Rav Avigdor Miller on Thinking in the Sukkah and Welcoming the Ushpizin
What intention should we have when we sit in the sukkah?
When we sit in the sukkah the Torah tells us what our thoughts should be. The Torah says that the reason is למען ידעו דורותיכם — In order that your generations should know, כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל — that I put your forefathers into sukkos, into tents and huts, when I took them out of Egypt.
Hashem is telling us: “When I took your forefathers out of Egypt they were more secure and more safe than any subsequent time in your history.” Pay attention – during the 40 years in the wilderness they were more secure against foreign enemies than any subsequent time in our history. In the wilderness, where they had no fortifications, they were safer than any other time! They lived in open camp and were vulnerable to attack from anyone. And all the nations knew that they were carrying all the wealth of Mitzrayim. Imagine you were walking through Bedford-Stuyvesant late at night loaded down with gold and diamonds without any bodyguards. And let’s say the locals knew all about you. How long would you last? A few minutes maybe.
And yet the Am Yisroel were safe. They weren’t attacked. Moshe Rabeinu never lost a battle. Their camp was invulnerable because there was a Sukkah overhead. And that was the Ananei Kavod, the Clouds of Glory, the Clouds of the Presence of Hashem, that were protecting them.
And that’s what the sukkah that we sit in symbolizes. We sit in the sukkah under the schach and we say, “This sukkah is a pretty flimsy protection. There’s no roof of masonry. There’s no iron door. There’s nothing.” And yet, that flimsy sukkah overhead, represents the idea that it is Hashem who is protecting our nation throughout all the generations. So even though you may live in your brick house all year long and you bolt your doors every night – and you should bolt your doors every night – sitting in the sukkah for seven days teaches us that our brick walls and our iron doors are all just imagination. Because really it is only Hakodosh Boruch Hu who is protecting us.
And despite the fact that many nations rise up against us, in the end they will all be frustrated. And that’s because Hakodosh Boruch Hu is מצילנו מידם. His presence goes with us forever.
We have a tradition that Avraham Avinu will be coming as a guest to our sukkah on the first night of Yom Tov. How is it possible for Avraham Avinu to be in thousands of sukkos at one moment?
Avraham Avinu is in Gan Eden. He’s not מלא כל הארץ כבודו. You have to understand that. So what does it mean that Avraham Avinu will be our guest? It means that the shem tov, the dugmah, the example and the influence of a man is just like the man himself. Avraham’s influence should come into our sukkah and be mashpi’ah upon us. Avraham was a big oived Hashem. He was a tremendous ba’al chesed. Avraham was ready to sacrifice his son for Hashem. So what we want is that all the shleimus of Avraham Avinu should come into our sukkah and influence us. That’s more important than Avraham Avinu coming into our sukkah. If he came and we didn’t think about anything; if we didn’t think about who Avraham Avinu was, it would be a waste of time – a waste of a visit. But when Avraham’s influence comes, that’s more important than Avraham himself. And that’s the ikar.
Now, when we say that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is in the sukkah, that’s a different story. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is in the sukkah and you have to know that. Vi’shuchanti bi’soch Bnei Yisroel. Asher ani sho’chein bi’sochum. “I dwell among you,” says Hashem. And it’s true. It’s true that wherever the Jews come together, Hashem is there too. And that is 100% true. But when we say Avraham is in our sukkah, it means that Avraham’s example and influence is in our sukkah. When we invite Avraham into our sukkah we are being mispallel to Hashem that we should be zoicheh to impress upon our minds the influence and the ideals of this great man.