Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

The Same Home
The Gemara (Sukkah 26a) derives from the pasuk in Parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:42), בַּסֻכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ – (For a seven-day period you shall live in booths) that a person should dwell in his sukkah for the seven days of Yom Tov just as one dwells in his house all year. However, the Satmar Rebbe writes that it goes both ways. A person must always remember to dwell in his house with the same kedushah, the same holiness and respectful attitude that he has while living in his sukkah. Just as he dwells in the sukkah, the shelter of faith for seven days, he must incorporate faith and Emunah (belief) in his home throughout the year.

Due to the tremendous distraction of countless people knocking on his door day and night, seeking all sorts of spiritual guidance and important needs, one day, Rav Pinchas of Koritz prayed to Hashem that he should become unpopular. In his mind, that would be the solution; people would no longer disturb him, and he would be free to serve Hashem with all his energy and undivided attention. Indeed, it would seem that his wish had come true because, after that time, Rav Pinchas was never seen in the company of another individual. He lived in the most austere fashion and secluded himself for lone communion with Hashem.


When the Yom Tov of Sukkos approached, Rav Pinchos was not able to find a Jew to help him build his sukkah and had no choice but to ask a gentile to build it. Likewise, after davening the first night of Yom Tov, Rav Pinchas asked many people to be his guests but not a single person would accept his invitation. Rav Pinchas walked home alone. As he arrived home, he began to recite the tefillah (prayer) upon entering the sukkah, followed by the traditional invitation to the first of the Ushpizin (guests) which is Avraham Avinu.

Just then, Rav Pinchos looked up and saw an old man standing just outside the door of the sukkah. The old man, however, whom Rav Pinchas instantly recognized to be Avraham Avinu, would not step foot into the sukkah. Rav Pinchas tried to convince him to enter but to no avail. Distressed, Rav Pinchas turned to Avraham and asked in anguish, “Why do you not enter my sukkah? What is my sin?” Avraham looked at Rav Pinchas and said, “It is not my custom to enter a place where there is no Hachnosas Orchim (hospitality).”

Rav Pinchas Koritz now understood his mistake and from that day forward, he sincerely prayed to Hashem that he be restored in the eyes of his townspeople to his former situation. Indeed, he was once again able to find favor in the eyes of men and he became popular again. (From the Torah Tavlin)

The Emperor and the Innkeeper
I saw a parable in the Torah Tavlin about a Jewish innkeeper who provided food and lodgings for weary travelers. He was friendly and personable, however, his jealous competitors decided to slander him. Before long, he was ordered to appear in court to defend himself against the baseless charges.

The simple innkeeper was terrified about his fate, for he was told that if convicted, he could face a long jail sentence or possibly even execution. One friend advised him to schedule an appearance before the emperor, who was a benevolent monarch, and would no doubt exonerate the innkeeper if he were told the truth. But the innkeeper argued and said he had no connections to the palace and no way to even arrange an appointment.

The emperor had a habit from time to time to dress up as a peasant and mingle with his subjects to get to know them. One night, he came to the inn, where the kind innkeeper served him food and drink. The innkeeper had no idea he was serving the emperor. Later, when the innkeeper realized that his guest had been the emperor himself, he was truly distraught over the missed opportunity to plead his case and free himself.

The Chofetz Chaim says that when we sit in our sukkah, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) rests among us and this allows us to draw close to Hashem and plead for all the things we need. The Chafetz Chaim advises us to seize the moment and not waste our precious time. When else will we have this incredible opportunity to sit with the King of all kings in a personal setting, in our very own sukkah? We can ask Hashem for anything that we may need – He is right there!

The Great Lulav
Why is such eminence ascribed to the Lulav? Why is the Lulav so paramount? After all, according to Chazal, the Esrog represents the Tzaddik, the wholly righteous person, who is resplendent in both good deeds and Torah learning. Yet, surprisingly, the Beracha that is recited focuses entirely on the Lulav, (as we say “Al Netilas Lulav.”) Furthermore, it is the Lulav and the accompanying Hadassim and Arava’s that are held in the right hand, which is a symbol of stature and veneration.

The Lulav and Hadassim represent the Jew who is a work in progress. He still has to work on his character traits and interpersonal relations or hasn’t performed the Mitzvos up to par. The Arava’s personifies the Jew who is totally derelict- he hasn’t learned Torah, nor has he been kind to others. Astoundingly, the Esrog, the Tzaddik, is relegated to the left hand! Why is the Esrog so seemingly mistreated?

I would like to share with you an incredible answer that I heard from Rav Yitzchok Fingerer shlita: The Kesav Sofer says that upon taking the Esrog – the beautiful Jew, and unifying it with the Lulav, Hadasim, and Arava’s – the other types of Jews, the other Jews are now ignited and inspired. They want to do Teshuvah. They want to learn! They want to grow!

They want to change! The Kesav Sofer explains that the other Jews who are transformed by the Esrog, those who were unaffiliated or needed Chizuk, are considered even holier than the Esrog, the perfect Tzaddik! The power of Teshuvah elevated the other Jews to such great heights. It is for this reason that they are the focus of the Beracha and are held in the right hand. Those who return spiritually are considered even holier than those who impacted them! (Gemara Berachos 34b)

The Crushed Lulav
Each mitzvah brought Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim, great excitement. Before Sukkos, his children would bring him several lulavim and esrogim to choose from. One year, Yom Kippur fell on a Thursday and one of Rav Nosson Tzvi’s students had to go away for the Shabbos between Yom Kippur and Succos, leaving behind a lulav that he had purchased near his bed in the Mir dormitory. After Shabbos, the student returned, and he found his bedding askew and his lulav smashed – his lulav had become pasul (invalid)!

The student asked his roommate what had happened to his bed, not wanting to confront him about the lulav. The roommate answered, “My friend came for Shabbos, and he needed a place to sleep, I figured that you wouldn’t mind…” The student was very perturbed, and he expressed his frustration to his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi.

Rav Nosson Tzvi told his student, “Lots of people bring me lulavim because they want me to use their lulav, please come to my house later and choose a lulav from my collection.”

Later that day, the student went to Rav Nosson Tzvi’s home and found several beautiful lulavim on the table. He chose one and then asked Rav Nosson Tzvi how much it cost. Rav Nosson Tzvi said that he would not take the full price, insisting that the student should only pay him the price he had paid for his first lulav – which was less than half the value of this lulav! However, Rav Nosson Tzvi said, “I’m doing this on one condition, you can’t bear a grudge against your roommate.” The student agreed and went back to Yeshiva elated at the thought of using this beautiful lulav on Succos.

Later this student found out that Rav Nosson Tzvi did not have any extra lulavim. He had asked all his family members to put their lulavim on the table, and then made sure that each of his family members had a lulav – besides for him. Rav Nosson Tzvi was punctilious in his mitzvah observance because he loved all mitzvos – and the mitzvah of promoting peace in the yeshivah was as important as the others! (Story related in Rav Nosson Tzvi’s Biography)

A Beautiful Fruit – The Esrog
In Parshas Emor (23:40) the pasuk says, “Pri Etz Hadar” – (“A beautiful fruit from the tree”) The Gemara identifies this fruit as the Esrog. Why does the Torah conceal the identity of this special fruit? Why not explicitly state what type of fruit it is?

I would like to share with you an incredible answer that I heard from Rav Yitzchok Fingerer: It could be that the reason why the Esrog has total anonymity, just being referred to as a beautiful fruit, is because the esrog represents the Tzaddik, and many times we really do not know who the Tzaddik really is. Just as the Tzaddik may be anonymous and hidden so is the identity of the Esrog. It could be that this is the reason why one Tanna suggests that the Eitz Hadaas, the Tree of Knowledge, was an Esrog tree.

The Esrog represents the Tzaddik who engages in internal battles, avoiding sin and temptation – that is why he can’t necessarily be detected. The Eitz Hadaas represented the inner turmoil of the Yetzer Hara, which is what the Esrog or the Tzaddik is able to overcome.

Esrogim, Tefillin, and Peace
There is a story about Rav Yechiel Michel of Zlotschov zt”l and his esrog. Rav Yechiel Michel inherited the tefillin of his saintly father, Rav Yitzchok of Drovitch zt”l, who was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. This sacred pair of tefillin was very precious to Rav Yechiel Michel. Many wealthy individuals would always offer large amounts of money for the tefillin. At times Rav Yechiel Michel’s wife would recommend that he should sell the tefillin and make a lot of money – they would be able to put more food on the table. Despite being poverty-stricken, Rav Yechiel Michel would not hear of it.

One year as Sukkos was fast approaching, no esrog seemed to be available in his town of Zlotschov. The days were getting closer and still there was no esrog. It wasn’t until the day before Sukkos that a man appeared with the most beautiful esrog, demanding an exorbitant price. Rav Yechiel Michel made a huge decision and he decided to sell his father’s saintly tefillin and buy the esrog.

Upon returning home Rav Yechiel Michel’s wife noticed the beautiful esrog and demanded to know where he got the funds to buy it. When Rav Yechiel Michel admitted it was from the sale of his father’s tefillin, she flew into a rage. “How could you have sold the beautiful, sacred tefillin for a mere esrog?!” she demanded. With that she grabbed the esrog, bit off the pitam (“head” of the esrog), and smashed the esrog on the floor, making it pasul (invalid)!

Rav Yechiel Michel remained absolutely silent. He simply said to himself that if this was the will of Hashem – that his esrog should be ruined, he accepts it with love. That night, Rav Yechiel Michel’s father appeared to him in a dream and told him, “When you sold my tefillin for an esrog it caused an uproar of greatness in heaven. However, when you kept quiet when your wife destroyed your esrog caused a far greater uproar of greatness.

We learn that the world rests on the merit of those who remain silent even when insults are hurled at them, or when they are challenged with struggles.

To Rav Yechiel Michel his Shalom Bayis, the peace in his home – was far more important than getting angry about his precious esorg – he kept quiet. What greatness!

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Aryeh is the publisher of Parsha Knowledge, a weekly newsletter with Torah thoughts, stories, and inspiration on the weekly Parsha. Visit