The Loving Embrace of the Clouds of Glory

One of the major focuses of the Yom Tov is the concept of אהבה ורעות. This is shown when the arava that has no taste or even smell is taken, and joined together with the other three species. The midrash (Vayikra Rabba 30:12) tells us that this hints to the concept of all the yidden joining together no matter what stripe or type, for the purpose of showing true love for another Yid.

The gemara quotes two reasons why we sit in a Sukkah. The most famous of the reasons is כי בסכת הושבתי- in the midbar we dwelled in sukkos, so this yom tov commemorates that event. The gemara   then relates the opinion of R’Eliezer (Sukkah 11b) that the sukkos that we sat inside of in the midbar was actually referring to the ananei hakavod/clouds of glory. Halachikally speaking, while making the brocha ofלשב בסוכה , one should actually keep both reasons in mind.

It is well known that the great character trait of Aharon Hakohein was אוהב שלום ורודף שלום אוהב את הבריות –he had a deep love for all of Klal Yisroel. He would chase down any opportunity to keep people together and preserve unity. Chazal tell us that when Aharaon Hakohein was niftar, the ananei hakavod went away as well. The question of course is what is the connection between his death and the ananei hakavod, and how this all conbnects to Sukkos?

Aside from the numerous halachos governing how to make a proper sukkah; what is kosher for s’chach and how high the walls must be etc., there are also halchos that dictate the proper behavior in a sukkah. For example, after bringing in the food to the sukkah, the empty/dirty dishes must be removed. The sukkah may not contain any garbage and must be kept as beautiful as possible. Just as one may not physically keep any waste inside the sukkah, one may also not talk lashon hara inside the sukkah. Of course, it is never permitted, but one must be that much more careful inside.

Examining lashon hara a bit more, we can see a strong connection to the ananei hakavod and why it is so detrimental to speaking in the sukkah.

One of the consequences of the tzoraas that comes from speaking loshon hara is the requirement to dwell in isolation; being sent chutz lamachaneh. Chazal explain that this is midah kinegged midah. By speaking badly about others, we are creating divisiveness between people, causing people to be alienated from their friends. The Torah wants this person to experience the same loneliness that he created with his words by sending him out.

The Rizhiner Rebbe zt”l shared a tremendous insight into understanding the ananei hakavod. What connection does kavod/ glory have with these clouds? The simple pshat of course, is that these clouds gave honor to Klal Yisroel by surrounding them, and protecting them in such a great manner. L’havdil, just as the Iron Dome is a great source of pride for the Israeli Army, the ananei hakavod literally did all that and so much more.

The Rebbe offered a new fascinating pshat based on the science of how clouds are formed.

(Some science 101: Air can hold just so much moisture before it becomes saturated. Once humidity hits 100%, the water will begin to condense out of the air into droplets or crystals of ice, depending of course on the temperature. Warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air. As the air cools, water is visibly squeezed out into the air. This can be seen in the winter time when we speak outside and you can actually see your breath. The warm, moist air that we’ve breathed out is suddenly cooled, and it can no longer hold the moisture, so the water condenses out of the air into the vapor that we see. A small amount of vapor from our breath will quickly disperse into the air surrounding, and on a much more massive scale, clouds can be formed.)

The Rebbe explains that the clouds surrounding Klal Yisroel were actually created by the collective breaths of Klal Yisroel! This happened when the breaths would fuse together, forming great clouds. HOWEVER, when people don’t get along, their vapors cannot fuse and become one. It is only through achdus that ananim would come to be.

We now understand why they were called ananei hakavod. There was no greater honor for Klal Yisroel than the fact that 600,000 Yidden demonstrated such a high level of love for one another. Furthermore, not only did these clouds give kavod, these clouds were actually created as a direct result of the mutual kavod that they had for one another- מפני שנהגו כבוד זה לזה.

One who speaks loshon hara must be removed from within the machine/camp, the place of unity under the ananim.  These very clouds that were created by unity cannot tolerate one that tries to destroy it. It is no wonder why they disappeared when Aharon Hakohein was niftar.  

Inside of the sukkah, we are supposed to focus on the reasons why we are sitting there. If we had the clouds because we spoke positively about the next person, it goes without saying that the proper respect for a sukkah is to maintain the halachos of lashon hara and to be extra careful.

The possuk in Shir Hashirim (2:6) states:

שמאלו תחת לראשי וימינו תחבקני- "His left arm lay under my head and His right arm embraces me." Quoting his rebbe, the Arizal, Rav Chaim Vital famously explained (Pri Eitz Chaim Shaar Chag Hasukkos ch. 4) that the “right arm embracing” is a reference to the Yom Tov of Sukkos in which we experience. Hashem’s loving embrace after having gone through the “left arm”, i.e. the discipline and integrity of the yomim noraim.

This Yom Tov, as we enter into the “embrace of HaShem and spend our days in the sukkah, let us make sure to return the “hug” as well. One of the greatest hugs that parents can receive from their children is watching the children get along with each other. By spreading  אהבה ורעותwe are truly commemorating the ananei hakavod, thus fulfilling the mitzvah of the Sukkah properly.

 Good Yom Tov, מרדכי אפפעל