Shabbat Succot | 5764
There is no Gain Under the SunHarav Yosef Carmel
This year, as we read Megillat Kohelet on the first day of Sukkot, we can again ask ourselves: why is this megilla appropriate specifically on Sukkot, the festival where we are explicitly mandated to be happy (Devarim 16:14)? Kohelet is a sefer which appears to have a pessimistic outlook on almost every subject under the sun. Let us review just a few areas that Kohelet deems as worthless.
“What is the gain for man with all of the toil that he toils under the sun?” (1:3). “That which was will be, and there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9). Not only in matters of man’s work and livelihood is there disappointment, but also in what we call the liberal arts. “I said to myself, that which occurs to the fool, will happen to me as well, and so why did I make myself smarter then they, and I said to myself that that too is futile” (2:15). Shlomo is not more optimistic about the public realm than the private one. His social picture is as follows: “I returned and saw all of the oppressions that are done under the sun, and behold the tears of the oppressed and there is no one to console them…” (4:1). The judicial system does not get off lightly either: “I also saw under the sun, the place of the judgment, there is the evil, and the place of justice, there is the evil” (3:16). The possibility that there is optimism at least about the future is dashed as well. “I hated all the toil that I toil under the sun, that I should leave it for a person who shall be after me, and who knows if he will be wise or foolish, and he will take control of all the toil which I toiled and I was wise under the sun” (2:18-19). With so little hope, Shlomo comes to the horrible conclusion that he despises life … under the sun (2:17).
Apparently the solution has to do with the term, “under the sun.” Indeed, R. Yodan says that over the sun there is gain, and R. Chuna says that one toils under the sun and accumulates above the sun (Pesikta D’rav Kahane 8). But the question still remains, what optimistic approach are we to learn from Kohelet in reference to our lives under the sun? And certainly, why are we to stress this theme on Sukkot?
Let us propose a solution to both issues. Sitting in a sukka is to take refuge in the shade of Hashem, cav’yachol (what the kabbalists call, tzila d’m’himnuta). The sukka is defined by the halacha that “the shade is greater than the sun [that penetrates].” “It is better to take refuge in Hashem…” (Tehillim 118:9). It turns out that two walls and part of a third are more protective than an imposing fortress. Megillat Kohelet gives us the appropriate warning: do not look for solutions under the sun, where you are likely to be disappointed. Go to a sukka, where the sechach covers most of the sunlight. There, under the Divine clouds, there is gain.
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