Monday, September 04, 2006

The Sukkah: In Loving Memory of David Applebaum הי"ד

[Tuesday Night, 13 Elul 5766, marks the third yahrzeit of my friend Rabbi Dr. David Applebaum הי"ד. Hardly a day goes by without my thinking of him or quoting him. In his memory, לעילוי נשמתו, I'd like to share a דבר תורה that I heard from him, and which had a profound impact on my life. He told it to me as we were once walking to the Kotel, through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. I was telling him about my father ז"ל and how, decades later, I had still not recovered from the blow of his death. David, in typical fashion, told me a vort that he'd heard from Reb Aharon Soloveitchik זצ"ל, which he delivered (as those of you who knew him can guess) in his perfect imitation of his master's voice.]

At the end of the Book of Job, God dramatically appears to Job out of the whirlwind and says: 'Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast the understanding' (Job 37, 2-4).

The Midrash, though, says that God simply showed Job a Sukkah.

Why, asked Reb Ahron, a Sukkah? As we all know, a kosher Sukkah requires two full walls and a bit of a third wall. This, on the face of it, is odd because anyone can tell you that a real building requires four walls. So why should a sukkah require only 2.1? The truth is, though, that the Sukkah really has four walls. The remaining walls exist, in our imagination. The Halakhah is that one must use one's imagination and 'see' the remaining walls.

The same is true of our relationship with our departed loved ones. They are not physically here. However, Halakhah requires us to use our imaginations and to continue our relationship with them based upon what we know they might say or think or feel. That ongoing relationship is very real and very tangible, just like the ostensibly 'missing' walls of the sukkah, which really exist.

As we approached the steps leading down to the Kotel, I remember my eyes welled up with tears. 'You know, David,' I told him, 'this is the first time I've been reaaly consoled since my father died. עקיבא ניחמתנו, עקיבא ניחמתנו!'

And so, ידיד נפשי , that is exactly the way that I keep up our friendship: in my imagination, in the best tradition of בית בריסק.

[Note: I believe that Rav Ahron was referring to Yalqut Shimoni, Iyyov, 927 s.v. יכרו.]


Tzemach Atlas said...

What happened?

Tzemach Atlas said...

Oh yes, he was the doctor that was killed with his daughter in a restaurant in Moshava Germanit. I did not know him but I was thinking about him last week. I think about him and it gives me strength. Thank you very much for your Dvar Torah.

Anonymous said...

well said and remembered.
can you explain how sukkah fits back into Job. (The vort has legs without it but still...)

Anonymous said...

That is God's argument to Job (at least according to Rambam) - as a human, you only have a limited perspective, and there is really much more there behind the scenes.


Jeffrey said...

Very nice and no doubt correct.
Thank you,