1

There is a common custom to invite an important Biblical personage each night in the Sukkah (my custom is chronological - Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, David - but some customs arrange them in the order of the Sefiros, placing Yosef after Aharon instead).

The earliest source has already been discussed here. My question is the reason. Why do we invite these specific guests into the Sukkah? I guess based on the alternate minhag I cited above that there’s a connection with their respective Sefiros, but that just pushes off the question - what is the connection between the Sefiros and Sukkos?

  • they are jealous of the Sabbath queen who stops by every week and Eliyahu who gets to go to the seders and the brisses – rosends Sep 26 '18 at 16:57
  • 1
    @rosends I honestly hope that's a joke :O – ezra Sep 26 '18 at 17:00
  • 2
    @ezra yes and no -- the no part is that I have noticed that we have a practice of inviting incorporeal guests as part of our practice and I wonder if there is a universal theme underlying it all. – rosends Sep 26 '18 at 17:12
  • 1
    First of all the claim is that they come to visit on Sukkos (and all of them come each night, the question is who is leading on any specific night. The lead can be assumed by chronology/or connection to one of the Sefiros. But, the Sefiros have to do with just about anything, not just Sukkot.) . Even if you do not invite them, they show up. So the q really may be why they want to come visit on sukkot as opposed to Pesach or Shabbos etc. These guests are called the 7 shepherds of Israel IIRC. Sukkos is traveling in the desert protected by clouds; hence shepherds? Any 7 day set can be Sefiros. – David Kenner Sep 26 '18 at 17:50
2

From the Chabad.org page on Ushpizin:

If guests are integral to festival joy, they are even more so to Sukkot. Sukkot is the festival of Jewish unity; in fact, the Talmud states that “it is fitting that all Jews should sit in one sukkah.”2 If this is logistically difficult to arrange, it should, at the very least, be implemented in principle. We cram as many guests as possible into our sukkah, demonstrating that we fully intend to implement the Jewish communal sukkah to the full extent of our ability, each in our own domain. There is even a story told about a certain chassidic master who, because he lacked a guest, the Patriarch Abraham refused to enter his sukkah (why Abraham was there—more on that later).

The Kabbalah of the Ushpizin

And so we come to the ushpizin. As we fill our sukkah with earthly guests, we merit to host seven supernal guests. While all seven ushpizin visit our sukkah on each of the seven nights and days of Sukkot,3 each supernal “guest” is specifically associated with one of the festival’s seven days, and is the “leading” or dominant ushpiza for that night and day.4

The Kabbalists Translated into English, the word loses some of its mystery and otherworldlinessteach that these seven leaders—referred to in our tradition as the “seven shepherds of Israel”—correspond to the seven sefirot, or divine attributes, which categorize G‑d’s relationship with our reality, and which are mirrored in the seven basic components of our character (man having been created “in the image of G‑d”).

As each supernal “guest” graces our sukkah, he empowers us with the particular quality that defines him. This is the deeper reason that they are called the “shepherds of Israel,” for like a shepherd who provides nourishment for his flock, these seven leaders nourish us their spiritual essence: Abraham feeds us love; Isaac, self-discipline; Jacob, harmony and truth; and so on.

And while these seven great souls are our “shepherds” all year round, the seven days of Sukkot are a time when their presence in our lives is more pronounced and revealed. As we enter the “temporary dwelling” of the sukkah, freeing ourselves from the dependence we developed on the material comforts of home and hearth, we are now in a place in which our spiritual self is more revealed and accessible. In this place the ushpizin visit us, empowering us to connect the seven dimensions of our own soul’s “divine image” with its supernal source in the divine sefirot, feeding, nourishing and fortifying our spiritual self for the material year to come.

The seven sefirot, or divine energies, we are fed by the ushpizin are:

enter image description here

  • 1
    There are really 10 Sefirot. Wisdom , Understanding, and Knowledge, are the first 3 intellectual Sefirot of the Tzelem Elokim. The next 7, are the emotional Sefirot. Many teachings focus on the 7, like this one. – David Kenner Sep 26 '18 at 20:42
1

Your question is comprised of two parts, 1) Why do we invite these specific guests? and 2) What is the connection between Sefirot and Sukkot?

The first part of your question relates to an overriding, general theme of Sukkot. That theme is the (essential and critical) unity of all of the Jewish people. That each and every individual is needed and is part of the perfect whole.

And that idea also relates to the special guests (Ushpizin) who visit every Sukkah. All of the guests come each night with the group being led by the select individual for that particular night.

Each of the guests relates and is connected to every Jew. Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov are the Avot (אבות, אב). They are the precursors to, source and ancestors to the entire Jewish people.

Yaacov Avinu introduces an additional concept of being the Nasi (נשיא) of the entire Jewish people. The Nasi (literally Prince) is like a precursor to being a King. The word, Nasi, is actually a Roshei Teivot for נ״צוץ ש״ל י״עקב א״בינו. The idea that that the Nasi is compared to the entire generation follows the explanation from Rashi to Bamidbar 21:21.

Similarly, Yosef HaTzaddik was the leader of the entire jewish people in Egypt and second to the King of Egypt, Pharoah (Bereshit 44:18). This was the subject of his dream that was recounted in the Torah to his brothers and his father. That they would all bow down to him and acknowledge his ultimate authority over them.

This same principle continues with Moshe Rabbeinu who was the leader of the entire Jewish people and the one who transmitted the entire Torah to all of the Jewish people at Har Sinai.

Similarly, his brother, Aharon, represented the entire Jewish people as the Kohen Gadol in the Mishkan as they traveled through the wilderness. The names of each of the Tribes are before him as a constant reminder on his Priestly garments. And in fact Moshe and Aharon are compared to each other and are of equal value. They served as the vehicle through which the Jewish people traveled from Egypt to the land of Israel serving like a pair of legs.

And finally, there is David, the paradigm in the Torah for the Jewish King. Like with the others, the King is associated with very single Jew, like Rambam points out in the Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Melachim, that the King is the Heart of the entire nation.

The second part of your question is trying to understand what the relationship of the Sefirot are to Sukkot, and for that matter, to the guests themselves. What follows is based upon a series of Chassidic discourses from the 2nd Lubavitcher Rebbe (the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dovber ben Schneur Zalman) dealing with Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The first begins with the words, "להבין שרש ענין חג הסוכות". The 2nd begins with the words, "יצחק בא מבוא באר לחי רואי כו׳".

Sukkot is a continuation of and a revelation within the world (עולם) of what was begun on Rosh HaShanah (Crowning G-d King) and Yom Kippur (Sealing the decree of the King when the smoke from the incense offered by Aharon in the Holy of Holies fills the space and creates a cloud on the ceiling like the Skach in the Sukkah). That incense must contain all of its ingredients or one is culpable even to death.

Like with any aspect of the universe, it all follows the organizational structure set up by G-d (מערכת אלקות).

This is part of our intention when we recite the 2nd sentence of Shema, "Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuto l'Olam Va'Ed." That "Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuto" pertains to the intellect, the four Brains. Intellect is only for oneself. It is concealed from others. L'Olam (לעולם literally to the world) corresponds to the Middot, the emotional attributes. It is the beginning of transmitting that private intellect to another. And finally, Va'Ed (ועד) corresponds to physical, material expression of the King's decree through action, Malchut, like building the Sukkah with Skach and dwelling in it and taking up the 4 species (Lulav, etc.). In fact, (ועד) has a value of 80 (פ, mouth) which all alludes to the Oral Torah which is the explanation of how to perform the commandments (the decrees of the King).

The part of that organizational structure which pertains to the aspect of World (עולם) and physical, material existence is the Sefirot which are associated with the Middot (Emotional traits), Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut (Action on a physical plane).

Similarly, the appearance of each of the guests follows that same organizational system. Avraham with Chesed, Yitzchok with Gevurah, Yaacov with Tiferet, Moshe with Netzach, Aharon with Hod, Yosef with Yesod and David with Malchut.

The variation in order of Yosef, coming after Yaacov or coming after Aharon relates to whether one is considering the beginning or ending of that revelation.

To understand, consider the physical form of the human body which is also compared to the Sefirot (See the teaching from Eliyahu HaNavi found in the Patach Eliyahu prayer said on Erev Shabbat.). Yesod, (pertaining to Yosef) is called Siyumah d'Gufah, the conclusion and purpose of the body (תכלית), meaning reproduction, to make new life. It is also the limb of the body that actually makes the unifying connection to another at the moment of conception (to be one flesh).

And yet, the legs, which correspond to the Sefirot of Netzach (Moshe) and Hod (Aharon), extend down below the reproductive organ, (meaning they come after) Yesod (Yosef). They give one the greater ability to interact with, to travel, and to walk within the physical, material world.

So from one perspective (chronologically), Yosef, meaning Yesod, comes before Moshe and Aharon. And from another perspective (Tachlit, ultimate purpose) he follows them because he is their ultimate point, fulfilling G-d's will, revealing G-d's kingship (Malchut, David) in the physical, material world and choosing life. This dimension is also alluded to in the Torah (Bereshit 44:18) through the story of Yehudah, the tribal precursor to David, approaching Yosef in Egypt and the repetition of the concept as found in the Haftorah (Yechezkel 37:15-28) which is discussing the final redemption through Moshiach (ben Yosef and ben David).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .