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Issue 19 | Sukkot | The Baal Shem Tov’s Sukkah

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THE BAAL SHEM TOV’S SUKKAH 
A True Leader 

How would you resolve the following religious quandary: You have the option of observing a particular mitzvah in the best possible manner, or you can help another person, but at the risk of compromising the performance level of your own mitzvah? 

You can sit in a most beautiful Sukkah built to the highest standards of the law, or you can assist another person, but that requires you to sit in a Sukkah that may not be truly up to par – which do you choose? 

This question, naturally, reflects a much larger question of spiritual priorities: Is it more important to take care of your own religions needs, or those of another, even if it compromises you to some extent? Obviously, we do both if possible. But in a situation where you have to choose one over the other, which takes precedent: Your own growth or assisting another? 

An unusual Sukkot story about the Baal Shem Tov helps guide us in resolving this dilemma: The Misnagdishe sages of Mezibush did not approve of the Baal Shem Tov’s Sukkah. They debated with him about the standards of its kashrut. Finally, miraculously, the Baal Shem Tov showed them a note from heaven, stating that his Sukkah was indeed kosher. 

This story contains a tremendous lesson for us regarding the meaning of Sukkot, the role of a true leader and the power we have to transform liabilities into assets. It also teaches us about religious arrogance and the great responsibility we have to help others even when we may be compromising ourselves.

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