Our Sukkos Guests

We refer to our festivals as “festivals for rejoicing, holi­days and seasons for gladness.”1 A happy person naturally wants to share his joy with others. Inner satisfaction may be felt alone, but exuberant celebration can be experienced only in the company of others. As an expression of our happiness, our Rabbis stressed the importance of sharing the joy of the festivals by inviting guests to our holiday meals.2 This mitzvah is especially important on Sukkos, “the season of our rejoic­ing.”3

The Zohar teaches that our Sukkos guests include not only those who visibly partake of the festive meals, but also guests from the spiritual realm. On Sukkos we are joined in the sukkah by seven Ushpizin (“honored guests”): Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and King David.4

In addition, the Previous Rebbe taught that our sukkos are also visited by chassidic Ushpizin. In fact, he would actually point to particular places in his sukkah and say,5 “Here sits the Baal Shem Tov; here, the Maggid of Mezritch; here, the Alter Rebbe; here, the Mitteler Rebbe; here, the Tzemach Tzedek; here, the Rebbe Maharash; and here, the Rebbe Rashab.”

Although these Ushpizin visit our sukkos together on every day of the holiday, on each of the days of Sukkos the influence of one of the Ushpizin is dominant,6 and his quali­ties teach us lessons to apply in our service of G‑d.

The Guests of the First Day: Avraham Avinu and the Baal Shem Tov

The Ushpizin of the first day, the Patriarch Avraham and the Baal Shem Tov, share certain characteristics. Each of them initiated a new stage in the relationship between man and G‑d. Avraham was the founder of the Jewish faith, and the Baal Shem Tov, of the chassidic movement. Furthermore, both Avraham and the Baal Shem Tov traveled from place to place in order to reveal G‑d’s presence within the world.

On the verse,7 “And he called (vayikra) upon the name of G‑d, the eternal L‑rd,” our Sages8 comment, “Do not read vayikra (‘and he called’) but vayakri (‘and he caused others to call...’), for Avraham made all the wayfarers [he encountered] call upon the name of G‑d.”

Chassidic thought9 notes that the Hebrew word olam in the above phrase Keil-Olam (“eternal L‑rd”) means both “eternal” and also “world”. Since Avraham revealed the complete unity between G‑d and the world, the verse does not use the phrase Keil-HaOlam (“L‑rd of the world”), which would imply that the world is a separate entity over which G‑d rules, but rather, okug k‑t, which implies that the two are fused in perfect unity.

Like our father Avraham, the Baal Shem Tov sought out the common people. He would ask them about their health, jobs, and other material concerns in order to elicit the grate­ful response, Baruch HaShem (“Blessed be G‑d!”). In doing so, he demonstrated that G‑dliness is part of even the most mun­dane dimensions of our existence.10

The Guests of the Second Day: Yitzchak Avinu and the Maggid of Mezritch

The characteristic shared by these two Ushpizin is alluded to by the verse,11 “Do not abandon your place.” In contrast to the other Patriarchs, Yitzchak never left Eretz Yisrael. Simi­larly, in contrast to the other Rebbeim who journeyed from place to place, the Maggid never left Mezritch after assuming leadership of the chassidic movement.12

The essence of every person is his G‑dly core. This, and not any geographical location, is every person’s true place and that which defines his being. The Patriarch Yitzchak and the Maggid of Mezritch taught that one should focus on pene­trating to this core and bringing it to the surface, instead of seeking to grow from outside influences.13 Thus, the Torah describes Yitzchak as digging wells,14 searching for the source of flowing water and allowing it to surface.

Focusing on one’s own place does not diminish the sig­nificance of others. Chassidic thought explains15 that the revelation of a powerful light has an elevating influence even on far-removed places. For example, the light of the Beis HaMikdash was diffused throughout the world, spreading ho­liness to the extent that people in distant places, such as the Queen of Sheba,16 were motivated to journey to Jerusalem.

The Guests of the Third Day: Yaakov Avinu and the Alter Rebbe

Both Ushpizin of the third day are especially associated with Torah study. The Torah17 describes Yaakov as “a simple man, dwelling in tents,” which our Sages understand as a ref­erence to “the tents of Shem and Eiver,”18 the leading houses of study of that age.

The Alter Rebbe’s connection to Torah study is hinted at in his first name, Shneur, which can be read as shnei or (“two lights”), in allusion to the light of nigleh, the revealed dimen­sion of Torah law, and pnimiyus HaTorah, the hidden, mysti­cal dimension of the Torah.19 These two modes of spiritual illumination shine forth in the Alter Rebbe’s two classics, the Shulchan Aruch and the Tanya.20

Everyone has his share in the Torah, and this connection should be expressed in our daily conduct. Thus, our Sages teach,21 “[The example of] Hillel obligates the poor and [the example of] Rabbi Elazar ben Charsom obligates the rich [to study Torah].” Although Hillel was a poor man who labored hard for his livelihood, he studied Torah diligently, while Rabbi Elazar ben Charsom, who was extremely wealthy, did not allow his thriving business concerns to divert his atten­tion from Torah study. Regardless of one’s financial status, everyone has both the potential and the responsibility to devote himself to the study of the Torah.

The Guests of the Fourth Day: Moshe Rabbeinu and the Mitteler Rebbe

The Ushpizin of the fourth day are also associated with Torah study. Moshe “received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it” to the entire Jewish people.22 Indeed, the Torah is associated with his name to the extent that the prophets23 refer to it as “the Torah of Moshe, My servant.”

Moshe’s connection to the Torah was twofold: (a) he served as the intermediary who communicated the Torah to the Jewish people; (b) he interpreted the Torah, developing the approach of abstract argumentation within Torah law which is referred to as pilpula de’oraysa. Significantly, he also sought to communicate this dimension of Torah to others.24

Like Moshe Rabbeinu, the Mitteler Rebbe served as both transmitter and interpreter, for the Mitteler Rebbe was renowned for his detailed explanation of the philosophical concepts of Chassidus. While the Alter Rebbe laid the foun­dation for an understanding of chassidic thought, he revealed his ideas as essential points, flashes of lightning.25 The Mitteler Rebbe amplified these ideas, explaining them with examples and analogies, and developing a conceptual frame­work which allowed them to be internalized — grasped intel­lectually.

Though the Ushpizin of the third day are also connected with Torah study, those of the fourth day, Moshe Rabbeinu and the Mitteler Rebbe, show how our Torah study can be amplified. Their divine service demonstrates that everyone shares a connection not only with the fundamentals of Torah study, but also with a comprehension of its depth and breadth. And with regard to this dimension as well, neither poverty nor wealth can excuse one from the responsibility of applying oneself to this task.

The Guests of the Fifth Day: Aharon HaKohen and the Tzemach Tzedek

The Ushpizin of the fifth day teach a lesson of love and harmony among all men. Aharon is the epitome of this approach, because he “loved peace, pursued peace, loved cre­ated beings, and drew them near to the Torah.”26

The use of the term “created beings” instead of “people” implies that Aharon would reach out to individuals whose only redeeming virtue was the fact that they were G‑d’s crea­tions.27 Aharon’s concern for his fellow man was all the more impressive because of his exalted position as High Priest. Leaving the Sanctuary where G‑d’s presence was openly revealed to him, he would reach out to people who had no other virtue than being created by G‑d.28

Also significant is the phrase, “drew them near to the Torah.” This implies that Aharon first concerned himself with the difficulties that confronted them,29 in the hope that ulti­mately, this would “draw them close to the Torah.”30

The Tzemach Tzedek represents the development of har­mony among the scholars and leaders of the Jewish commu­nity. Under his leadership, unity was established between chassidim and other sectors of the Jewish community. The Tzemach Tzedek met with the leaders of all contemporary factions and was able to develop a united front that empha­sized the mutual purpose shared by all.

The Guests of the Sixth Day: Yosef HaTzaddik and the Rebbe Maharash

The qualities shared by the Ushpizin of the sixth day are expressed by a renowned adage of the Rebbe Maharash,31 Lechat’chilah ariber: “People say, ‘If you can’t crawl under, try to climb over.’ And I say, ‘From the outset, climb right over the top!’” Apparent difficulties are waiting to be taken confi­dently by the horns and overcome.32

This is not a theoretical concept, but a truth that can be practically applied — as witness the life of Yosef, who rose from imprisoned slave to viceroy of Egypt.

The lessons of Yosef’s life are relevant to everyone. Though we are in exile, no individual should feel hampered or handicapped. We have the potential for the highest levels of achievement in spiritual matters, and this spiritual success may even be reflected in the advancement of our material concerns.33

The Guests of the Seventh Day: King David and the Rebbe Rashab

The attribute shared by the Ushpizin of the seventh day is royalty, the ultimate expression of which will come in the Era of the Redemption. King David is particularly identified with royalty, for “once David was anointed, he acquired the crown of kingship, which [thereafter] belongs to him and his male descendants forever.”34 Similarly, King David is identified with the ultimate monarch, the Mashiach, who will be one of his descendants. Furthermore, as the Rambam35 points out, the prophecies in the Torah36 which allude to the coming of Mashiach, speak about two anointed kings, David and the Mashiach.

These qualities are shared by the Rebbe Rashab, as is hinted at in the name of the year in which he was born — 5621 (תרכ"א). These Hebrew letters spell the Aramaic word kisra (“crown”),37 the symbol which reflects a king’s unique status.38

The Rebbe Rashab also shares a connection with Mashiach, as is highlighted by his conception of the students of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim, the yeshivah he established in Lubavitch in 1897, as “soldiers of the House of David” whose primary goal is to bring about the coming of Mashiach.39

Shemini Atzeres: King Shlomo and the Rebbe Rayatz

The leaders associated with Shemini Atzeres, King Shlo­mo and the Previous Rebbe,40 follow the Ushpizin of the pre­vious day, for they continued and enhanced the contributions made by their respective fathers, King David and the Rebbe Rashab.

Though King David established the hereditary monarchy, his own reign was torn by strife and war; in the words of the prophet,41 “You have shed blood.” As to the reign of his son and successor King Shlomo, however, G‑d promised,42 “I will grant peace and tranquillity to Israel during his days.” And indeed, throughout his reign,43 “Israel dwelled in safety, every man under his vine and under his fig tree.”

In this atmosphere of peace, King Shlomo built the Beis HaMikdash, a permanent dwelling place for G‑d within our material world. This enabled the entire world to be refined, since the light generated by the Beis HaMikdash motivated people throughout the world to seek holiness.

In a similar way, the Previous Rebbe enhanced the achievements of his father, spreading the teachings of Chas­sidus throughout the world, thereby preparing the world for the coming of the Redemption. No place was too far removed, nor any individual too estranged for the Rebbe Rayatz to reach out to him, and connect him with the teachings that herald and prepare us for the coming of Mashiach.

This is the legacy left to our present generation, and the goal to which all our efforts must be directed: to make the coming of the Redemption a tangible reality.44 The coming of that era is not a matter of the distant future, but a present concern. For the time for the Redemption has arrived.45

May this promise be realized in the immediate future and may we then join in celebration with all the Ushpizin in Eretz Yisrael, in Jerusalem, and in the Beis HaMikdash.

Adapted from MiMaayenei HaYeshuah,sec. 3