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A Message for Sukkot

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Taking the Water Drawing Ceremony of ancient times as his point of departure, the Chief Rabbi teaches that even in the largest of gatherings, each one of us can make a difference.

In Temple times, during the festival of Sukkot, a great celebration took place at the Temple – it was called the Simchat Bet Hashoevah, the Water Drawing Ceremony. The Talmud in Mesechet Sukkah (53) tells us that when Hillel the Elder would arrive at the Temple and would see so many thousands of people, he would declare ‘Im Ani Kan, Hakol Kan, If I am here, everyone is here’.

It sounds as if he was suggesting with arrogance: ‘Ladies and Gentleman, I have arrived, so everybody who counts is now here, let the show commence’. But this doesn’t tally with the renowned reputation that Hillel had for his humility.

Our Mepharashim, our commentators, therefore explain that Hillel was actually giving a message to everybody present – ‘Look, this is an incredible occasion at which there are thousands of people, I am sure some of you might have thought this evening, let’s stay at home, what difference will a few people here and there make?’ No said Hillel, if every single person would think that way, there would be nobody here at all.

‘If every single person would think that way, there would be nobody here at all’

You could compare this for example, to a General Election. I am sure it has sometimes crossed your mind – ‘Do I really need to go and cast my vote? Has any candidate ever actually won by one single vote?’ But Hillel’s message to us would be that if everyone thought that way, you just wouldn’t have an election at all.

When you have large gatherings of people, that highlights for us how important each participant actually is.

The Talmud tells us that when you are in a gathering of more than 600,000 people, you recite a Bracha and the Bracha that you recite is Baruch Ata HaShem Elokeinu Melech Haolam Chacham Harazim, Blessed are you our Lord our God who is the master of the secrets of every individual.

‘Huge crowds are made up of individuals’

Isn’t that amazing? You might have thought the Bracha would relate the huge crowd, but actually it relates to each individual person.

That was Hillel’s message. Huge crowds are made up of individuals.

Let’s therefore learn from Hillel at this time of Sukkot. Let’s contribute to the best of our ability, to our families, to our society and to our nation. Let all of us say, ‘If I am here then everyone is here’.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.