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Harvest! Ruth!

Parsha and its implementation – Ha'azinu – Sukkot- Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780

Parashat Ha'azinu signs with parting words from Moshe Rabbeinu, in anticipation of his expected death: "

וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר ה' אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בְּעֶ֛צֶם הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר עֲלֵ֡ה אֶל־הַר֩ הָעֲבָרִ֨ים הַזֶּ֜ה הַר־נְב֗וֹ אֲשֶׁר֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מוֹאָ֔ב אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֣י יְרֵח֑וֹ וּרְאֵה֙ אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן אֲשֶׁ֨ר אֲנִ֥י נֹתֵ֛ן לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לַאֲחֻזָּֽה׃ וּמֻ֗ת בָּהָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ עֹלֶ֣ה שָׁ֔מָּה וְהֵאָסֵ֖ף אֶל־עַמֶּ֑יךָ כַּֽאֲשֶׁר־מֵ֞ת אַהֲרֹ֤ן אָחִ֙יךָ֙ בְּהֹ֣ר הָהָ֔ר וַיֵּאָ֖סֶף אֶל־עַמָּֽיו׃

"That very day Hashem spoke to Moses: Ascend these heights of Abarim to Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab facing Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving the Israelites as their holding. You shall die on the mountain that you are about to ascend, and shall be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his kin (Devarim 32:48-50)

In the next Parasha, there is a completion of these parting words from Moshe, his death and his burial. One must listen to the verses and the sad, lugubrious atmosphere of the parting described in them. On the one hand, like in some places in the written Torah, death and 'end' of life are called "gathering" - "and gathered to his kin":

"And I have already interpreted that this is a great promise to the righteous that after their death they do not move around like other people but are immediately gathered to their people. They are the holy fathers. When Aaron your brother died and was gathered to his people immediately" (Tzror Hamor ibid). In other words, death is not an "end" in the total sense, although the dead person ends his physical life on earth, but his soul is "gathered" and joins the community of the souls of the fathers, for eternal life in the world of souls.

The language of the Torah seeks to imply further meanings of what is explicitly written, by using words whose letters and roots hint to a different word. These are usually words that have letters in common, or that they share a two-letter root. The same is true of the word 'Assaf' 'gathered' in relation to death, since in another context it also has the meaning of 'end' and 'destruction' (Rashi Yirmiyahu 8:13). The two-letter root is: Samech & Pei. (See also the Assaf value in Ibn Ezra in Bereshit 30:23, and Radak and Hezkuni ibid). The double meaning of the word 'Assaf' is at both ends of the same line. In the farewell from Moshe Rabbeinu, there is, on one side, the end of Moshe Rabbeinu's leadership era, and on the other, the beginning of a new era of entering the country led by Joshua. The melancholy of the 'end' is mixed with an optimistic atmosphere of a fresh start and a new era.

The Sukkot holiday is also called "Chag HaAssif":

וְחַ֤ג שָׁבֻעֹת֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה לְךָ֔ בִּכּוּרֵ֖י קְצִ֣יר חִטִּ֑ים וְחַג֙ הָֽאָסִ֔יף תְּקוּפַ֖ת הַשָּׁנָֽה׃

"You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first fruits of the wheat harvest; and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year". (Shmot 34:22)

Here, too, the "Assif" relates to the 'Sof'-"End" only in the opposite direction: "the time of the year- the end of the year" (Rav Saadia Gaon ibid). And:

...וְחַ֤ג הָֽאָסִף֙ בְּצֵ֣את הַשָּׁנָ֔ה בְּאָסְפְּךָ֥ אֶֽת־מַעֲשֶׂ֖יךָ מִן־הַשָּׂדֶֽה׃

"…and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in the results of your work from the field". (Shmot 23:16)

Harvesting takes place at the 'end' of the agricultural year, and then a new agricultural year begins: 'וחג האסיף בצאת השנה' - ותכנס שנה אחרת" "Harvesting at the end of the year, and a new year begins” (Ibn Ezra ibid). Harvesting the crop and the beginning of the New Year, cause the special joy of Sukkot:

חַ֧ג הַסֻּכֹּ֛ת תַּעֲשֶׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים בְּאָ֨סְפְּךָ֔ מִֽגָּרְנְךָ֖ וּמִיִּקְבֶֽךָ׃ וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֖ בְּחַגֶּ֑ךָ אַתָּ֨ה וּבִנְךָ֤ וּבִתֶּ֙ךָ֙ וְעַבְדְּךָ֣ וַאֲמָתֶ֔ךָ וְהַלֵּוִ֗י וְהַגֵּ֛ר וְהַיָּת֥וֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בִּשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ׃ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֗ים תָּחֹג֙ לַה' אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בַּמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֣ר ה' כִּ֣י יְבָרֶכְךָ֞ ה' אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ בְּכֹ֤ל תְּבוּאָֽתְךָ֙ וּבְכֹל֙ מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה יָדֶ֔יךָ וְהָיִ֖יתָ אַ֥ךְ שָׂמֵֽחַ׃

"After the ingathering from your threshing floor and your vat, you shall hold the Feast of Booths for seven days.You shall rejoice in your festival, with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your communities.You shall hold a festival for Hashem your G-d seven days, in the place that Hashem will choose; for Hashem your G-d will bless all your crops and all your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy". (Devarim 16:13-15).

But precisely the joy of the 'gathering' must be considered

וְ֝גִ֗ילוּ בִּרְעָדָֽה׃

"tremble with fright", (Psalm 2:11). There is a need to set boundaries, so the joy will not become the 'end'. This is one of the reasons why the scroll of Ecclesiastes is read during Sukkot, which a big part of it, transmits a gloomy atmosphere that balances and sharpens the real joy.

The great public joy of the holiday was 'the joy of the Shoevah' when all the pilgrims 'gathered' to help and: "he who has not seen the Simchat Bet Hashoevah has never seen rejoicing in his life”. (Mishnah Sukkah 5:1). In order for the 'Assif' of joy not to turn from a blessing to a mistake: “and they would make there a great enactment”. (Mishnah Sukkah 5:2) 'not to falter due to lightheadedness [kalut rosh]. They decreed that the women sat above and the men below”. (Bartenura ibid).

Once every seven years, all Am Israel would gather in Sukkot for the 'Assembly' (Hakhel): "

...מִקֵּ֣ץ שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֗ים בְּמֹעֵ֛ד שְׁנַ֥ת הַשְּׁמִטָּ֖ה בְּחַ֥ג הַסֻּכּֽוֹת׃

"… Every seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Booths" (Devarim 31:10)

"And the term 'end' means: “at the end of seven years, at the time of the Sabbatical year, on the festival of Tabernacles;” this is a reference to the commandment known as הקהל, “assembly.” The word מקץ means “at the end.” Wherever we encounter the expression מקץ it means “at the end. (Rabbeinu Bahya Devarim 31:10). And that is why the unity can be demanded; as the ‘end’ approaches, the people of Israel must be gathered together with all their tribes in order to maintain them

וַיְהִ֥י בִישֻׁר֖וּן מֶ֑לֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף֙ רָ֣אשֵׁי עָ֔ם יַ֖חַד שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

“Then He became King in Jeshurun, When the heads of the people assembled, The tribes of Israel together”. (Devarim 33:5)

In anticipation of the Chag HaAssif, let’s embark on a national campaign of defusing the rifts in the people. Invite your neighbors to your Sukkah for a unity reunion.

Harvest togetherness!

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