Sukkot

Haftarah Helper: Sukkot

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Sukkot commemorates forty years of God’s care for His people in the wilderness after redeeming them from Egypt; its Haftarot carry that theme forward in history. One of its Haftarot recounts the peaceful, political culmination of that redemption 480 years later with Solomon’s building of the Temple (see below)[1]. Its other two Haftarot – Day 1 (below), and Shabbat Chol Hamoed (not read this year) – relate to His apocalyptic, providential redemption of His people from amidst their enemies.

Day 1- Zechariah 14:1-21

LLiving in the early Second Temple period, the prophet Zechariah predicted many apocalyptic events, including a horrific plague, the blooming of the land of Israel, and more. His final prophecy recounts God’s victorious battle for Israel against its enemies. After their defeat on a day that is “neither day nor night”, the remaining nations will celebrate Sukkot in a renewed Jerusalem along with the Jewish people, ultimately recognizing God’s rule over the entire world.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 1-5: God will fight in an apocalyptic battle of Jerusalem…

Zechariah 14:3 זכריה י״ד:ג
The Lord shall go forth and wage war with those nations, like the day he waged war on the day of the battle. וְיָצָ֣א ה’ וְנִלְחַ֖ם בַּגּוֹיִ֣ם הָהֵ֑ם כְּי֥וֹם הִֽלָּחֲמ֖ו בְּי֥וֹם קְרָֽב׃

Verses 6-7: … on a day which is “neither day nor night”.

Zechariah 14:7 זכריה י״ד:ז
It shall be one day that shall be known to the Lord, neither day nor night; and it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light. וְהָיָ֣ה יוֹם־אֶחָ֗ד ה֛וּא יִוָּדַ֥ע לַֽה’ לֹא־י֣וֹם וְלֹא־לָ֑יְלָה וְהָיָ֥ה לְעֵֽת־עֶ֖רֶב יִֽהְיֶה־אֽוֹר׃

Verses 8-11: After the battle, Jerusalem will be renewed and dwell in safety, under God’s kingship.

Zechariah 14:11 זכריה י״ד:י״א
They shall dwell therein, and there shall be no more destruction; but Jerusalem shall dwell in safety. וְיָ֣שְׁבוּ בָ֔הּ וְחֵ֖רֶם לֹ֣א יִֽהְיֶה־ע֑וֹד וְיָשְׁבָ֥ה יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם לָבֶֽטַח׃

Verses 12-15: All those who rise up against Jerusalem will perish from plague.

Zechariah 14:12 זכריה י״ד:י״ב
This shall be the plague with which the Lord will smite all the nations who besieged Jerusalem; his flesh will waste away while he stands on his feet; his eyes will waste away in their sockets, and his tongue shall waste away in his mouth. וְזֹ֣את ׀ תִּֽהְיֶ֣ה הַמַּגֵּפָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִגֹּ֤ף ה’ אֶת־כָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר צָבְא֖וּ עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם הָמֵ֣ק ׀ בְּשָׂר֗וֹ וְהוּא֙ עֹמֵ֣ד עַל־רַגְלָ֔יו וְעֵינָיו֙ תִּמַּ֣קְנָה בְחֹֽרֵיהֶ֔ן וּלְשׁוֹנ֖וֹ תִּמַּ֥ק בְּפִיהֶֽם׃

Verses 16-21: However, the survivors will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people.

Zechariah 14:16 זכריה י״ד:ט״ז
And it will come to pass that everyone left of the nations who came up against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to prostrate to the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to celebrate the festival of Tabernacles. וְהָיָ֗ה כָּל־הַנּוֹתָר֙ מִכָּל־הַגּוֹיִ֔ם הַבָּאִ֖ים עַל־יְרֽוּשָׁלִָ֑ם וְעָל֞וּ מִדֵּ֧י שָׁנָ֣ה בְשָׁנָ֗ה לְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֺת֙ לְמֶ֙לֶךְ֙ ה’ צְבָא֔וֹת וְלָחֹ֖ג אֶת־חַ֥ג הַסֻּכּֽוֹת׃

Connections

As part of a complex discussion about the minimum height of a sukkah wall, the Talmud powerfully envisions God’s physical presence touching Earth as imagined by Zechariah in the Haftarah. However, it concludes that even His spiritual presence (“Shechinah”) never enters man’s domain in the physical world.

Sukkah 5a סוכה ה עמוד א
…But is it not (Zechariah 14:4) written, “On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” [and so the Talmud’s earlier assertion that His spiritual presence always remains at least ten handbreadths above Earth’s surface is incorrect]?

[No: the Shechinah will be] ten handbreadths above the ground.
והכתיב (זכריה יד, ד) ועמדו רגליו ביום ההוא על הר הזיתים

 

 

למעלה מעשרה טפחים

Verse 9 of the Haftarah is used across Jewish liturgy.  It is quoted in “Aleinu”, among other prayers.

Siddur Ashkenaz, Weekday, Shacharit, Concluding Prayers, Aleinu סידור אשכנז, ימי חול, תפילת שחרית, סיום תפילה, עלינו
We therefore hope unto You, the Lord our God, to soon behold the glory of Your might banishing idols from the earth. The false gods will be utterly cut off, to perfect the world as the kingdom of God…. And it is said (Zechariah 14:9): “And the Lord shall become King over all the earth. On that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one.” עַל כֵּן נְקַוֶּה לְךָ ה’ אֱלֺקֵּינוּ לִרְאוֹת מְהֵרָה בְּתִפְאֶֽרֶת עֻזֶּֽךָ לְהַעֲבִיר גִּלּוּלִים מִן הָאָֽרֶץ וְהָאֱלִילִים כָּרוֹת יִכָּרֵתוּן לְתַקֵּן עוֹלָם בְּמַלְכוּת שַׁדַּי… וְנֶאֱמַר וְהָיָה ה’ לְמֶֽלֶךְ עַל כָּל הָאָֽרֶץ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יִהְיֶה ה’ אֶחָד וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד:

Day 2- 1 Kings 8:2-21

King Solomon inaugurated the First Temple on Sukkot, as stated in the opening verse of Sukkot’s second haftarah:

I Kings 8:2 מלכים א ח:ב
And all the men of Israel assembled unto King Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim[2], which (is) the seventh month. וַיִּקָּ֨הֲל֜וּ אֶל־הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה֙ כָּל־אִ֣ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּיֶ֥רַח הָאֵֽתָנִ֖ים בֶּחָ֑ג ה֖וּא הַחֹ֥דֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִֽי׃

With celebration and sacrifices, the King gathers the people to place the Ark in the Holy of Holies, thereby “moving” God’s presence into His “home.” God’s presence appears, but its power prevents the priests from serving in the Temple. In response, Solomon prays that the Temple that he built, in the stead of his father David, be accepted as God’s true dwelling place.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verse 2-5: Solomon gathers the people to inaugurate the Temple.

I Kings 8:5 מלכים א ח:ה
King Solomon, and the entire congregation of Israel assembled unto him, [were] with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen that could neither be counted nor numbered [due to their] multitude. וְהַמֶּ֣לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹ֗ה וְכָל־עֲדַ֤ת יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ הַנּוֹעָדִ֣ים עָלָ֔יו אִתּ֖וֹ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאָר֑וֹן מְזַבְּחִים֙ צֹ֣אן וּבָקָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹֽא־יִסָּפְר֛וּ וְלֹ֥א יִמָּנ֖וּ מֵרֹֽב׃

Verses 6-9: The priests place Ark in the Temple.

I Kings 8:6 מלכים א ח:ו
The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, into the Sanctuary of the House, to the Holy of Holies, under the wings of the cherubim. וַיָּבִ֣אוּ הַ֠כֹּהֲנִים אֶת־אֲר֨וֹן בְּרִית־ה’ אֶל־מְקוֹמ֛וֹ אֶל־דְּבִ֥יר הַבַּ֖יִת אֶל־קֹ֣דֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁ֑ים אֶל־תַּ֖חַת כַּנְפֵ֥י הַכְּרוּבִֽים׃

Verses 10-11: God’s presence fills the Temple, but it is too overwhelming.

I Kings 8:11 מלכים א ח:י״א
The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. וְלֹֽא־יָכְל֧וּ הַכֹּהֲנִ֛ים לַעֲמֹ֥ד לְשָׁרֵ֖ת מִפְּנֵ֥י הֶֽעָנָ֑ן כִּי־מָלֵ֥א כְבוֹד־ה’ אֶת־בֵּ֥ית ה’ (פ)

Verses 12-13: Solomon’s initial prayer to God, that his Temple be sufficient.

I Kings 8:12-13 מלכים א ח:י״ב-י״ג
Then Solomon said, “The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built You a house to dwell in; a settled place for You to dwell in forever.” אָ֖ז אָמַ֣ר שְׁלֹמֹ֑ה ה’ אָמַ֔ר לִשְׁכֹּ֖ן בָּעֲרָפֶֽל׃
בָּנֹ֥ה בָנִ֛יתִי בֵּ֥ית זְבֻ֖ל לָ֑ךְ מָכ֥וֹן לְשִׁבְתְּךָ֖ עוֹלָמִֽים׃

Verses 14-19: God refused King David’s request to build God’s house, promising him that his son would do so.

I Kings 8:15-16 מלכים א ח:ט״ו-ט״ז
He [Solomon] said, “Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, Who spoke with His mouth unto David, my father, and has fulfilled it with His hand, saying: ‘Since the day that I brought forth My people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build a house, that My name might be therein; but I chose David to be over My people Israel.’” וַיֹּ֗אמֶר בָּר֤וּךְ ה’ אֱלֹקי יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁר֙ דִּבֶּ֣ר בְּפִ֔יו אֵ֖ת דָּוִ֣ד אָבִ֑י וּבְיָד֥וֹ מִלֵּ֖א לֵאמֹֽר׃ מִן־הַיּ֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֨ר הוֹצֵ֜אתִי אֶת־עַמִּ֣י אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ מִמִּצְרַיִם֒ לֹֽא־בָחַ֣רְתִּי בְעִ֗יר מִכֹּל֙ שִׁבְטֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לִבְנ֣וֹת בַּ֔יִת לִהְי֥וֹת שְׁמִ֖י שָׁ֑ם וָאֶבְחַ֣ר בְּדָוִ֔ד לִֽהְי֖וֹת עַל־עַמִּ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Verses 20-21: Solomon indeed built the Temple, fulfilling the Divine promise to his father, David.

I Kings 8:20 מלכים א ח:כ
The Lord has established His word that He spoke. I have risen up in the place of David my father. I sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord spoke, and have built a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. וַיָּ֣קֶם ה’ אֶת־דְּבָר֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֵּ֑ר וָאָקֻ֡ם תַּחַת֩ דָּוִ֨ד אָבִ֜י וָאֵשֵׁ֣ב עַל־כִּסֵּ֣א יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל כַּֽאֲשֶׁר֙ דִּבֶּ֣ר ה’ וָאֶבְנֶ֣ה הַבַּ֔יִת לְשֵׁ֥ם ה’ אֱלֹקי יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

 Connections

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, current Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Har Bracha and author of the Peninei Halacha series, relates the clouds that filled the Temple to the process of Divine revelation.

Peninei Halakhah, Days of Awe 10
To grasp the meaning of this cloud of incense smoke, one must first realize that this was patterned on how God revealed Himself to Israel – in the opacity of the cloud… The cloud connotes an exalted and sublime divine revelation, beyond human comprehension. Yet through the fog and cloud, one can reach an understanding of the divine, albeit only partially, in accordance with his capabilities…when the First Temple was dedicated, we read, “The kohanim brought the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to its place underneath the wings of the keruvim, in the Shrine of the House, in the Kodesh Ha-kodashim…. When the kohanim came out of the Kodesh, the cloud had filled the House of the Lord, and the kohanim were unable to stand and serve because of the cloud, for the Presence of the Lord filled the House of the Lord” (1 Melakhim 8:6, 11). First was a sublime, exalted revelation that no human being could endure, and only afterward, from within the cloud and fog, would the divine idea become revealed gradually, according to the abilities of the kohanim.

The talmudic Rabbi Eliezer identifies the biblical name of Tishrei with its greater history.

Rosh Hashanah 11a ראש השנה י״א עמוד א
Rabbi Eliezer says: “From where [in the Bible can one see that] in Tishrei the Patriarchs were born? As [I Kings 8:2] states: ‘And all the men of Israel assembled unto King Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim [the mighty ones], which (is) the seventh month.,” [Tishrei.]’ It is the month in which the mighty ones of the world [the Patriarchs] were born.” ר”א אומר מנין שבתשרי נולדו אבות שנא’ (מלכים א ח, ב) ויקהלו אל המלך שלמה כל איש ישראל בירח האיתנים בחג ירח שנולדו בו איתני עולם

With emendations, biblical translations are by Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg and other translations are from Sefaria.org.

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[1] The Haftarah of the 1st day of Shemini Atzeret serves as a sequel to this Haftarah.  So does the Talmud’s designated Haftarah for its 2nd day (Megillah 31a), although nowadays, we read chapter 1 of Joshua instead.

[2]Biblical months are counted from Nisan. Ethanim is an ancient name for  the seventh month, now known as Tishrei. See Rashi on this topic, https://www.sefaria.org/Rashi_on_I_Kings.8.2.1?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en.