Friday, October 12, 2007

Zman Simchaseinu 3a

Rabbi Rich Wolpoe and I have been having a long offline exchange about my difficulties understanding his position on Sukkot as Zman Simchateinu (the Season of Our Happiness). To recap: in the amidah and Kiddush of the three pilgrimage festivals, the day is commemorated as Zman X, where X is taken to correspond to the historical event commemorated by the holiday. Pesach and Shavuot are obvious – “season of our freedom” is the Exodus, and “season of the giving of our Torah” is the Stand at Sinai, which occurred within a day or two of Shavuot. But Sukkot is “season of our happiness”, which the Talmud links to the Clouds of Glory, which are exegetically linked to the Sukkah, called the Sukkah of God, in Psalms and other places.

The problem: Clouds of Glory doesn’t correspond to a specific date.

R’ Wolpoe’s solution: it’s not Clouds of Glory, it’s the Temple, because:

a) if Tisha B’Av is the epitome of sadness, the Temple Dedication must be the epitome of joy;

b) the haftarah of the day is all about the Temple Dedication, which did occur on Sukkot;

c) parallelism must be maintained – each holiday must correspond with a specific date, as the other two do.

My difficulties:

a) it contradicts the Talmud;

b) unlike the others, which occurred before or during the giving of the Torah, it occurs almost 500 years later;

c) other Temple and Mishkan dedications occurred on other days – it’s not exclusive to say “Sukkot is The Day on which to dedicate Temples”;

d) must parallelism be that literal?

R’ Wolpoe doesn’t like my objections, doesn’t think they’re dispositive, which they’re not.

* * *

I think I’ve come up with a way to reconcile our positions, based on the Haggadah and the Bikkurim. (You can probably see where I’m going).

When one brings the Bikkurim, the first fruits, one recites a little script for the priest, recapping the entire enslavement and exodus experience, culminating in one’s ability to bring one’s first fruits from this land flowing in milk and honey. That is taken to imply, by the author of the Haggadah (a Tannaitic midrash, hence an early source) that the culmination of the Exodus was the construction of the Temple where we could fully observe the Torah – without the Temple, more than half the mitzvoth are in abeyance. That’s why Dayeinu ends with the construction of the Temple – it is the culmination of the Exodus. (See Dt. 26:1-11).

Further, the verse at the end of the passage notes that bringing Bikkurim involves a mitzvah to be happy with everyone in your domain. Rashi interprets that to mean, inter alia, based on the Gemara in Bikkurim 83, that one rejoices in one’s harvest, which culminates in the Harvest Festival of Sukkot.

I gather, from one of his notes, that one of his correspondents may have picked up on this Rashi, and took Zman Simchaseinu to refer to the harvest season, rather than a historical event – but that much non-parallelism is not necessary either.

The verse at the beginning of the Bikkurim passage refers to Nachalah – heritage – as a prerequisite for bringing Bikkurim. The Gemara in Megillah reads that as “when the Temple will be built”. There are two passages, about coming to “the rest”, which was Mishkan Shiloh, the semi-permanent pre-Temple temple, and “the heritage”, which was the permanent Temple on the Temple Mount, between Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives.

Under that reading, clearly the passage in the Torah, as the Haggadah indicates, leads us straight to R’ Wolpoe’s idea. Bikkurim

a) depends on Nachalah – the Temple;

b) describes itself as the consequence and culmination of the Exodus experience;

c) is linked to Simcha, through the last verse.

I could almost say it looks chiastic, but that would be putting the cart before the horse. However, it does link Nachalah, the inheritance, with Simcha, through the Exodus. So the simcha of constructing the Temple, where we could fully observe the Torah which was given on Shavuot, and made possible only by our Exodus which freed us to worship Hashem, fits right into the pattern. The Torah itself gives a hint that one Simcha, the ultimate pre-messianic Simcha, is the construction of the Temple. Linked with the Gemara’s note that the harvest brings simcha, Sukkot is truly Zman Simchateinu, both historically through the Temple, which is also linked to the Clouds of Glory in the I Kings description of the dedication; and through culmination of the harvest. Perhaps the Bikkurim passage itself mandated that Solomon dedicate the Temple on Sukkot, but I haven’t seen that said anywhere.

* * *

One could also give a mathematical allegory: what is the order of the Festivals, as given in the Torah? Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, in the old calendar which began with Nissan. One occurred at the beginning of the Exodus, one occurred during the Exodus, one is the culmination of the Exodus: a progression upwards from minimal mitzvah observance (we only had Pesach and Milah in Egypt), through the command of the full set of mitzvot, to the fulfillment of all the mitzvoth in the Temple.

Another bolster to the idea of the Temple as Zman Simchaseinu: each “event” is really a continuous process over a long period of time, with one date that signifies the entire process. The Exodus began over a year before the Jews left, when Moshe went to Paroh saying “let my people go,” and was prophesied to Abraham 400 years earlier. The Giving of the Torah may have been dramatically symbolized by the Stand at Sinai, but really took place over the full 40 years in the desert, from the mitzvot of Pesach in Egypt, through Moshe’s death speech. The Clouds of Glory similarly existed throughout the Exodus period, and perhaps all the way through the Temple. But the specific date for Clouds of Glory would be the date on which they filled the Temple, on its dedication on Sukkot.

Thus we can preserve the phenomena: Clouds of Glory in the Talmud as the historic event commemorated by Sukkot; the Bikkurim passage; and the parallelism of specific dates even if the event being specifically commemorated was not actually accomplished until 487 years later.


Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

First I do wish to express the effotrot by my Colleague jon Baker to find common ground.
2nd I appreciate the fact that jsut because I am adamant, does not mean I am correct.
3rd just because I cannot prove my case absolutely, does not mean there is a lack of good evidence to support my thesis.
4th If I had my druthers, I would have picked the 5th expression of redemption [v'heiveiti] as the culmination of the Exodus and NOT the construction of the Mikdash. After all this 5th Cup of Wine refers to the entry into the Holy Land and that really caps the plan outlined in Vai'eira. But this date is in Nissan...

Now to deal with this fine post...
1. Z'man simchateinu might have a 487 year disconnect in History but remember that in the ideal pre-Meraglim model the Mikdash would have been built by Moses himself just months after the Mishkan. So Mikdash delayed is not Mikdash denied! A 400 year sojourn in Egypt is no big deal for God or his Eternal People. We're still deemed as Hebrews during the entire period.

2. Just as Bikkurim has a Mikdash connexion, so do the 4 species. Remember the 7 days of u'smachtem lifein H'is ONLY in the Mikdash, until Rabban Yochan Ben Zakkai extended it outside its precincts. So of the two main Mitzvot is directly tied to the Mikdash in the way the Lulav is tied to the myrtle and willow.

3rd, the Term Tabernacles, suggests that the theme of the holiday is about a sanctuary. I do not know the HISTORY of this term, but most of these kinds of Xtian expressions do have their roots in the Septuagint.

4th Tying the Sukkah back to the Midksdah is the Hafatara taht expresses "Sukkat Davdid Hanofelet" which occurs both in the Birkat Hamazon and in the Zulat. The Mikdash there is referred to by the term Sukkah really does appear in Scripture at least twice and in Hazal even if not in the Talmud.

It is obvious that all 3 pilgrimage holidays be definition have a link to the Mikdash. The clincher is that as a people we have seen our single biggest historical tragedy to be the destruction of the Mikdash, the converse would also make sense - i.e. that the Dedication of the Temple of Solomon would be the Most joyous event in our history - at least until the final Mikdash is contructed bimheira beymaeinu

After all the 12 days of dedication of the Mishkan in Nissan warants not saying Tachanun EVEN TODAY. And we STILL celebrate the hashmonean redediation of the 2nd Temple for 8 days despite its being trashed in 70 CE. So one would EXPECT an anniversary for Solommon's magnificent Temple of fold - the one show Simcha cancelled fasting on Yom Kippur itsel? Why does Moses' Mihskan get a minor holiday, and Matityahu's dedication get an even greater holiday, and Solomnon's extravaganza be left out in the cold? Doesn't it make sense?
Plus, there is a positve Scritural connexion between the Temple and the Exodus right in Kings I.

May answer closes THAT gap. There is a positive celebration of the Simcha of Solomon's Temple, and it coincides with a pre-existing Simcha. And it affords keeping the term Z'man in context on a level plane.


thanbo said...

Tabernacle comes from a Latin word, taberna, which I think originally comes from a Greek root. But it's a different word in the LXX, so the interpretation of mishkan as temporary shelter is from the Vulgate.

I wrote this not to disprove you, but to support your conclusion that Zman Simchaseinu can refer to the Temple - by approaching from a different direction, I could find the "second witness" that supports your conclusion, even though I'm still not fond of your reasoning.

For the biblical critics, all the problems fall away - it was of course written after the construction of the Temple, so of course the Simcha of Sukkot can refer back to it.

It's only a question if we don't hold of the biblical critics.