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Chibuv Mitzvot - Loving Mitzvot - Parashat Ha'Azinu 5780, October 11, 2019


In the beginning of Masechet Avodah Zara, the gemara discusses the end of days and concludes the discussion with a presentation of two totally different attitudes towards the mitzvah of sukkah:

In times to come, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will take a scroll of the Law in His embrace and proclaim, “Let him who has occupied himself with this, come and take his reward.” All of the nations will crowd together in confusion. The Holy One, Blessed be He, will then say to them, “Do not come before Me in confusion, but let each nation come in with its scribes.”

The Kingdom of Edom (or Rome) will enter first before Him. The Holy One, Blessed be He, will then say to them, “With what have you occupied yourselves?” They will reply, “O Lord of the Universe, we have established many market-places, we have erected many baths, we have accumulated much gold and silver, and all this we did only for the sake of Israel, that they might [have leisure] for occupying themselves with the study of the Torah.” The Holy One, Blessed be He, will say in reply, “You foolish ones among peoples, all that which you have done, you have only done to satisfy your own desires. You have established marketplaces in which to place courtesans; baths, to revel in them; [as to the distribution of] silver and gold, that is mine. They will then depart crushed in spirit.”

On the departure of the Kingdom of Rome, Persia will step forward. The Holy One, blessed be He, will ask of them, “With what have you occupied yourselves?” They will reply, “Sovereign of the Universe, we have built many bridges, we have captured many cities, we have waged many wars, and all this for the sake of Israel, that they might engage in the study of the Torah. Then the Holy One, Blessed be He, will say to them, “You foolish ones among peoples, you have built bridges in order to extract toll, you have subdued cities, so as to impose forced labor; as to waging war, I am the Lord of battles.” They, too will then depart crushed in spirit. And so will every nation fare in turn.

Following this, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will say to them, “Let us then consider the past; as there are seven commandments which you did accept. Did you observe them?” The nations will then say, “Sovereign of the Universe, has Israel, who accepted the Torah, observed it?” The Holy One, blessed be He, will reply, 'I can give evidence that they observed the Torah.'” The nations will then plead, “Offer us the Torah again and we will obey it.” But the Holy One, Blessed be He, will say to them, “You foolish ones among peoples, he who took trouble [to prepare] on the eve of the Shabbat can eat on the Shabbat, but he who has not troubled on the eve of the Shabbat, what shall he eat on the Shabbat? Nevertheless, I have an easy command which is called 
sukkah, go and carry it out.”

Straightaway will every one of them go and make a booth on the top of his roof; but the Holy One, Blessed be He, will cause the sun to blaze forth over them as at the Summer Solstice, and every one of them will kick and trample down his booth and go away.

The gemara continues:

But does not Raba say, “He who is pained by environmental factors is exempt from dwelling in the 
sukkah?”
The gemara answers: Granted, they would, in such circumstances be exempt, but would Israelites contemptuously trample it down? For this reason, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will laugh at them.

There are many easy 
mitzvot. Why will Hashem test the other nations with the sukkah?



Furthermore, the nations fail the test by kicking the sukkah. Why would someone kick a sukkah? How does this act represent failure?

This 
gemara is teaching us about the importance of loving the opportunity to perform mitzvot. We are to exhibit chibuv mitzvah – love of the commandments – and to appreciate that Jewish law and items of halachic importance are precious to us because halacha helps us develop a proper perspective about the world and to engage the world as a tool in serving Hashem.

In one important way, the 
mitzvah of sukkah counteracts the incorrect view of the world. The sukkah is an abstract mitzvah that requires a person to look beyond his five senses and to look at the world through the lens of halacha. Porous material that must be comprised of more shade than sun is defined by halacha as a roof. Walls that are at least ten handbreadths high are considered by the halacha to reach the s’chach even if they don’t touch. Walls that are as high as the s’chach but don’t quite touch the s’chach to the side are considered by halacha to bend and meet the s’chach.

A person who cannot escape the power of the physical world that he sees with his five senses simply does not understand the 
sukkah. They leave the sukkah and kick it on the way out. However, a person who learns to understand the sukkah reorients himself to seeing the physical world as tool in learning about and serving Hashem.

The 
mitzvah of sukkah teaches us an attitude that we should demonstrate towards Hashem’s commandments – chibuv mitzvah – love of the opportunity to perform Hashem’s Will.

May it be Hashem’s will that we dwell in our 
sukkot with love and enthusiasm for His mitzvot this year and in many years to come.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Benjy Owen


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