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Sukkot Versus Houses

Sukkot Versus Houses

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G‑d could surely have performed another miracle for Israel and enabled them to dwell in permanent homes in the wilderness, just as He enabled them to dwell in the miraculous sukkah formed by His clouds of glory.

Is there anything that is beyond His ability?! Why did He settle them in temporary dwellings when they encamped at Sukkot?

So that the generation that had been redeemed, as well as all the generations to come, would know that there is no enduring dwelling other than that provided by G‑d. As the verse states: And if G‑d does not build the house, then those who build it work for naught (Psalms 127:1). If it is His will, He overturns the homes of the wicked and they are transformed into graves for their inhabitants as was the case when S'dom and Amorah were destroyed. And if it is His will, He charts a path through the sea, transforms the wilderness into a place of habitation, and makes the clouds in the heavens into a shelter from the rain.

Pharaoh and his nation were the mightiest power on earth at that time. They were wealthy and strong; they felt secure because of their vast riches and took pride in their great strength. They built the fortress cities of Pisom and Ramses, and declared: "No man will dare invade our territory and no man will leave Egypt without our consent. The great river belongs to us - the Nile is our G‑d and the source of our sustenance!"

Now I know that Hashem is greater than all G‑ds (Exodus 18:11).

Yitro's words acknowledging the G‑d of Israel are explained by our Sages thus: No slave could ever escape from Egypt, for it was completely sealed. But now, He took six hundred thousand men out of Egypt (Mechilta, parashat Yitro).

The Israelites of that generation were weak in their faith and they had sunk to the forty-ninth level of defilement that characterized Egypt. They believed that strength was the lot of the powerful, that security was the portion of the wealthy, and that dominion was the province of the tyrants. The Children of Israel sought only to have their bondage lightened, so that they could be like all the other Egyptians.

It was then that G‑d fulfilled the promise he had made to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The Holy One, blessed is He, brought them out of Egypt with great might; He cleansed them and purified them from their abominations; He revealed to them His redeeming hand, which is stronger than all the might in the world. 

The world's supreme power was broken before them, the pillars of nature were subdued. Why was this done on their behalf? To teach Israel to forsake every vain belief, and to strengthen their faith in G‑d alone.

Israel was to learn that:

  • The Nile was no G‑d, for G‑d struck it and turned its waters into blood.
  • A house is no protection, for frogs came up from the river and filled all the houses.
  • The land cannot be relied upon, for it was laid waste by the lowliest of creatures - lice.
  • A nation is no fortress, for hordes of wild animals overran the cities, casting fear and confusion among the people.
  • Livestock is no source of strength, for G‑d's Hand struck all the cattle.
Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, OBM, was one of Israel's most acclaimed religious authors, whose books on the Jewish way of life and the Chassidic movement have become renowned. Text translated from the Hebrew by Nachman Bulman and Dovid Landseman.
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