“May the Merciful One Rebuild for Us the Fallen Sukka of David”

  • Harav Yehuda Amital

Based on a shiur by Harav Yehuda Amital zt"l

Adapted by Boaz Kallush

Translated by Kaeren Fish

 

During the festival of Sukkot, we add into our blessing after meals the supplication, “May the Merciful One rebuild for us the fallen sukka of David,” recalling the verse (Amos 9:11), “On that day I shall rebuild the fallen sukka of David.”

Why is this specific image chosen to depict Knesset Yisrael? Could the prophet not have used some other, more impressive or more stately image – such as, for example, a tower, based on the verse (Shir Ha-shirim 7:5), “Your neck is like an ivory tower”? The Maharal (Netzach Yisrael 35) explains as follows:

“The kingdom of the House of David is called a ‘sukka.’ For every kingdom is called a ‘house’… because something that is a powerful reality in the world is called a ‘house,’ which is a permanent structure. Accordingly, a kingdom is called a ‘house,’ because of the strength and permanence that it embodies…

If a house collapses, the symbol that it originally represented is nullified. If it is rebuilt, then it is a new house. The builder is not regarded as having rebuilt the fallen house – an entity that has ceased to exist; rather, it is as though he built a new house from the start.

A sukka, on the other hand, is not a complete, permanent structure. Therefore, if it falls, the idea of ‘rebuilding’ does apply to it, and it is easily restored to its original state. Likewise the kingdom of the House of David: by virtue of its potential for reestablishment following the fall of the kingdom, it is referred to as the ‘fallen sukka of David.’ At the time of its fall it belongs to the category of ‘sukka,’ for a sukka can be rebuilt, and indeed rebuilding it is a simple matter.”

The collapse of a house is absolute and final; it cannot be re-established. A sukka, on the other hand, can fall much more easily, but it can also be rebuilt.

This is what characterizes Am Yisrael and the kingdom of Israel. A house is strong and stable, withstanding nature’s storms – but if it falls, it cannot be rebuilt. A sukka is quite fragile; a wind that is just slightly stronger than usual is enough to blow it over. In a similar way, the kingdom of Israel is fragile; it cannot withstand storms and it can easily collapse – but it arises anew, re-establishing itself.

The Midrash Tanchuma (beginning of parashat Nitzavim) offers a similar interpretation of the verse (Mikha 7:8), “Do not rejoice against me, O my enemy; though I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light to me”:

“[The Torah declares,] ‘You are standing this day, all of you…’ (Devarim 29:9) – this is the meaning of the verse, ‘The wicked are overthrown and they are no more, but the house of the righteous shall stand’ (Mishlei 12:7): so long as the Holy One, blessed be He, beholds the deeds of the wicked and considers them [literally, ‘turns them over’], they have no chance of revival… But Israel fall and then stand anew, as it is written, ‘Do not rejoice against me, O my enemy; though I fall, I shall arise….’

It also says, ‘For I am the Lord; I do not change, therefore you, the sons of Yaakov, are not consumed’ (Malakhi 3:6). Rabbi Chanina bar Papa taught: The Holy One, blessed be He, said, I have never smitten a nation and then repeated it, but you, the sons of Yaakov, are not consumed (lo kelitem), as it is written, ‘I will spend (achaleh) My arrows on them’ – My arrows are spent [exhausted, consumed], but [the sons of Yaakov] are not consumed.

And thus Knesset Yisrael says, ‘He has bent His bow and set me as a mark for His arrow’ (Eikha 3:12): To what may we compare this? To a mighty warrior who places his target and then shoots arrows at it; the arrows are used up, but the target remains intact. Thus it is with Israel: so long as they undergo suffering, the suffering is eventually used up, while they still endure….”

 

[This sicha was delivered on Shemini Atzeret 5762 (2001).]