Sukkot: Winning The Appeal

Powerful Indictment
For ten days we prayed to G-d for a good and prosperous year. We had opportunity to pray for anything at all. G-d was present and attentive to our prayers. Yet, what did we ask for? One asked for more money, another for a raise, a third for success in a business deal and a fourth for a new home. What a shame, we could have asked for anything and we would have gotten it instead we ask for this?
In Jerusalem there was a fellow that regularly attended one of the soup kitchens for dinner. He hated waiting on line, but had little choice. One day he played his hand at the lotto and won millions of shekels. The soup kitchen asked him for a donation and he agreed on one condition. That he would always have the right to cut the line…
We are no different. We could have had anything. Love of G-d, fear of G-d, an open mind to the Torah, an inspired heart, an ecstatic soul and all we asked for was money?
The angels don’t overlook this foolishness, nee self-centeredness, and the prosecutors among them are perfectly happy to exploit it. As soon as Yom Kippur is out, they prepare their arguments.
You see, on Yom Kippur proper they can’t really open their mouths. The Talmud tells us that the prosecuting angels are not admitted to G-d’s chamber on Yom Kippur. Jews are sitting in Shull, dressed in white and praying all day. They won’t even stop to eat or drink, their entire focus is on G-d. When His children are so intensely focused on Him, He is unwilling to hear accusations against them.
So the prosecuting angels bide their time. They sit back and take careful note of what we pray for. True we are talking to G-d all day, but what are we talking about? They take copious notes, make meticulous records and sit back to bide their time. After Yom Kippur they will present their arguments. It would have been successful too. They have a solid case. One that G-d might not easily dismiss. So what keeps them silent? Why don’t they press their advantage immediately after Yom Kippur?
The Harvest
They keep silent because they see an even greater advantage to waiting. They note that after Yom Kippur. Jews busy themselves with gathering in the harvest. All summer long, the harvest was left to dry under the hot sun, but now, immediately after Yom Kippur, we begin to haul it in. This gives the prosecutors in heaven even more material to use against us. Not only did we spend the holiest day in the year praying for selfish transient things, we spent the days immediately following the holy day, gathering harvest from the field, amassing treasure for the home and lining our pockets with silver.
This is a true indictment against us. G-d, take a good look, they say. Your people are not as holy as they appear. They cloak themselves in prayer shawls and garb themselves in holiness, but beneath their ecclesiastic exterior is a materialistic interior. A money hungry people obsessed with self-gain.
The Midrash teaches that the first day of the festival of Sukkot is first for the count of sins. This is the first day of the year that we are available to sin. For the first ten days, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, we were busy praying. Ever since Yom Kippur, we were building sukkot, purchasing four species and gathering harvests. Until the first of Sukkot, there was no time for sin. But there appeared to be lots of time for selfishness. And that is what the prosecuting angels can’t wait to exploit.
On the first day of Sukkot, the first for the count of sins, they stand ready to give G-d a full accounting of our shortcomings. All our failings, faults and vicissitudes will be laid bare before G-d. We will be revealed as a shallow, self-absorbed people, numb to the beauty of G-dliness.
But before that can occur, G-d foils their plan. On that very day G-d sends us out to the Sukkah. With our presence in the Sukkah G-d has a ready response. My children don’t seek material bounty for self-aggrandizement. Their only interest is to serve me. They ask for money on Yom Kippur to honor me with lavish meals on Shabbat and to support the poor. They ask for a larger home to host more guests.
How do I know? Look, the proof is in the Sukkah. There are no material comforts there and yet they are happy. Happy purely for the sake of the Mitzvah. There is no heat, no shelter, no comforts and no luxury. It is a simple hut, subject to the elements. But they sit in it happily. They aren’t happy for of its trappings and beauty. They are happy to be surrounded by holiness.
This is not a people that seeks luxury or requires personal comfort. This is not a people obsessed with money and possessions. This is a people obsessed with me and my commandments. When they prayed for material comforts on Yom Kippur they were not thinking of themselves. They were thinking of me.
Even now, as the rest of the world gathers the harvest into their secure and dry homes, these people abandon their home to enter my home. They even took time off from gathering the harvest to celebrate my festival. What’s more, take a good look at their Sukkah. They are not alone. Their tables are graced with guests and the poor from far and wide. My children are concerned with the needs of others.
When the prosecuting angels see this, their arguments dry up. They have nothing to say. They don’t even bother making an appearance in the celestial court. They know they have been defeated before they even started. When G-d sees this, He blesses “our harvest and all our handiwork.”
This is why we stride the streets holding our Lulav aloft like a baton. It is a victory march that says, we have triumphed. Not only on Yom Kippur, but also on the first of Sukkot. The appeal that was scheduled for this day was dismissed before it came to court. Yes, we are happy. Indeed, we have won.
This does not for a moment absolve us of the need to think deeper and utilize the holiest moment of Yom Kippur to their fullest. Though G-d finds a defense for our squandering the holiness of this day, it behooves us to choose wisely and ask G-d for holy things.
In the 1960s a Jewish teenager in Russia wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe asking for His blessing. The rebbe talked about this request publically and cried. The boy is in Soviet Russia where danger lurks every day and poverty is overwhelming. Yet, when he has a chance to ask for a blessing, he asked that his heart be open to love and fear G-d. Oh, how we can learn from this boy, who today is a mature grandfather. Oh how much we can learn.
May we learn our lesson well and may G-d smile upon us from above. May we be granted a year of plentiful material bounty and boundless spiritual blessing in health, goodness and joy.