The Sukkot Cigar

Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (1866-1948), was the third Rebbe of the Gerrer Chassidic dynasty. Rabbi Alter, known as the Imrei Emes, once heard that one of his Chassidim would be traveling to Paris on business.

“I know that one can purchase excellent cigars in Paris,” the Rebbe told the chassid. “Please purchase some for me when you are there.”

Though puzzled by the strange request, the chassid of course agreed to buy cigars while in Paris.

After his business there was completed, the chassid boarded a train heading back to Poland. As they passed through Belgium, he suddenly remembered: he had completely forgotten to purchase the cigars for his Rebbe! He got off at the next town, and bought the finest cigars he could find. 

Boarding the train after this detour, he arrived back in Ger and headed to see his Rebbe, who asked for the cigars.

“Rebbe, I must be honest. I did not purchase these cigars in Paris. On the way home, I made a special stop in Belgium, and got the best Belgian cigars I could find. They are certainly as good quality as Parisian cigars, if not better.”

“My dear son, do you really think that I need cigars from Paris?” said the Rebbe. “I wanted you to remember that even in Paris you have a Rebbe… and you forgot.”

* * *
During the holiday of Sukkot, there are two main mitzvot: Dwelling in the Sukkah, and shaking the “Four Species” of Lulav, etrog, willow and myrtle. Why is the holiday named after the Sukkah instead of the Four Species?

During the holiday, the Torah tells us to shake the Four Species. Do it once a day (except for Shabbat), and you’re good to go; there is no need to shake the Four Species more than once a day.

The Sukkah, on the other hand, has a constant presence through the holiday. Any activity that we would normally do in our homes, we are meant to do in the Sukkah. In fact, our sages state that the Sukkah is our home for the holiday. Thus, even when we are not in the Sukkah, we are still connected to it, for one is always connected to one’s home.

The holiday is named after the Sukkah to remind me that no matter where I go, I am connected. Much like the Sukkah itself, life is temporary, and its only permanent component is our Torah study, prayer, mitzvot and good deeds.

Wishing you a joyous Sukkot,