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Thought for the Day: Difference Between Pesach and Sukkos

The first joke I learned in Hebrew is pretty much the only joke I know in Hebrew.  Here goes:  Mah ha-hevdel bein pil l'p'santer?  (What's the difference between an elephant and  piano?)  T'shuva (answer :D ): Efshar l'ha'pil p'santer, aval i efshar l'hip'tanter pil!  Ha ha ha ha ha!  (It is possible to throw down a piano, but it's impossible to pianofy an elephant! Ha ha ha ha ha!)  (Are you proud of my, Tzvika?)  Yes, it loses something in the translation; and anyway I have a kasha on the joke.  "Tickling the ivory" is a slang expression for playing the piano, because the keys were (at one time, at least) made of ivory, and ivory comes from elephant tusks, so maybe it is possible l'hip'tanter pil.  (My wife is again/still shaking her head in dismay about how much I over-analyze everything.  Hi, honey!)

So could anything be more different than Pesach and Sukkos?  Besides the specifics, there is a vast gulf of difference in attitude.  On Pesach we can't find enough chumros.  You will soon be able to buy matzah that was hand made only by workers whose parents had in mind from the time their chupa that their children would be conceived l'sheim mitzvas matzah.  Sukkos, on the other hand... you don't have four walls?  No problem, use two walls and a little bit and some string.  Don't have enough schach?  No problem, you've got up to daled amos to consider the pasul schach around the edges as a bent wall.  Philosophically, one holiday celebrates open miracles, the other that HaShem protected us in the wilderness while we lived in huts (according to one mahn d'amar).

One the other hand, we have that nagging "tes-vav/tes-vav g'zeira shava" that links the holidays at a very deep level.  That's why (among other things) we must eat bread on the first night of Sukkos and we can't make kiddush before it is definitely night.  Philosophically also, Sukkos is connected to Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah; the holiday that celebrates living the Torah.  Pesach is connected to Shavuous (see Ramban who calls y'mei s'fira an extension of the chol ha'mo'ed of Pesach); the holiday the celebrates receiving the Torah.

Here's my thought.  Pesach celebrates HaShem revealing Himself with the palmalya shel ma'ala -- the entourage of angels that befits the King coming to visit.  Sukkos, on the other hand, celebrates hashgacha pratis; the fact that HaShem runs the world down to the tiniest details in a way manner that seem so natural it can be hard to see Him.  When the King comes for a visit, it is natural to go all out; the entire community gets spiffed out like for no other occasion.  Everything is given a face lift, every detail must be polished to the n-th degree.  Dressing everything and everyone up is simply kavod sha'mayim.

When the King is running everything behind the scenes, though, the reaction is different.  In order to show that we appreciate our King even when He is working entirely for our behalf so modestly, we need to bring to the fore that we see every detail of His presence.  We delve into every halacha and look for more ways to show reveal the details of His hashgacha.  Making all those tiny details halacha l'ma'asah is simply kavod sha'mayim.

It comes out, then, that the chumros of Pesach are not chumros.  The kulos of Sukkos are not kulos.  In each case we are doing nothing more nor less than what befits the situation to reveal our deep appreciation and love for our Father, our King.

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