Hello dear readers,
When it comes to the holidays, it often feels like pesach is a holiday of knowing. There is an emphasis on teaching at the seders, and it’s a time to explain and to sing and to relate and to praise and to ask. On the other hand, sukkot feels more like a holiday of doing. There’s the building of the sukkah and the taking of the lulav and etrog, and decorating the sukkah and marching for hakafot. (Admittedly, there’s even less doing if you’re away for the holiday, like if you’re at a kosher sukkot hotel and they build the sukkah for you.) But there isn’t the same kind of theme of knowing or discussing that we get on pesach. Therefore, in honor of the four species, let’s do four things you (probably) didn’t know about sukkot:
- ETROG TOSS. No, it’s not an activity; it’s a historical event. In the first century BCE, the king in Israel was Alexander Yannai, and on sukkot he was caught in the middle of an argument between the Pharisees and Sadducees. During one of the sacrifices, he angered the crowd so much that they threw etrogs at him! I guess they hadn’t yet thought of throwing tomatoes.
- UNIQUE KORBANOT. Most holidays have a similar number of sacrifices, in terms of the numbers of cows and goats and sheep. Sukkot, though, is different. For one thing, it has the most sacrificed animals of any holiday, including 70 cows. Additionally, the 70 cows aren’t divided equally among the days. Instead, the first day has 13 cows, the second day has 12, and it descends until there are just 7 on the final day.
- 70 NATIONS. One idea is that the 70 cows represent the 70 other nations of the world. It then might be that the descending number of cows represents the eventual dwindling of the 70 nations. Of course, on shmini atzeret, which is the day after sukkot, there is only one cow offered, so in this metaphor, the 70 nations eventually merge into one nation that all serve Hashem together. This also fits with one of the prophecies of Zechariah, which happens to be the haftarah of the first day of sukkot: that one day all the nations of the world will unite in recognizing Hashem.
- HAKHEL. One of the mitzvahs of sukkot is Hakhel, which is when all the people who made pilgrimage to Jerusalem would listen to the king read from the Torah. This would happen on the first day of Chol HaMoed, and only once every seven years. The Hakhel readings are comprised of six excerpts from the book of Devarim.
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