Sukkos 2 5779

The fruit that dwells on its tree from year to year[1]

כתפוח בעצי היער כן דודי בין הבנים וגו’‏
Like a tapuach in the trees of the forest, so too is my beloved amongst the children…[2]

The gemarra asks[3]: why does the verse liken the Jewish people to a tapuach tree? The answer is, to teach us that just like a tapuach tree has its fruit grow before its leaves, so too the Jewish people gave precedence to “we will do” over “we will listen”[4]. While this is a nice, short, lesson, at first glance there are a couple of issues[5]. First, the word tapuach usually refers to an apple. An apple tree does not have its fruit grow before its leaves. Like most fruit trees, the leaves come first. Consequently, some explain that the tapuach here is referring to an esrog. We see this from the verse וריח אפך כתפוחים, the scent of your breath is like tapuchim[6]. The Aramaic translation[7] tells us that its referring to an esrog. We see from here then that a tapuach can also refer to an esrog. This works well because the esrog tree in fact retains its fruit from year to year. When last year’s leaves fall off, new ones take their place. Thus, arriving after the fruit. However, the second question is harder to resolve. This verse, which Chazal say likens the Jewish people to an esrog, is really referring to Hashem[8]! Why do they say it is referring to the Jewish people?

A potential solution to this problem is based on a very deep concept[9]. In many ways, Hashem interacts with us as a reflection to how we act towards Him. There is a verse which states that Hashem is the shade of our right hand[10]. Just like our shadow does whatever we do, so too Hashem. When we turn away from Him, He hides Himself further from us[11]. So too the opposite[12]. Based on this principle, Chazal inferred that since Hashem actions make Him apparent like a tapuach, it must be that the Jewish people’s actions also make them appear like a tapuach. The gemarra therefore asks, in what way are they apparent like a tapuach? From the fact that they said, “we will do” before “we will listen”. This explains how the Jewish people are apparent like a tapuach[13], but in what way does Hashem’s actions make Him appear to be like a tapuach[14]?

Since the tapuach in the verse is established to be referring to an esrog, the answer is readily apparent[15]. The reason why we take an esrog on Sukkos is because the Torah says[16] to take a פרי עץ הדר, literally a beautiful fruit. However, another explanation is the Torah says to take a fruit הדר באילן משנה לשנה, which dwells on its tree from year to year[17]. As stated before, this is referring to an esrog, which stays on the tree for several years. Hashem is the same way. No matter how we behave, Hashem always dwells with us. He may seem distant, or even not here, but He is just like an esrog, and is always with us.

A gut moed!

[1] Based on Chasam Sofer’s Derashos I pg. 51d s.v. הדר הוא לכל חסידיו

[2] Song of Songs 2:3

[3] Shabbos 88a

[4] Exodus 24:7

[5] Tosafos ad. loc. s.v. פריו קודם לעליו

[6] Song of Songs 7:9

[7] Targum ad. loc.

[8] See Rashi to Song of Songs 2:3

[9] The Chasam Sofer cites this from “Chayei Nefesh”, but the citation is emended to say Nefesh HaChaim. This principle is developed in Nefesh HaChaim 1:7-9, but this question is specifically addressed in Chapter 9.

[10] Psalms 121:5. The Chasam Sofer cites אני לדודי ודודי לי (Song of Songs 6:3), but the Nefesh HaChaim doesn’t use this verse

[11] See Deuteronomy 31:18

[12] The Nefesh HaChaim demonstrates this with the Keruvim, which would turn towards each other when the Jewish people are with their G-d, and they would turn away from each other when not (Bava Basra 99a). One of the Keruvim represents the Jewish people, and one represents Hashem. Just as the Jews turn towards their G-d, Hashem responds in kind

[13] Cf. Chasam Sofer to Shabbos loc. cit., who explains the gemarra by saying that Hashem is the esrog tree, but the Jewish people are His children, and thus the fruit of the tree

[14] The Nefesh HaChaim doesn’t address this. The following is the Chasam Sofer’s addition

[15] Pun unintended

[16] Leviticus 23:40

[17] Sukkah 31b, 35a