Shaya Cohen -


Creative Conundrums


Who Invents the Idea of a Sukkah?

Where does the concept of a Sukkah come from?

וְיַעֲקֹב֙ נָסַ֣ע סֻכֹּ֔תָה וַיִּ֥בֶן ל֖וֹ בָּ֑יִת וּלְמִקְנֵ֙הוּ֙ עָשָׂ֣ה סֻכֹּ֔ת עַל־כֵּ֛ן קָרָ֥א שֵׁם־הַמָּק֖וֹם סֻכּֽוֹת׃ {ס}        

And Jacob journeyed … built him a house, and made sukkos for his cattle.

Jacob had left Lavan and then Esau in his rear view mirror, and was headed into Canaan. So he left a place of danger, and was going into the promised land… and chose to build sukkos for his flock, and a house for himself.

Isn’t this the first time any of the Avos build anything for dwelling? Does that make it particularly significant?

Isn’t it a little … coincidental that, after G-d takes us out of danger, out of Egypt, and leads us on the road toward Canaan, that He also chooses to build sukkos for his flock (the people), and a house (the Mikdash/Mishkan) for His own presence?

Is it possible that Jacob invented sukkos, and that G-d was emulating Jacob’s actions? And if so, could this be true for Sukkos as well as the Mishkan?

What Do Sukkot Symbolize?

When we leave Egypt, we dwell in a place called Sukkot. It is there that we are given timeless mitzvot (like Tefillin, dedication of the firstborn and the commandment to establish a night of everlasting watchfulness). Sukkot seems to exist both on the way from Padan Aram and Egypt.

So does Sukkah perhaps represent a state of mind or transition more than a specific physical place?

If so, might this explain why each and every sukkah built is legitimate for the people who dwell in it – that it comes down the state of mind of those who make the sukkah their own?

Four Species – A Different Understanding?

[These ideas are from my brother – email me for his blog address]

Could the Four Species represent the pinnacle of our relationship with G-d, the aspiration of any marriage: Paired Desire, and Paired Gifts?

Palm: Kapot Temarim

The Lulov (palm branches) points to heaven. Might it represent our desire to be with G-d?

Our desire for relationship is symbolized by Tamar, who was willing to do anything necessary to remain connected to the future of the people.

Tamar took things into her own palms – her kapot. She did it in order to remain a part of the Jewish people and of the divine relationship. By waving the Palm, the Kapot Temarim, we are showing our desire to be with G-d.

Myrtle: the anaf eitz avot?

So what is the symbolic meaning of the Anaf ‘Tree’ of Avot? Anaf does not appear elsewhere in the Chumash. Which makes it a mysterious word – as mysterious, perhaps, as understanding why G-d desires us?

Avot (with an ayin) is used to describe the gold braid/chain that wraps around the stones on the Choshen (breastplate) and Ephod (shoulder-piece). It links and ties things together: the priest, the people, and G-d.

With this chain, G-d seems to be embracing our people and enabling the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) to carry a representation of us into the Holy Mishkan (Tabernacle).

So might the Anaf Eitz Avot represents G-d’s mysterious desire to be tied with us?

Together: the Palm (Temarim) and Myrtle (Anaf Eitz Avot) may represent the desire we have for G-d, and His desire for us!

What about the other two of the four species?

Citron: pri etz hadar

Throughout the Torah, fruit are a gift from G-d. This is why we can’t bring fruit as offerings: they are made by G-d, and except for bikkurim to acknowledge G-d as the source of our abundance, fruit aren’t ours to offer.

What is the most beautiful tree – the most beautiful gift from G-d? Isn’t it our bris, our covenant with G-d?

And isn’t the Torah the everlasting fruit of that beautiful tree?

If so, might the pri etz hadar, the fruit of the enduring tree, represent G-d’s gift to us, the Torah?

Willows: Arvei Nachal:

The Aravot (willow) drinks in the waters of the stream and creates life. Water represents the spiritual in the Torah. The willow thus might represent the Jewish people; drinking in the spiritual waters?

Bilaam describes us as G-d’s nachal, watering the world. It is a theme that recurs again and again. Are we not G- d’s spiritual stream? Are we not here to elevate the world?

Erev, twilight, mixes night and day. Likewise, we mix our world with His and the physical and the spiritual. We are a cross-over people. We are here to connect the physical and spiritual planes.

Might the Arvei Nachal thus represent our gift to G-d, bringing His presence into the world? Do we not take the water of Torah and elevate it toward shamayim?

Taken together, might these four items named in the Torah represent G-d’s gift to us, our gift to G-d, and our mutual desire to draw close to one another?

This parsha question sheet takes the approach of reading the Chumash very closely. It is assumed that every letter and word has meaning, and all questions can be answered (at least every one we have come up so far!) So you’ll find the questions offered every week are deeply textual, seeking relevance to our lives today from the foundational document for Judaism and indeed all of Western Civilization.

This sheet is distributed with the general approval of Rabbi Rose.

Our answers can be found at (use the search tool). Or email me at

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