On Sukkos, we shake the four species three times ahead at הוֹדוּ, back at טוֹב, up at לְעוֹלָם and down at חַסְדוֹ. Is there any lesson that these words teach us?
We shake the lulav ahead at הוֹדוּ. It’s “easy” לְהֹדוֹת, to thank Hashem, when events are in front of us – obvious to a person. Nevertheless, the Gemara tells us, “How frequent is it that a person has no inkling of how much Hashem is helping him every step of the way.”
Next, we shake the lulav back at טוֹב. There are times in our own life when the events seem to appear in “back of us” – i.e. don’t make sense. When that happens, we ask aloud to our Creator, “How is this טוֹב, for my own good?” There is nothing wrong with asking this question.
Rabbi David Aaron gives us a different perspective:
“When life gets rough, ask not ‘why’ this is happening to me but ‘what’ this happening is asking of me. In every painful situation choose to find opportunities for growth and humbly reserve judgment of the Master Mind of the universe.”
Nonetheless, the Gemara tells us, “A person whose suffering causes him to challenge G-d is not sinful.” In fact, the Medrash which states that Yitzchak Avinu asked that man should endure suffering as an atonement. No one can escape suffering. As the Medrash states, “There is no man who goes through life without afflictions!”
As an American, what do I gain from suffering? The Gemara says, “Pain that a person suffers in this world atones for sins.” Regardless of these explanations, we must realize that we cannot understand G-d’s doings. As the Novi states, “My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways.”
Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai says that when Hashem reveals Himself, people will directly perceive how evil causes good, instead of merely understanding this intellectually. For example, in order to make freedom of choice real, Hashem also had to create the possibility of evil. He continues, “… All doubt regarding Hashem’s goodness and fairness will then disappear.”
The Gemara says, “One must bless Hashem for misfortune as well as for good.” This is actually a practical halacha cited in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. Rabbi Avigdor Miller said that when a glass or dish breaks, the first thing a person should say is, “Thank You, Hashem, for all the times that this does not happen.”
The words לְעוֹלָם חַסְדוֹ mean His kindness is enduring forever. As in “עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה, forever will [Your] kindness be built.” עוֹלָם can also mean world. If you flip around the word עוֹלָם, it spells עָלוּם, hidden.This teaches us that G-d’s mastery is brilliantly revealed within creation through the Divine workings of הַטֶבַע, the natural [world], which, like אֶלֺקִים [spelled with a ה], has the numerical value of 86. Hashem gives man the ability to see His existence through nature or deny it.
By waving the lulav upwards at לְעוֹלָם, we are saying to Hashem, “Your kindness endures לְעוֹלָם, forever.” When we wave the lulav downwards at חַסְדוֹ, we are telling the Creator, “Even in this עוֹלָם, world, Your kindness exists; although it may seem to be עָלוּם, hidden.” What we often perceive in our lives as G-d’s strict justice, is, in reality, His abundant mercy!
Dedicated in memory of Rivka bas Rav Eliyahu, Shlomo Avraham Moshe ben Yechezkeil Yosef, Rochel bas Menachem Mendel Boruch, Eliyahu ben Mordechai, Mashah Tzivyah bas R’ Shlomo Zalman, Altah Soshah Devorah bas Aryeh Leibush, Chaim ben Shmuel Efraim Zalman, Tuvyah Shlomo ben Naftali Tzvi HaKohein, Leah bas Leib Yehudah, Esther Perel bas R’ Shlomo, Miriam bas Zelig Shaul, Menachem ben Shimon, Menachem ben Zev, Sarah bas HaRav Yisroel, Zushe Yosef ben Shmuel Tzvi, Yosef ben Moshe HaLevi and all the other departed souls of our nation.
For the complete recovery of Chayah Malka bas Bas-Sheva, among the other sick ones of our nation.