1. The Brachos for the Haftorah on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos are different than on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach. On Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach, there is no mention of Pesach in Brachah על התורה nor does it end with מקדש השבת וישראל והזמנים. However, on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos, there is mention of חג הסוכות and it ends with מקדש השבת וישראל והזמנים. How could this be understood? A possible explanation could be as follows. There is an idea in the Gemara Sukkah 7a, that what is sufficient for the walls of Sukkah is sufficient to create a רשות היחיד to carry on Shabbos but only on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos. The Gemara says מגו דהויא דופן לענין סוכה הויא דופן לענין שבת. Even though every other Shabbos of the year two walls and a משהו is not sufficient to create a רשות היחיד, on Shabbos Chol Hamoed it suffices being that it works for a Sukkah. Regarding Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach, there is nothing unique about that Shabbos compared to the rest of the Shabbosos of the year, even though it’s Pesach and therefore on Shabbos is mentioned in the ברכות הפטרה. However, Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos is different than other Shabbosim as the above Halacha is in play making it different than other Shabbosos. Therefore it makes sense to have a mention of the חג in the ברכות הפטרה.
  2. The Gemara Megilah 31a says that on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos, the קריאת התורה is ראה אתה וכו' which is פרשת כי תשא פרק לג. The Meforshim explain the reason this קריאה was chosen is because at the end, it mention Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Chol Hamoed. However, the entire beginning of the קריאה is about the Jews doing תשובה for the חטא העגל and Moshe receiving he לוחות שניות. What does this incident have to do with Sukkos that it should be read on Shabbos Chol Hamoed? Although the לוחות שניות might not be as great as the לוחות ראשונות were, nonetheless it was the לוחות שניות that remained. The explanation could be because of the human effort that was involved to get them. Something that is given as a מתנה like the לוחות ראשונות can very easily fall away. However, something that is attained through effort like the לוחות שניות lasts. A contradiction is asked as to whether or not we get a נשמה יתירה on Yom Tov. On one hand, there is no Brachah of בשמים in Havdalah at the end of Yom Tov which indicates that there is no נשמה יתירה. However, when Yom Tov begins on Motsei Shabbos, there is no Brachah of בשמים in Havdalah indicating that there is a נשמה יתירה by Yom Tov and it it’s not leaving after Shabbos going into Yom Tov? The שם משמואל says in the name of his father the אבני נזר that the נשמה יתירה by Yom Tov never leaves. The idea is that Shabbos which is a מתנה and its קדשא וקיימא regardless of the human involvement, so the נשמה יתירה leaves when Shabbos does. However, Yom Tov which מקודש only because of ישראל, that aspect of human effort and involvement can create something that remains forever. מועד is a meeting between the Jews and Hashem and it takes two to make a meeting. That’s why the נשמה יתירה from Yom Tov doesn’t leave.
    On Shabbos, the ש"צ by שחרית begins at שוכן עד and on ימים נוראים begins at המלך which are both understandable because on such days we are discussing how Hashem is above and beyond. On these days, Klal Yisrael doesn’t play a role as mentioned above that the Kedusha of Shabbos is קיימא and independent of anyone and anything. But why do we begin on Yom Tov at הקל בתעצומות עזך וכו'? The Pasuk in Tehillim (פרק סח פסוק לה) says תנו עז לאלהים וכו'. This Pasuk seems perplexing as it indicates that we as Jews give strength to Hashem. But we see when it comes to Yom Tov, we play a role and it’s the human effort and it’s not that we are spectators. Rather, it’s only through the power of Beis Din that the Yomim Tovim come to be. Therefore, it makes sense that on Yom Tov to begin with הקל בתעצומות עזך where we are discussing Hashem’s strength that we play a role in. This being said, its befitting that we read about the לוחות שניות which is all about the human effort on Shabbos Chol Hamoed which contains the idea that it’s the human effort which makes Yom Tov special and unique unlike Shabbos.
  3. On Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos we read Koheles. Koheles is full of contradictions but being that it was written by Shlomo HaMelech, the smartest person who ever lived, it must be possible to make sense of it and learn from it. Much of the Psukim deal with life’s challenges and the hardest philosophical questions, but Shlomo HaMelech doesn’t give any answers to the question. Therefore the question is why would such a text be read at הקהל where even the average laymen was present? To read Mishna Torah to everyone makes sense because it’s מוסר but to read Koheles which raises deep philosophical questions about life to the masses seems foolish and dangerous? Maybe the explanation is like what the Rambam writes in his introduction to Moreh Nevuchim that although he might confuse thousands of dumb people with his sefer that addresses difficult philosophical issues, it’s worth it for the one intelligent person who gains from it. Perhaps that was the intentions for reading Koheles at הקהל. But Shlomo Hamelech’s intentions could also be explained like how the Rambam discusses the unanswered question of בחירה and ידיעה. The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva raises the question of בחירה and ידיעה and doesn’t have an answer but says the questions need to be raised. The Raavad there disagrees and says if there is no answer to be given, then the question should not be asked. The message of Shlomo Hamelech in Koheles is that the world is filled with difficult and unanswerable questions and just because they can’t be answered doesn’t mean they can’t be asked, and on the contrary, we are to continue living even with all the unanswered questions. In the end of Koheles, the Pasuk says סוף דבר הכל נשמע את האלהים ירא ואת מצותיו שמור כי זה כל האדם. Shlomo is concluding that even with all these perplexing questions, he nonetheless is holding on to his faith. This is similar to that of the Rambam above who raises all the difficult questions that we can’t wrap our heads around but nevertheless we accept it how it is. It’s a message that a person should humbly accept the limits of his own understanding and it shouldn’t interfere with a person’s dedication to the principles of Judaism. Furthermore regarding the Pasuk סוף דבר הכל נשמע, the Gemara in Brachos 6b saysכל העולם כולו לא נברא אלא לצוות לזה. The entire world was only created in order to keep the ירא שמים company. The Rambam talks about this idea in his הקדמה to פירוש המשניות when he says that a person can become a king and build an entire palace and the entire תכלית is solely for the purpose of protecting the איש חסיד from the rain. Throughout a person’s life, there is much הבל that he will have to deal with and do. On their own, there are many things that are meaningless, as Shlomo Hamelech begins Koheles with הבל הבלים הכל הבל. But הבל doesn’t merely mean stupidity but rather its vapor or steam. Steam on its own is nothing, but when put in a certain context, it can accomplish a lot. The same thing goes for the הבל of עולם הזה that on its own, it has no meaning. However, when used in the proper context, than a person can use הבל of עולם הזה in order to facilitate יראת שמים. So even though in the beginning its הבל הבלים הכל הבל, in the end סוף דבר הכל נשמע because everything could משמעות, meaning, and its את האלהים ירא ואת מצותיו שמור כי זה כל האדם because it’s all to give meaning for the one לצוות לזה.