[Sent from the sukkah]
The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.
The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.
I couldn't ignore the irony when going through my Sukkos archives. The following Shtikle was first written in 2005 following tragic events of Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami in Japan. I re-sent it once again 8 years later in 2013 after a year which began with Hurricane Sandy and ended with devastating floods in Colorado. Yet another 8 years on, after Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on the East Coast, I felt it was once again most appropriate.
The mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:2) states that the world is judged on four matters at four different times of the year. On Pesach, we are judged on the grain crops. On Shavuos, we are judged on the fruit. On Rosh HaShanah, the whole world is judged as individuals. On Sukkos, we are judged on water.
P'nei Yehoshua raises an interesting question, based on a pasuk in parshas Eikev. Towards the end of the parsha, we are told (Devarim 11:10-12) that Eretz Yisrael is not like Mitzrayim where rain rarely falls and you need to bring the water from the river yourself. Rather, it is a land of mountains and valleys and is fed by rain water. The next pasuk asserts that it "The eyes of HaShem, your God, or on it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year." The pasuk uses the word shanah to refer to year and offers no further explanation as to the definition thereof. Whenever we refer to a year without defining it, states P'nei Yehoshua, it refers to the calendar year which begins on Rosh HaShanah. This pasuk therefore implies that the beginning of the "rain year" is in fact Rosh HaShanah. How then can it be that the year for rain begins on Sukkos as is stated in the mishnah?
A careful reading of the mishnah yields an interesting linguistic nuance. The introduction states that at four times the world is judged. On Pesach for crops, Shavuos for fruit, Rosh HaShanah we all pass in front of Him like sheep in a flock and on the chag we are judged on water. The word nidonim, judged, is repeated with respect to Sukkos. I have long wondered why this was and had resigned myself to accepting that there is nothing much to be made of it. However, it is well-known that although the judgement is sealed on Yom Kippur, the judgement still extends in some way until Hoshana Rabba. Perhaps we may understand that the mishnah's insertion of the word nidonim is meant to connect the judgement of Sukkos back to that of Rosh HaShanah. The world passes in front of HaShem in judgement and is subsequently judged on matters of water. Sukkos is not merely one of the four listed in the mishnah but is in fact connected directly to Rosh HaShanah.
This would answer P'nei Yehoshua's difficulty as well. Indeed, the judgement on rain begins, in some way, on Rosh HaShanah but extends all the way until Sukkos. There is no discrepancy between the mishnah and the pasuk.
Ra"n is bothered by a different aspect of the mishnah. One would assume that the judgement on Rosh HaShanah is complete, in that we are judged and inscribed in "the book" regarding all aspects, including water, fruit and grain. What then is the meaning of the other judgments at other times of the year? He answers that the world is judged at large on the other times of the year. The worldwide allotment of rain, fruit and grain are decreed at their respective times. One's own individual portion of that allotment is what is decreed on Rosh HaShanah.
It is common, in order to evoke a true feeling for the gravity of the judgement on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, to reflect on the tragedies of the year gone by. But how often is this done on Sukkos? It should be noted that the term chag in the mishnah clearly refers to all of Sukkos and not Shemini Atzeres when we pray for rain. It should also be noted that the mishnah does not state that we are judged on geshem, rain, but rather it is water which is the subject of the judgement on Sukkos. Keeping that and the Ra"n's understanding in mind, it is quite likely that water-related tragedies, are in fact decreed on Sukkos. Whether or not we were directly affected by these tragedies, this is certainly something to keep in mind as we focus and direct our tefillos on this Yom Tov.
Have a chag samie'ach and good Shabbos!