What does a speaker do when he wants to get the attention of an audience that’s not so interested? A few years ago, New Jersey State Assemblyman Gary Schaer was addressing some wealthy real estate investors. When he got up to speak, some were talking while others were looking at their phones. Their actions were saying, “Who is this politician and why do I need to listen to what he has to say.” Mr. Schaer opened up by saying, “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gary Schaer. I am a New Jersey state assemblyman and involved in deciding how much funds of the $31 billion New Jersey budget are allocated to new real estate development projects.” Immediately, the ears of the wealthy real estate investors perked up, their cell phones went back into their pockets, and he had their full attention.
The Mishnah tells us that on Sukkos we are judged on the rainfall for the year. “Rain” is closely linked to the produce of the land for the coming year and the income that will result from that produce. The Gemara indicates that in this way, the judgment on rain represents not only rain, but also income, bracha and satisfaction that we will receive during the year. Making enough to pay our bills and support our family is of course very important, but the timing of this judgment is puzzling. The Yomim Noraim are over. Our exact income for the year has been decided…and sealed! What room is there for a supplementary judgment on water (including income, etc.)? The Gemara explains that during the Yomim Noraim Hashem decides the budget for water for the year. However, the how and when it will be provided has yet to be determined. Will it fall in the fields that need it or in the cities that don’t? Will it fall in the winter to help crops grow, or another time that’s not so beneficial? Similarly, will the income and bracha be received during the year when it’s needed, e.g., a time of crisis, or when it’s not needed so much? This describes the supplementary judgment of water during Sukkos.
How do we gain a good allocation of water, i.e., an income for a prosperous year? The Gemara explains that every Yom Tov has specific mitzvos that Hashem requires us to fulfill in order that we obtain a good judgment in the area that’s being judged. On Sukkos we’re being judged on water, so Hashem gives us the mitzvah of nisuch hamayim—the water libations on the Mizbei’ach (altar) in the Beis Hamikdash. We also have the four species (daled minim) that grow from water. Fulfilling these mitzvos help us obtain a meritorious judgment for water.
I believe there is another ingredient within Sukkos that can also help us obtain a prosperous year. Sukkos is called z’man simchaseinu—a time of our happiness. Indeed, it’s not just us, but also Hashem Who is happy…with regard to klal Yisrael. After finishing the Yomim Noraim we developed a special closeness to Hashem and He is so happy with us. The best time to ask people for a gift is when they are in a good mood. As a child I would wait for my father to be in a really good mood before I would ask him for a special present.
Still, our request has to be within reason. If a child asks his parent for a bike on sale for $150, it’s more likely the parent will agree to that, rather than to a request for a $3,000 mountain bike. The amount of the budget for parnassah (livelihood) for the year was decided, and we are now asking for an advantageous allocation of that amount.
However, there is one way to ensure we get an appropriate allocation of the decided budget. Ask Hashem for what He desires to give you. The Sfas Emes says that on Sukkos, besides the allocation for rain there is also an allocation for success in Torah learning, which Hashem wants to give us if we value it and ask for it! Indeed, the Gemara compares Torah to…water. On Simchas Torah and at the Simchas Beis Hashoeva of Sukkos we dance and sing in celebration of the beauty and sweetness of Torah and our desire to be close to Hashem and learn His Torah. Rav Pincus says these are not just songs. This is a form of prayer! We are praying for success in mitzvos and Torah. This is something Hashem definitely wants to give us.
May Hashem grant us a favorable portion for a prosperous year, based on our rejoicing in doing the mitzvah of daled minim during Sukkos. May Hashem also answer our requests for great achievements and deep happiness in our Torah learning, based on our celebratory singing and dancing on Simchas Torah.
Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected] For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.