Reviews of Succos Inspired:

Torah Book Reviews

Succos Inspired, as its name implies, is full of inspirational divrei Torahrelating to Sukkot. It contains fifteen chapters that are divided into four units. Each unit focuses on a particular theme of the holiday. For example, the first unit is an extensive discussion on the meaning of the Clouds of Glory and their connection to Sukkot. One of my favorite pieces in this unit was the fascinating connection between the famous dispute on whether one should engage in full time study, or rather, work in order to make a living (the dispute between Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Ishmael) and the different interpretations of the symbolism of the Sukka (the dispute between Rabba and Rava).

 

The second unit focuses on the mitzva of dwelling in the Sukka. The third unit is on the arba minim, with some especially neat teachings on thearba minim that I am seeing for the first time. And, finally, the fourth unit “The Soul of Succos” is a ‘variety’ unit, including entries on Shemeni Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

 

The essays are spiced with other related teachings and welcome tangents, as well. There is much emphasis onsimcha, unity and ahavat yisrael that Sukkot has to offer. Here’s an excerpt that can be "given over" at the Shabbat or Yom Tov table:

 

The Tur says that the chag of Succos is related to Yaakov Avinu:

 

• Avraham Avinu: Our pillar of chesed corresponds to the human action of resembling Hashem. Avraham’s forte was kindness, representing the right hand, the dominant side through which our actions are performed. The verse says Avraham comes from the words av hamon goyim, meaning the“father of many nations.” All nations (Jewish and non-Jewish) have the ability to express their creativity and potential.

 

• Yitzchak Avinu: Our depiction of avoda and self-nullification corresponds to emuna and awareness of Hashem. Yitzchak was offered as a sacrifice and was found praying in the fields. He is likened to the left hand, as it is weaker in its ability to express ourselves. It is in this weakness that Yitzchak found his strength — recognizing that we are weak without Hashem and our power comes from that connection. Yitzchak comes from the word schok, to laugh. With his perspective, he was able to laugh at his yetzer hara and the physical world that attempts to pull us away from our mission.

 

• Yaakov Avinu: The face of Torah and truth. He spent his youth learning Torah and his life living by its principles. He represents the middle path — the balance between human ingenuity and simple faith in Hashem. He specialized in fusing the two worlds together. When he learned Torah and performed the mitzvos, he connected the will of Hashem to the actions of a person by way of the material world we live in. The Torah is the vehicle that connects the heavens and the earth. Yaakov is spelledYud–Akev. The letter yud represents the world of spirituality. The Midrash says that Olam Haba was created with the letter yud and Olam Hazeh with the letter hei. Akev means heal, the very bottom of the body. Yaakov had the ability to connect the worlds of the heavens to the very bottom of the earth.

 

Avraham and Yitzchak are like the walls and the sechach:

 

• Just like Avraham Avinu, the walls of the succah represent our ability to contain and express Hashem in the world.

• Similar to Yitzchak’s view of reality, the sechach symbolizes our capacity to recognize that Hashem is always watching over us.

• Together, the characteristics of Avraham and Yitzchak create a succah that forges a balanced relationship between the two. It is for this balance that Succos corresponds to Yaakov Avinu, the balance between both dimensions.

 

This book may very well be the first English language, exclusive Sukkot reader, that focuses on hashkafa, rather than halacha. The essays are interesting and well-written. The author promised us a book that will inspire us for Sukkot, and he has delivered.

 

The Jewish Star

Every so often a book hits the shelves that changes the conversation. In his captivating new book, “Succos Inspired: Discovering Depth, Joy & Meaning,” Rabbi Moshe Gersht manages to infuse new life into the holiday of Succos.

A holiday rich with meaning, too often we find ourselves with little time to prepare spiritually for Succos. With the short time after Yom Kippur to get our sukkas build and decorated and cook all the festive meals, during chol chamoed might be the time to get the most out of the latter part of the holiday. 

Uplifting, insightful and easy to digest, Rabbi Gersht’s book has been lauded for looking at Succos in a new light by such leading Torah luminaries as Rabbi Abraham. J. Twerski, MD; Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller; Rabbi Akiva Tatz, and Rabbi Shlomo Katz. The book has received letters of blessing and approbation from Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, Rabbi Dovid Cohen, and Rabbi Zev Leff, plus many well-earned accolates.

Making Aliyah from his home in Los Angeles nearly a decade ago, Rabbi Moshe Gersht lives in Jerusalem with his wife and family. He has spent years studying under Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld, Rabbi Chaim Ilson, and Rabbi Asher Arieli, and his approach to Jewish thought is heavily influenced by the teachings of the Maharal, the Ramchal and the Chassidic masters.

When Rabbi Gersht isn’t peeling back the layers of a Torah topic or revealing the rich meaning of a Yom Tov, he enjoys composing music. “Succos Inspired” is his first book.

When asked what sets this book apart from other Succos books, Rabbi Gersht said, “They basically don’t exist.”

“There is one other book strictly on Succos, called ‘Sukkos Secrets,’ that I know of,” he said. “However most material written in English is compiled together with the Yomim Noraim.

“Even on Heb-rew bookshelves, there are only a handful of books that discuss Succos, and they are almost all written in the last fifty years. There are many books on the halachos of Succah and the lulav and esrog, but what we are discussing here are books on the deep ideas and secrets that exist under the surface of the holiday and it’s mitzvos. ‘Succos Inspired’ paints a picture of what the deeper reasons are to what we are celebrating and shows how they apply to our lives today.”

In general, even though the vast majority of the time Rabbi Moshe Gersht is learning through shas and poskim, he spends a considerable amount of time delving into the more hidden esoteric parts of the Torah searching for the secrets of life that are buried within. In his fourth year in Yeshivas Mir, they arrived at Maseches Succah.

As he was preparing for the wonderful summer session of learning, he made the decision to not only learn the more revealed halachik aspects of the masechta, but to fully engage himself in the holiday through learning all the depth in mussar, chasidus and machshava he could find on the subject.

Simultaneously, Rabbi Gersht, who had already longed to share his Torah with the world, was looking for a way to give back without leaving his fulltime seat in the Beis Midrash.

A longtime mentor of his, Rabbi Yosef Lynn (Mashgiach of Machon Yaakov), had suggested writing out pieces of Torah that spoke to his heart and give them to other educators to use as platforms for classes. In doing so, he could maintain his regular learning and also begin to feel the gift of giving.

With these two events happening side by side, Rabbi Gersht decided the way he was going to give over and retain the beautiful Torah he was preparing to learn was to transform it into a sefer that would be user friendly to the English speaking community. He had noticed that Succos in a large way had become the forgotten holiday, and he felt this would be a great opportunity to share the wealth of Torah with those who didn’t have access to the sefarim in Lashon Hakodesh.

 

Baltimore Jewish Times

Sukkot, coming just days after Yom Kippur and needing much preparation for the
holiday, is about much more than the sukkah itself, and Rabbi Moshe
Gersht’s new book helps readers navigate these deeper spiritual
aspects of the holiday.

“The sukkah is like a new pair of lenses through which we gain a fresh
perspective of ourselves, the Jewish people and Hashem,” he writes.

In the first four chapters, Gersht unpacks the essence of Sukkot to
more fully understand the reasons for celebrating. In the next
chapters, he delves into the mitzvot of the holiday, tackles the
concept of faith and addresses the sukkah in terms of the two worlds
it represents: the
“temporality of this world” and the “infinite true world and the
atmosphere of joy we all await,”
ultimately a place that “fosters unity and growth.”

Gersht also offers sometimes surprising connections behind the four
species of etrog, lulav, hadasim and aravot used during holiday and
the significance they hold.

The final section of the book looks into the “Soul of Succos,” gently
guiding the reader into the most introspective chapters of the book
and suggests that the holiday is about experiencing and expressing our
spirituality through the
physical world.

Along with Gersht’s inspirational prose-filled book, there is a free
study guide available to download at succosinspired.com, which allows
review of the material and can inspire conversation and deeper
exploration with fellow readers.