechik, was careful to make 100 blessings every day [1], and so on Shabbos (when there are less blessings in the prayer service) he would supplement his blessings by having fruits and vegetables.

One Shabbos when he was recovering from illness in Switzerland, before going to pray the afternoon services, in accordance with his custom he requested a fruit and a vegetable. But when he returned he did not eat the fruits. When he saw that his host was somewhat surprised, the Rabbi explained, “According to my calculations before the afternoon prayers, I would be lacking two blessings, and so I requested the fruit. But during the services I was unexpectedly honoured with being called up to the Torah where I made the missing two blessings, and so I no longer need the extra blessings.

 

 

Perhaps the blessing over the four species mentions only the lulav, because its fruits possess only taste [2] emphasising that the main purpose of physicality – even tasty foods - is to make the blessing over them rather than to consume them. This is a taste (‘taam’ – also meaning ‘reason’) of what real, spiritual life is all about. Therefore ‘lulav’ shares the same numerical value as the word ‘chaim’, meaning life.

 

Similarly, we bless over ‘dwelling’ in our Sukkah when we eat in order to demonstrate that we do not live to eat but rather eat to live. 

 

 

Have a lulavly Sukkos,

 

Dan.

 

 

Additional sources:

Story: Notrei bracha 3, p. 235 (told by R. Sholom Shwardon)

[1] See Menachos 43b

[2] Medrash Rabba Vayikra 30; Medrash Tanchuma Emor 19; Yalkut Shimoni Vayikra 23:652; Zohar Raya Mehemna 256b and additions 306b

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