The two main mitzvos throughout the Yom Tov of Sukkos are the ארבעה מינים and the סוכה. In the Torah, the Mitzvah of ארבעה מינים is told to us first and a few Psukim later we are commanded to sit in the Sukkah. However, when it comes to מסכת סוכה, the opposite is the case as the first two chapters deal with the Sukkah and only from the third chapter and on does it deal with the ארבעה מינים. Why is it that the משנה switched around the order when writing the Halachos of these Mitzvos?
When it comes to orders, there is the chronological order of something and the logical order, due to חשיבות. Tosfos in the beginning of Shabbos 2a discusses why the order of the Mishnayos in Shabbos begin with the Halachos of הוצאה as opposed to being mentioned after the מלאכות in כלל גדול. His question is based on many other places in the משניות where the order is based on the chronological order of things. Being that the Mitzvah of Sukkah comes first in time as we sit in the Sukkah at nights, and the Mitzvah of ארבעה מינים only begins on the first day, the chronological order would tell us to first discuss the laws of סוכה and then afterward deal with the ארבעה מינים. However, being that the Torah discussed these Mitzvos in the opposite order, there must be a logic to the order even though it is not chronologically correct.
The Gemara in Zevachim 90a discusses the order of the Korbanos that a יולדת must bring regarding her חטאת and עולה. The Gemara is bothered that the order by her seems to be the עולה is brought before the חטאת, against the general rule that the חטאת is brought first. The Gemara answers אמר רבא למקראה הקדימה הכתוב. Rashi explains שתהא נקראת בענין תחילה אבל בעבודתן חטאת קודמת. Tosfos is bothered with the explanation of Rashi. However, what is clear is that ideally the עולה should be first and that’s why it’s נקראת בענין תחילה. But practically, the חטאת needs to be brought first. How could such a thing be understood?
The Gemara in Zevachim 7b talks about the order which the קרבן חטאת and קרבן עולה are brought. The Gemara says that the חטאת comes first because when a person is סרח מן המלך, first he must bring the פרקליט and then he can bring the דורון. The חטאת is the פרקליט which must be brought first and only then can the דורון, the עולה be brought. We see from here that although ideally the עולה should be brought first, practically speaking the חטאת must be brought first. Therefore, the עולה is נקראת בענין תחילה because in regards to the סדר of חשיבות, the עולה is the higher level in terms of התקרבות to Hashem. But in the סדר of מעשה, the חטאת comes first. The Torah, when mentioning the עולה first is talking in terms of the סדר of חשיבות because the עולה takes precedence in this aspect over the חטאת.
The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim explains the reason we take the ארבעה מינים is to represent all the crop that we are gathering at this time of the year. The holiday is also called חג האסיף because it was the time that farmers would be bringing home there produce for the winter. The idea is that we are to embrace nature but to recognize the ברכת ה' that exists within nature. However, the Sukkah represents the idea of shielding and hiding away from the outside world and being completely enveloped in the protection of Hashem. If it rains, we leave the Sukkah because the Sukkah is the complete opposite of embracing nature. The Sukkah is a commemoration of either the Sukkahs in the desert or the ענני הכבוד. In the desert, there was no produce and nothing natural about our living there. It was all living בצילותא דהימנותא. But such a life was only temporary. Being in the desert in such an environment was only temporary with the end goal being to enter Eretz Yisrael. In Eretz Yisrael, it was a life איש תחת גפנו which was the ideal life.
Therefore, the message of the ארבעה מינים is ideal in the sense that Hashem eventually wants us to be able to live with nature and recognize the יד ה' in everything and not that its כחם ועוצם ידי but that it’s Hashem providing us with the strength. Only because we failed multiple times did we have to pull back from such a life style and take on the life of that which the סוכה represents of being completely cut off from the world and living solely with Hashem. This is why the Torah first mentions the ארבעה מינים because the message it represents is ideal. However the order of the משניות is such putting the סוכה first and only then discussing the ארבעה מינים because such is the practical order.
The second Beis Hamikdash was not a complete geulah rather it was a preparation for the Galus that was to follow. This is based on the Gemara in Yoma 21b that says five things that existed by the first Beis Hamikdash were no longer by the second Beis Hamikdash. The Gemara in Brachos 8a says מיום שחרב בית המקדש אין לו להקדוש ברוך הוא בעולמו אלא ארבע אמות של הלכה בלבד. However, the Gemara in Chagigah 6b says כיון שגלו ישראל ממקומן אין לך ביטול תורה גדול מזה. These two Gemaras when contrasted seemed to be a contradiction. But the explanation is that in terms of learning Torah, in Galus, its fine and that’s the meaning of אין לו להקדוש ברוך הוא בעולמו אלא ארבע אמות של הלכה בלבד. But in a broader sense, regarding the application of Torah today אין לך ביטול תורה גדול מזה, because in Galus, the message and meaning Torah is not being applied in the real world. The reason being because in the Galus, the Avodah is to be completely cut off from everything else in the world except for Hashem. Therefore, from the time of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, the only place for Hashem is ארבע אמות של הלכה בלבד but that’s only in the learning sense. When the גאולה will come, it will once again become a time where Torah can exist and be balanced in all aspects of Nature and it will be ideal that we will recognize the יד ה' in nature.
This idea could explain the following Psukim in נחמיה (ח, יד-יז)
וימצאו כתוב בתורה אשר צוה יקוק ביד משה אשר ישבו בני ישראל בסכות בחג בחדש השביעי: ואשר ישמיעו ויעבירו קול בכל עריהם ובירושלם לאמר צאו ההר והביאו עלי זית ועלי עץ שמן ועלי הדס ועלי תמרים ועלי עץ עבת לעשת סכת ככתוב: פ ויצאו העם ויביאו ויעשו להם סכות איש על גגו ובחצרתיהם ובחצרות בית האלהים וברחוב שער המים וברחוב שער אפרים: ויעשו כל הקהל השבים מן השבי סכות וישבו בסכות כי לא עשו מימי ישוע בן נון כן בני ישראל עד היום ההוא ותהי שמחה גדולה מאד
How could it be the Mitzvah of Sukkah was overlooked from יהושוע until עזרא that the Pasuk can say וימצאו כתוב בתורה? Once the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael from the desert, there mission changed from being completely cut off from nature to embracing nature and seeing the ברכת ה' in nature. When Klal Yisrael started working the land, they mistakenly abandoned the idea of the Sukkah thinking that the idea of Sukkah was no longer relevant, to the point where the mitzvah of Sukkah eventually became forgotten. It wasn’t until Ezra came along and he revived the Sukkah idea which gave us the ability to deal with the Galus that was to follow. He provided for us a Judaism that was more mobile.
Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos
Brachos for the Haftorah on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos
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.
קריאה for Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos
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.
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.