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The Fallen Sukka of David

In memory of Yoni Jesner z"l.
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“May the All-Merciful One establish for us the fallen sukka of David (sukkat David ha-nofalet).”


During the entire Sukkot holiday we are accustomed to say this prayer in the blessing after meals, based on the verse, “On that day I will establish the fallen sukka of David” (Amos 9:11).


Why is this image chosen to represent the people of Israel?  Wasn’t it possible to pick some more appropriate image? Why not, for instance, depict the Jewish people as a tower, in the verse, “Your neck is like an ivory tower” (Shir Ha-shirim 7:5)?  The Maharal offers a fascinating explanation:


The Davidic dynasty is referred to as “sukka,” [even though] royalty in general is referred to as a “house”... because something that has a powerful existence in the world is referred to as a house, which is a permanent structure.  Similarly, a royal dynasty is referred to as a house, because of its strength and permanence.... 

But when a house falls, its original essence is negated.  When it is later rebuilt it becomes a totally new house.  That rebuilt house is not referred to as the house that had fallen, for the original house has already been negated.  Rather, it is as if a totally new house has now been built. 

A sukka, though, is not a house, not a complete and permanent structure.  If it falls, it can easily be put up again; if it falls, it is can appropriately be referred to as being reestablished.  It returns to its original essence. 

Thus, the Kingdom of the House of David, always ready to be reestablished after having fallen, is referred to as the Kingdom of “David’s fallen sukka.  Even after its fall it retains its identity as a “sukka.”  This is because a sukka is always ready to be put back up, and it is easy to do so. (Netzach Yisrael, Chapter 35)


A house’s fall is complete and final, and putting it back up is impossible. A sukka, on the other hand, even though it can easily fall, can be put up again.


This is what typifies Israel and Israel’s kingdom.  A house is stable, and has the ability to withstand nature’s violent storms; but once it falls, it is no longer possible for that house to be put up again.  What is reconstructed is something new.  A sukka, by contrast, isn’t stable; any unusually strong wind will knock it down.  The same is true for the Kingdom of Israel: it is fragile, falls easily, and doesn’t resist storms and shocks.  But it always rises back up and stands on its feet again.


The Midrash Tanchuma (Nitzavim 1) conveys a similar idea:


“You are all standing here today” (Devarim 29:9) – this is in line with what the verse says, “Turn over the evildoers and they are gone, but the house of the righteous will stand” (Mishlei 12:7).  As long as the Holy One, blessed be He, looks at the acts of the evildoers and turns them over, they have no chance for revival... but Israel falls and gets back up, as it says, “Do not be joyous, my enemy, for just as I fell, I rose again” (Mikha 7:8).  It also says, “For I, God, have not changed, and you, the sons of Ya’akov, have not been destroyed” (Malakhi 3:6).

Rabbi Chanina son of Pappa said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said, I never smote a nation more than once.  But you, children of Ya’akov, were not destroyed, as it says, “I finish off My arrows on them” (Devarim 32:23).  My arrows finish but they are not finished.  Thus says Israel, “He drew his bow and stood me up as a target for an arrow” (Eikha 3:12).  To what is this compared?  It is like a mighty one who sets up a board and shoots arrows at it; the arrows are finished off but the board remains.  Similarly Israel, as long as troubles befall them, the troubles end but they continue to stand....


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


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