When Reb Elazar approached the gabbai of one of Hamburg’s synagogues, he soon discovered that the shuls in the area had an orderly system in place that paired guests with hosts for suitable accommodations. In no time flat, his assigned host introduced himself and assured his guest it would be an honor to receive him in his home.
The host turned out to be one of the most affluent of Hamburg’s citizens. Reb Elazar had never been exposed to such opulence and was astonished at the sheer magnitude of the premises, let alone the luxurious furnishings. Moreover comforting to Reb Elazar was the family’s obvious observance of tznius.
After everyone in the large and lavishly decorated sukkah was seated, a servant appeared carrying a magnificent stool that he set down alongside the master of the house. The latter rose promptly to his feet and declared in an emotionally charged tone: “Baruch haba, der Zeida Rebbi Avraham!” and began to recite the verses of Ushpizin traditionally said before Kiddush to welcome the soul of the Ushpiz, the “holy guest,” corresponding to the specific day of Sukkos.
Reb Elazar, who was unfamiliar with this ritual (the ornamental chair and loud proclamation of the arrival of the day’s revered “guest”), took the liberty of inquiring about the custom once he had warmed up to his host. The baal ha’bayis expressed surprise at his guest’s unawareness and said simply that “proffering proper honor on one of our seven shepherds as he enters our sukkah is the seemly thing to do.”
“You actually see the Ushpizin?” asked a wide-eyed Reb Elazar, to which his host countered with, “And you do not?”
It became apparent to Reb Elazar that the baal ha’bayis possessed great merit in having the Ushpizin grace him with their presence and that he was furthermore empowered to see his distinguished guests and to welcome them with great reverence.
Reb Elazar admitted to his host that he did not perceive them and asked if an arrangement could be made so that he might have the exalted privilege. The host replied that he would take the matter up with the Ushpizin at the next seudah – at which time he informed his guest that since he hadn’t merited the distinction at the onset, his desire would regrettably remain unfulfilled.
The baal ha’bayis refrained from pursuing the subject any further, but Reb Elazar was reasonably content to find himself in the presence of the Ushpizin, irrespective of his inability to observe them.
Upon arriving back home, Reb Elazar was excited to share his amazing experience in Hamburg with his father, but the tzaddik of Lizhensk headed him off. “You should know that the wealthy baal ha’bayis with whom you were privileged to spend Sukkos is none other than the German Jew who was my guest a while back, whom I had referred to as the one you would become acquainted with in due time. He is one of the hidden tzaddikim of this generation.
“How fortunate for you, my son, that you were worthy of sitting in his sukkah, along with the holy Ushpizin.”
* * * * *
Our invitation to the Ushpizin to visit our sukkah ends with the verse from Parshas Ha’azinu in Devarim: “Ki chelek Hashem amo, Yaakov chevel nachalaso” – “For Hashem’s portion is His people, Yaakov is the lot of His inheritance.”
Take the simpleton whose love for the king made him yearn to have the sovereign over to his home for dinner. Despite being mindful that his low station in life would make it impossible for him to honor the king befittingly, the poor man refused to give up on his grand aspiration.
When the king was made aware of the man’s hankering, he ordered that a sumptuous feast be prepared in the royal kitchen, to be delivered to the home of the pauper so that his longing to entertain the king in style could be satisfied.
As we invite the seven holy shepherds to our sukkah, we are all too well aware that our spiritual deficiency renders us unworthy of properly honoring them. We nevertheless are fortified in knowing that we are “of Hashem’s portion” – that our souls emanate from the King’s palatial “kitchen.” Our mitzvos and good deeds derived from that same source qualify us to extend an invitation to our holy fathers to join us in our simcha of mitzvah Sukkah. (Tiferes Banim)