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Thought for the Day: The Newness of Every Day of Sukkos/Using the Mundane to Achieve Holiness

Hilchos Brachos is complicated.  On the one hand they are all of Rabbinic origin (except certainly birkas ha'mazon and probably birkas ha'torah).  On the other hand, making a bracha in a context not sanctioned by opens one up to the Torah prohibition of invoking HaShem's name without permission.  As you may remember, שהחיינו and סוכות have an interesting relationship.  Whereas we are very careful to treat the second day of Yom Tov very much like the first day, we find some striking differences between the first and second days of סוכות -- and those differences revolve around שהחיינו.

As we've discussed, we only recite a שהחיינו at the first time waving a lulav on סוכות and we switch the order of לישב בסוכה and שהחיינו on the second day of סוכות at kiddush.  Both for the same underlying reason: the שהחיינו could have been recited on the making of the lulav and on the making of the בסוכה, but the custom is to wait until the actual experience of waving/residing.  That should remind you of the halacha regarding making a שהחיינו on a new fruit; you could make the שהחיינו on seeing the new fruit, but the custom is to wait till one actually experiences that taste.

Consider, if you will, one who forgot to make the שהחיינו the first time he waved a lulav on סוכות.  Or someone who was obligated by inclement weather to make kiddush in his house on both of the first two days (and nights) of סוכות.  Question: would he make a שהחיינו when he next waves his lulav and/or sits for a meal in his בסוכה?  While it is true that he has not yet recited a שהחיינו in praise and gratitude for those experiences, the halacha for שהחיינו on a new fruit is: If one eats a new fruit from the new crop that season and neglects to make a שהחיינו, then he has lost his opportunity; the rest of his fruit eating that season from that crop will not obligate (therefore not allow) him to make a שהחיינו.  Seems pretty, clear, then that, he would not make a שהחיינו the first time he waved a lulav on סוכות.

That's the problem with clarity... it is so easily muddied up by facts.  Fact #1: One would make a שהחיינו on each new crop -- even several times a year.  Fact #2: each day of סוכות has its own newness; each day has its unique set of animal offerings and we say full Hallel every day.  So maybe that newness each day would permit making a שהחיינו even after having already experienced the waving and residing.  In fact, according to that, one may well ask why we don't make a שהחיינו every single day!

Let's be honest... none of us are even remotely likely to forget the שהחיינו or even say it in the wrong place; we are all davening from our fancy machzorim with clear instructions in Hebrew, English, Spanish, and Russian.  I do, however, find the principle fascinating.  The celebration of סוכות is clearly and openly tied to newness.  Besides that, the "tools" of סוכות are not the specially processed and handled tools we see in other parts of Jewish life.  Things like matzah, t'fillin, sifrei Torah, talleisim and the like require extreme care and are easily rendered unfit.  סוכות?  Tree branches and fruit; the סכך must be made from stuff you would normally toss out.

And that's just the point.  This world is rife with opportunities for spiritual growth and holiness.  So abundant and available, in fact, that it is easy to take them for granted.  We therefore start our yearly cycle of being infused with emunah by Pesach, given the very blueprint of creation at Shavuos, face the terrible consequences of placing our trust anywhere but in HaShem at Tisha b'Av, enter the King's court on Rosh HaShanah, review the mistakes of last year and make a plan for the coming year for 10 days culminating with Yom Kippur.  When we leave N'ila we are charged to full strength; our spiritual energy at its peak.  What do we do?

We go into our Sukkah made from mundane materials, we take our lulav, myrtle, and willow branches together with our esrog and we live, breathe, and experience using the most mundane tools to achieve the most holy purposes.

That is the season of our rejoicing; that carries us through the year.


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