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The Fourth Day of Sukkot – The Ushpizin of Moshe Rabbenu

The fourth day of the holiday of Sukkot is the Ushpizin of Moshe Rabbenu (the day when Moshe "visits" us in the Sukka). Some Rabbis have noted that this day will always fall on the same day of the week as the seventh of Adar, the date of which Moshe was born and on which he passed away. If the fourth day of Sukkot falls on a Tuesday, for example, then the previous 7 Adar also fell on Tuesday. Likewise, the fifth day of Sukkot, which is the Ushpizin of Aharon Ha’kohen, will always fall on the same day of the week as Rosh Hodesh Ab, the date of Aharon’s passing. If the fifth day of Sukkot fell on Wednesday, for example, then the previous Rosh Hodesh Ab also fell on a Wednesday.

It has been suggested that God alluded to this similarity between Moshe and Aharon when He said to Moshe that he would die "as your brother Aharon died" (Debarim 32:51). God informed Moshe that just as Aharon died on the same day of the week as his Ushpizin, he, too, would die on the same day of the week as the fourth day of Sukkot, the Ushpizin of Moshe.

The Sages teach us that Moshe had several names, including names containing the Name of God, such as Yekutiel, and other names with profound spiritual meaning, such as Abigdor. Curiously, however, the primary name by which he is known is "Moshe," the name given to him by Pharaoh’s daughter when she saved him from the Nile River. She gave him this name because, in her words, "Min Ha’mayim Mishitihu" ("I drew him from the water" – Shemot 2:10). The obvious question arises, why, of all of Moshe’s names, is he most commonly known by the name that signifies the very ordinary act of "drawing" from the water? Why do we not refer to him by one of his other names, which have such profound spiritual meaning?

The answer, perhaps, lies in a deeper look at the incident of Moshe’s retrieval from the river. Pharaoh’s daughter, Batya, was bathing in the river (according to some sources, she was immersing as part of her conversion) and saw Moshe’s basket at a distance, beyond arm’s reach. The Midrash teaches that her arm miraculously extended beyond its actual length, enabling Batya to draw Moshe from the river. Significantly, Batya outstretched her arm despite knowing that she could not reach the basket. Her actions in this incident thus convey the critical lesson that when one extends himself to the fullest, exerting maximum effort in the pursuit of a worthy goal, God will then step in to do the rest. As the old saying goes, "God helps those who help themselves." Many people in Batya’s position would not have bothered putting in the effort to draw the infant from the water. But Batya set for herself a goal, and did her utmost to achieve it. And when human capabilities end, God’s intervention begins. When Batya’s arm extended to its maximum length, God then stepped in to stretch it further. A person should never despair and just give up when faced with an important challenge, formidable as it may be. Once he exerts the best effort he can, maximizing his full capabilities, God will then ensure that he will reach the finish line.

"Moshe" was thus the most appropriate name for the future leader of Beneh Yisrael, who rescued them from Egypt, brought them the Torah, and led them for forty years in the wilderness. Throughout his life, Moshe faced enormous challenges, and accomplished many remarkable things, in his role as Beneh Yisrael’s leader, teacher and prophet. He confronted many situations in which one would have likely thought, "There’s no hope, I shouldn’t bother." But if Moshe had approached these challenges with such an attitude, he would not have been Moshe Rabbenu. And so from the earliest age, he was reminded – through his name – that his life was spared thanks to the bold efforts of Batya. Throughout his life, he carried with him this message of "Moshe," of not shying away from challenges, and trusting that God will ensure the success of his endeavors once he invests maximum effort.

The Torah says that at the miracle of the sea, Beneh Yisrael beheld "the mighty hand that Hashem had used in Egypt" (Shemot 14:31). On the simple level of interpretation, of course, this refers to the great wonders and miracles that God had performed against the Egyptians. On the level of "Derash," however, this verse perhaps refers to the "mighty hand" of Batya, which God extended after she had outstretched her arm to its furthermost limits. Upon seeing the great miracle of the sea, Beneh Yisrael recognized how God steps in to help people once they have exerted themselves to their maximum capabilities.

This is a worthwhile lesson to internalize, particularly on the fourth day of Sukkot, the Ushpizin of Moshe Rabbenu. If we don’t try, if we just give up before we even begin, then we will not earn God’s special assistance and intervention. We must follow the example of Batya, and put in our best effort, trusting that Hashem will do the rest.

May the great merit of Moshe Rabbenu, the "faithful shepherd," protect us and all Am Yisrael, Amen.


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