312 (s5764-03 / 12 Tishrei)

Three Unusual Sukkah Events

"Amalek is cold," said the Tsemach Tsedek; "a Jew has warmth. Go and sleep in the sukkah"

Three Unusual Sukkah Events

1) Desperate Sukkah Builders

The following story was retold several times by the Shiniva Rebbe (1811-1899), the son of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz.

In a village there once lived a poor man who was quite unlettered, but G-d-fearing. The eve of the festival arrived, and he still had no branches with which to cover his sukkah, nor could he afford to buy any. So he went out with his wife all the way to the forest that they may cut branches themselves. The shadows were lengthening, and they were afraid that if they would continue pulling down branches with their hands they would soon be desecrating the festival which would begin at sunset. They therefore decided in their simplicity that the best thing to do would be to bite off twigs and leaves from the trees with their teeth. And this they did, despite the scratches and weals that they suffered on their lips and faces.

Echoes of their self-sacrifice pealed throughout the heavens. Indeed, the Heavenly Court decided that the patriarch Avraham, the first of the Ushpizin [heavenly guests], would call on this poor man in his humble sukkah, and would be seen by him.

That same evening, the poor man looked up and saw a stranger standing in his sukkah. Assuming that this was some unfortunate pauper in search of a place to eat, he said; "I am sorry sir, but I myself am a very poor man, and there isn't a mouthful of food here to eat. But I've got an idea. Why don't you go over the road to that house over there? He's a rich man, and I'm sure you'll be serves a square meal in honor of Yom-Tov."

"But I didn't come to eat of your bread," said the stranger, "nor to take anything from you. I am your forefather Avraham. I have come to visit you in your sukkah and to be seen by you here, in recompense for the self-sacrifice and suffering with which you fulfilled the mitzvah of the sukkah."

With that, the stranger vanished.

2) The Plate in the Sukkah

In the days before Rabbi Yissachar Dov (1765-1843 -- the Saba Kaddisha) of Radoshitz became known as a rebbe, he was so poor that he often fasted because he simply had no bread to eat. One year he had eaten nothing for a few days before Yom Kippur, and even after the fast was over he has nothing better than meager rations of bread and water. Nor could he afford to prepare anything at all for the oncoming festival of Sukkot.

After the evening service on the first night of the festival he remained in the synagogue. He knew that at home there was nothing to eat. But he did not know that on the eve of the festival his wife has sold some modest item of jewelry that she had found among her possessions, and with the proceeds had bought braided challot and candles and potatoes.

When he decided that most people had by now finished eating in their sukkah and had probably returned to their houses, he left the synagogue and went home. Entering his sukkah, he was overjoyed to see candles and challot on the table. He washed his hands, recited Kiddush, and sat down to eat. By this stage he was well-nigh starving, so he ate the potatoes which his wife served him with a ravenous appetite.

While he was eating a thought flashed through his mind.

"Berel," he said to himself, "you're not sitting in the sukkah; you're sitting in your plate!"

And he stopped eating.

3) A Cold Night in the Sukkah

He was a simple fellow, Yosef Mordechai - an odd job man in the household of Rebbe Shmuel, the fourth Lubavitch Rebbe, and of his father before him, Rebbe Menachem Mendel (the Tzemach Tzedek) of Lubavitch. One day he blustered into the rebbe's sukkah a few minutes after having lost his temper on one of the kitchen staff, and was still simmering.

The Rebbe reprimanded him affectionately: "Yosef Mordechai! It's true that as a meyuchas -a person of important lineage-- you have the right to preferential treatment - but a person has to conduct himself properly when he is in the presence of the sechach. The sechach that covers the sukkah doesn't like anger."

Now why did the rebbe call him a meyuchas? There is a story behind that.

The previous rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel, once told this attendant that he should sleep outside in the sukkah. In fact there were two sukkot - one inside the house, under a ceiling which could be opened and closed, and one in the yard.

"But rebbe," protested Yosed Mordechai, "it's cold out there."

"Amalek is cold," said the rebbe; "a Jew has warmth. Go and sleep in the sukkah, and you'll be blessed with long life."

So the trusting fellow slept in the outdoor sukkah throughout the cold Russian night, and that is why the Rebbe Shmuel now called him a meyuchas.

In fact, Yosef Mordechai lived to be one hundred and three, and old-timers from Lubavitch told this author how they saw him dancing like a lively lad on the roof of the big study hall, when he was ninety-eight!

[Selected and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by our esteemed colleague Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.]


Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.

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