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Sukah 49

SUKA 36-56 (End of Maseches) have been dedicated by the wife and daughters of the late Dr. Simcha Bekelnitzky (Simcha Gedalya ben Shraga Feibush) of Queens N.Y. Well known in the community for his Chesed and Tzedakah, he will long be remembered.


QUESTION: The Gemara quotes the verse, "How beautiful are your footsteps... daughter of the generous one" (Shir ha'Shirim 7:2), and says that this verse is praising the Jewish people for being Oleh l'Regel three times a year, calling them "the daughter of the generous one" ("Bas Nediv"). "Nediv" refers to Avraham Avinu, who is called "Nediv" (c.f. Tehilim 47:10), because he was the first person to convert, meaning that he was the first to generously dedicate his heart to recognizing his Creator (RASHI).

Why is this praise applied to the Jewish people specifically at the time when they are Oleh l'Regel -- what is the connection between going to Yerushalayim at the time of the festival, and being referred to as the "daughter of Avraham?" Furthermore, why is Avraham Avinu referred to in this context as "Nediv," the first to convert?


(a) The MAHARSHA explains why the Jewish people are praised as the daughter of Avraham Avinu when they are Oleh l'Regel. Besides being the first of converts, he was also the first to go up to the place of the Mikdash (Har ha'Moriyah) in order to offer a Korban (his son, Yitzchak). The Jewish people follow in his ways when they go to offer Korbanos in the Mikdash on the festival.

The Maharsha does not explain, though, why the Gemara mentions the praise that Avraham was the first of converts. The ETZ YOSEF explains that for Avraham, converting entailed separating himself from his homeland and his father's household in order to travel to a distant land (c.f. Bereishis 12:1). In that sense, the people who are Oleh l'Regel are similar to converts; they separate themselves from their households, leaving everything behind in order to go to the Beis ha'Mikdash in Yerushalayim.

(b) The CHIDA (in Pesach Einayim) suggests that our Gemara is based on the Midrash BEREISHIS RABA 43:9. The Midrash states that as reward for refusing to accept from Malki-Tzedek "a thread ('Chut') or a shoestrap ('Seroch Na'al')," Avraham was blessed that his descendants offered Korbanos on the Mizbe'ach (which was encircled with a "Chut" -- painted strip -- of red dye) and were given the Mitzvah of Aliyah l'Regel. The Midrash goes on to quote the verse cited by our Gemara, "Ma Yafu... *ba'Ne'alim*."

(This, again, explains why the Mitzvah of Aliyah l'Regel is related to Avraham, but not why Avraham is referred to as "the first of converts" in this context.)

(b) The Gemara in Berachos (17b) states that shortly before Pesach and Sukos, when the Jews in Bavel would gather together to learn Torah at the "Yarchei Kalah" in order to prepare for the festival, a great Kidush Hashem occurred. There was a tremendous inspiration for the surrounding nations to come and convert when they saw the immense glory of Hashem as everyone gathered together in a large assembly to learn Torah in preparation to perform the Mitzvos of the festival.

The Midrash (Midrash Rabah to Shir ha'Shirim 1:15) compares the Jewish people to a Yonah, a pigeon, in several ways. One reason the Jewish people are compared to a Yonah is because there is a type of Yonah which, when fed, gives off a scent that attracts other pigeons to its nest. Similarly, when the Chachamim gather the people to teach Torah, the nations who hear of them come and convert.

In a similar vein, Rashi comments on the verse in the blessing given to the tribe of Zevulun, "Amim Har Yikra'u" -- "Nations will gather at the mountain" (Devarim 33:19) that these "nations" refer to the Jewish people who gather at "the mountain" of Har ha'Moriyah and offer Korbanos to Hashem on the Regalim. It also refers to the nations of the world who come to Eretz Yisrael to do business, and while there gather at Har ha'Moriyah and see the Jewish people gathered there serving Hashem. They become so impressed that they convert. Combining the two Derashos, we may infer that they come at the time that the Jews are Oleh l'Regel, and that is when the great assembly of Jews performing the will of Hashem in unison makes an impression on them and they convert (as seen from the above-quoted Midrashim).

When the Jewish people conduct themselves in a way which inspires the nations to convert, they are referred to as "the daughter of Avraham," who was the first to convert and to inspire others to follow him (c.f. Bereishis 12:5). That is why the Gemara quotes the verse, "The noblemen of the nations gathered [to join] the nation of the G-d of *Avraham*" (Tehilim 47:10) -- i.e. they gathered in order to become part of the Jewish people, to convert (as the Maharsha explains) and follow in the ways of Avraham. Therefore, when the Jewish people are Oleh l'Regel and inspire the nations to convert, they are called "Bas Nediv," for they are following the ways of Avraham who led the way for converts. (M. Kornfeld)

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