Shabbat Sukkot | 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - “If I am Here …” - Based on a manuscript, courtesy of R. Yisrael Sharir
Hillel was legendary not only as a great scholar and leader, but also as an extremely humble man (see Shabbat 30b). So one can only be surprised by the pronouncement he was accustomed to make during Simchat Beit Hashoeiva. Hillel would say: “If I am here, all are here; if I am not here, who is here?” (Sukka 53a).
It appears that the explanation is based on the concept that the arba’a minim (lulav, etrog, …) represent different categories of Jews (Vayikra Rabba 30:12). The etrog represents those who have taste (Torah) and smell (good deeds), the lulav represents those with taste without smell, the hadas represents those with smell without taste, and the arava, thosewith neither. In other words, it is normal for different subsections of society to exist. It is like a nation that, metaphorically, consists of different limbs, which can work efficiently if each section does what it is supposed to. But, if we follow the example of the arba’a minim, we can point out that it works only if all of the elements are bound together.
We have other sources on the interaction between different segments of a Torah society. The gemara (Chulin 92a) states that while Bnei Yisrael are compared to a grapevine, different elements of Bnei Yisrael are compared to different parts of the vine. The ignorant are compared to the leaves, and the scholars are compared to the clusters of grapes. The gemara stresses that the grapes should certainly pray for the leaves, because without them they cannot grow.
There is one requirement for this symbiotic relationship to work. Each element must be aware what its task is. The etrog must know what is expected of it, as should the lulav, etc. If the etrog starts acting like a lulav, then we have a real problem. If every species goes down a notch, there will be no place for the tasteless, odorless arava in the assortment of species.
While it is important that all the species be taken together, it is likewise crucial that each should retain its distinct identity. That is what Hillel was saying at the Simchat Beit Hashoeiva. “In order for me to have the type of influence that I am capable of having,” said Hillel, “I need to be herein my full identity. If we all will act according to our unique personality and abilities and realize what our place and contributions need to be, then all will be there.” In other words, we will all exist as a whole, specifically when every individual in the group is an individual. Then others will be able to come from far, observe the way we function, and be influenced for the better. We must avoid flaws in the way we act, as the individuals we are meant to be. For then, our attempt to do a partial job at being what is right for someone else will be insufficient, and the group will be destined for failure.
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