We all have seen sukkos that have fallen. The wind blows strongly and the sukkah comes down. But have you ever seen a falling sukkah, as if in midair, but it has not fallen yet?
No? I didn’t think so.
Yet, we have just such a reality described in this week’s haftarah.
Hashem Yisborach tells us that although we have been seriously neglectful of our covenant with Him and have not kept the Torah properly, one day we will return to Eretz Yisrael. Although we have been guilty of many of the sins described in Parshas Acharei Mos (Vayikra 18:25), which resulted in our being exiled, Hakadosh Baruch Hu will help us once again to plow Eretz Yisrael’s fields, reap its crops, and tend to its vineyards (Amos 9:13).
In describing these experiences of redemption, Hashem says that He will reestablish the fallen sukkah of Dovid HaMelech, Sukkas Dovid Hanofeles (Amos 9:10), which is a reference to the Beis HaMikdash. It does not say the sukkah that has already fallen; it describes the Beis HaMikdash as still falling. Despite the absolute destruction of the Temple, the message Hashem is giving us is that the Temple has never really been totally lost. The state we have lived in for nearly 2,000 years is a temporary one – in which the Bais HaMikdash is always nofeles but never nefulah; always falling but never fallen.
This gives us more chizuk and hope for the coming of Moshiach and geulah. But what is the difference between falling and fallen?
Rashi (Vayikra 25:35), based on the Sifra, when commenting on the mitzvah of “Vehechezakta bo, You should strengthen him,” says that when we see a fellow Jew whose business is failing we must help him right away and not wait until his business collapses. What is the difference between assisting him at once and waiting to see if it will completely falter? Imagine a donkey carrying a heavy load. As long as the donkey is standing and the load is on its back, one person can take hold of it and assist the donkey. However, once the donkey falls, it will take many people to get it back on its feet.
This applies to Moshiach and redemption as well. It is easier for us to “get back on our feet” and earn geulah if we have never completely fallen. If we had, we would require many more merits than we might have accrued. This reality offers us optimism and faith that Moshiach can arrive sooner than we think.
Chazal list a number of sins that contributed to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Among them, according to Abaye, is desecrating Shabbos (Shabbos 119b). This is based on Yirmiya (17:21-27):
“So said Hashem, ‘Beware for your souls and carry no burden on the Shabbos day, nor bring into the gates of Jerusalem… and you shall sanctify the Shabbos day as I commanded your forefathers. ‘But they did not listen, neither did they bend their ears to hear, and they hardened their necks not to accept and not to receive instruction. ‘But if you do listen to Me,’ says Hashem, ‘not to bring any burden into the gates of this city on the Shabbos day and to sanctify the Shabbos day not to perform any labor on it, then the city kings and princes will enter the gates to sit on David’s throne, riding in chariots with horses… and this city shall be inhabited forever… And if you will not listen to Me to sanctify the Shabbos day… I will kindle a fire in her gates, and it will consume the palaces of Jerusalem, and it will not be extinguished.’”
We know that Shabbos is central to being a Jew. We also know that it is an os, a special sign, and bris olam, eternal covenant, between Yisrael and Hashem Yisborach. And we know further that breaking this bond caused the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash.
The opposite is true as well. When we improve our shemiras Shabbos, we are taking steps to bring redemption and Moshiach closer.
The Seforno (Vayikra 26:2) says something surprising. After the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash occurred, it wasn’t clear to Klal Yisrael that they should still keep Shabbos while living in golus, among the nations. Therefore, the posuk, “Es Shabbsosai tishmoru,” appears in the context of when a Jew is forced to work for a non-Jew and live in his household as a slave. He must not give up any of his Torah observance, certainly not Shabbos, and thus neither can Klal Yisrael while in exile.
Why would Klal Yisrael think that the mitzvah of Shabbos was not applicable in exile? The Seforno (Vayikra 26:1) alludes to the answer by saying that if Hashem is pushing us out of Eretz Yisrael, we could think of it as a divorce and think we are no longer bound by the covenant we made with Hashem.
But that applies to the entire Torah. Why then is Shabbos singled out? Why would we think that Shabbos specifically should not have to be observed in golus?
We suggest that since Shabbos is not merely a mitzvah but a marriage between us and Hashem, we might think that once golus begins and the marriage is seemingly over, Shabbos is no longer be relevant. Let us explain.
The midrash (Shemos Rabbah 25) likens the experience of Klal Yisrael on Shabbos to a king sitting with his queen and sharing a private conversation. The neshama yeseira is called the kallah, the bride of Hashem. Anyone who would walk between them and interrupt would surely be deserving of death. So too, Klal Yisrael is the queen of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and on Shabbos we sit together with Him in seclusion. We are basking in sanctity all Shabbos long.
Since Shabbos signifies our marriage with Hashem, we might have thought that the marriage was destroyed once golus began. The Seforno explains that the Torah needed to specify that this is not the case.
Greater yearning and a greater Shabbos will help us merit the Redemption. May it come soon.