I want to look at the haftorah for today, שבת סוכות. It’s very strange, an eschatological vision of the future from יחזקאל:
Who or what is גוג? We see משך, תבל and מגוג as the grandchildren of נח:
Notice that this is a war with the children of יפת, not those of חם like מצרים, כנען or בבל; or of שם like עשו, ישמאל or even אשור. Not one of the traditional enemies of Israel. Let’s look at the context of this prophecy:
The end of ספר יחזקאל is a series of mystical visions of the rebuilding of the Temple (he had just lived through the period of destruction of the first Temple while in exile in Babylon). The war with גוג is a war of all the nations of the world against the Jews as the Temple is being rebuilt, after which will begin the Messianic Age. We will not deal with the details of that war directly; for more on that, see the YU Torah To Go article from this year. (I knew someone who was convinced that גוג was a prophecy about ג׳וג׳—George Bush and the war of the prophecy was the Iraq war. But we’ll avoid any political allusions).
But what is the connection with סוכות? We have to look at the haftorah for the first day of סוכות, which is זכריה's vision of the same war (though without naming גוג explicitly):
So the result of this last war will be that the nations of the world will celebrate the holiday of סוכות. It’s almost like an eighth of the seven Noachide laws. There’s a cute mnemonic for those seven:
אבר מן החי
Eating a limb torn from a live animal
System of courts
This prophecy adds a ח, חג, the Talmudic name for חג הסוכות.
Notice that the punishment for not observing סוכות is a lack of rain. We previously (in the shiur for פרשת עקב) that rain is the symbol of ה׳'s providence, and that rivers like the Nile remove the feeling of dependence on ה׳. But that dependence is still there; ה׳ controls the rivers as well (ישעיהו נ:ב) אשים נהרות מדבר. Even Egypt, where the Nile never ceases, will have to celebrate סוכות.
As the Mishna says:
But why is סוכות a holiday for the nations, as opposed to the other holidays? We have to go back to the “boring” parts of the Torah, the list of the Musaf offerings:
This is so boring that even Artscroll got it wrong; they have a table of all the holiday offerings and in the first edition of the Artscroll Chumash, had 7 lambs rather than 14 (they’ve fixed it since). The עולות, the burnt offerings, are:
It is immediately clear that for the rams and sheep, סוכות has twice the offerings and for the oxen, much more than twice. It is almost as if סוכות has a double מוסף. Rabbi Leibtag connects this to the double nature of סוכות; it is both a רגל, a pilgrimage festival like פסח and שבועות, and one of the יומים נוראים, a day of judgment, part of the season that includes ראש השנה and יום כפור. We will see more about that later.
Rabbi Hirsch has a different perspective:
As the Gemara says:
There’s even a hint in the wording of the parasha. In almost every other מוסף (במדבר כח:יט,לא; כט:ח) the wording is תמימם יהיו לכם. On סוכות, the wording is simply (במדבר כט:יג) תמימם יהיו. (ראש השנה is also leaves out the לכם, but as we saw above, that’s also a “universal” holiday.)
So סוכות is, even before the Messianic Age, a holiday for the entire world, even if the entire world doesn’t recognize it. Our dependence on rain is a symbol of our dependence on ה׳'s providence, just as the סוכה itself is a symbol of our dependence. The result of the war of the אחרית הימים, when ה׳ shows that His rain can turn from a blessing to a curse (גשם שוטף ואבני אלגביש; אש וגפרית אמטיר), will be that all the nations will recognize that dependence: