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THE FALLEN SUKKAH OF DAVID : R. Gedaliah Aharon Kenig


The sukkah is associated with King David. It is thus called the “Sukkah of David.” It could have been called by another name, like the “Sukkah of Israel” or the “Sukkah of Moses,” yet our sages connect sukkah to King David.

The fourth evening of the holiday of Sukkot marks the yahrzeit of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, who is referred to as the nachal novea mekor chochma—“the flowing river, source of wisdom” (Prov. 18:4). He proclaimed an astounding concept to the world: “There is no such thing as despair!” Nothing in the world is beyond hope.

How can such a claim be made when everything points in the opposite direction? Everyone experiences situations textured with despair to the point that it appears the entire world has ended. Everything seems black, with no glimmer of light. The despair these situations engender is called the “Fallen Sukkah of David.”

Yet Rebbe Nachman asserts, “There is no such thing as despair.” Although it is impossible to avoid difficult situations, the mind possesses a special power that can prevent one from falling completely during hard times. On Sukkot we pray: “May the Compassionate One raise for us the ‘Fallen Sukkah of David.’” Conceptually, the Sukkah of David represents a spiritually cleansed mind connected to a higher spiritual level, a place beyond our own intellectual perception of the world.


According to the kabbalah, the sukkah represents the levels of perception beyond the conscious mind called makifim or “external intellect.” In contrast, pnimim or “internal intellect” is the knowledge we have successfully acquired. These two levels are dynamically related; when the higher intellect enters our mind enabling us to understand it, the new insight becomes encompassed within our internal intellect.

Makifim are those levels of understanding that transcend intellectual grasp. They surround and hover above the conscious mind, radiating understanding into the internal intellect. It is this upper level of intellect surrounding the mind that is called sukkah. This is similar to a physical sukkah, which completely surrounds us. During the holiday of Sukkot, we are required to enter the sukkah with our entire body, which includes the head, our intellect. Without the entire body entering the sukkah, the mitzvah of sukkah remains unfulfilled.

“David merited the crown of malchut—kingship.”[1] The physical universe and everything that occurs within it, is part of the lower level of the World of Action, and connected to the kabbalistic sefira of malchut. Malchut itself possesses a type of “intellect” expressed as the animating intelligence contained by everything in the world. This intelligence corresponds to King David and the lower internal intellect mentioned earlier. The crown of King David, however, symbolizes the higher surrounding intellect, corresponding to the concept of sukkah.

When we don’t understand why things are a certain way in the world, the power of faith should be exercised. Faith draws down the highest light into any situation. If you believe that there is a G-d Above Who governs the world, you won’t dismiss something as meaningless just because you don’t understand it. On the contrary, despite your current inability to understand, you will know everything is functioning according to a Higher Plan which is just and fair. This faith will then illuminate your entire reality. In every situation, you now connect the upper surrounding intellect, called sukkah, to the lower internalized intellect, corresponding to your current perception of how the physical world operates. When you believe that whatever happens is governed from Above, it is clear that it is good.

“When I dwell in darkness, G-d will be a light for me.”[2] Even if I am sitting in darkness and don’t understand what is happening, if I nonetheless believe that everything is just and fair because it is supervised by G-d, then this faith is a light for me. Despite the darkness, it does not even occur to me to despair, since the same governing Power that brought me here to this situation or state of mind will do everything for my good and ultimately take me out of this darkness.

Through this expression of lower intellect, you will now attain the higher intellect, called sukkah. The merging of these two intellects is called the “Sukkah of David,” which occurs when your perception of the way the world operates (Malchut David) is joined with the upper surrounding intellect (sukkah). The opposite occurs when the two are separated, a division caused by thinking everything is under the jurisdiction of nature and human agency. “David” is separated from sukkah—our perception of this world is separated from the upper intellect, faith in Divine governance of the world. This state is called “The Fallen Sukkah of David.”

Thus, when Rebbe Nachman says, “There is no such thing in the world as despair,” he is drawing down the highest light into the human heart to give us the ability to understand that regardless of the difficulties we experience, there is a higher Power in charge of every detail in the world. The process of attaining this level of understanding is called “raising the fallen sukkah of David.” Sukkat David is the rectified state of mind where the upper and lower intellect are united.


G-d created us in order to know Him. How is it possible for a limited physical human being to know G-d,Who is infinite? It is only possible to know G-d through facing the difficult challenges in life, and strengthening ourselves to get through them.

During times when it is extremely difficult to find G-d, one may fall, since it seems that G-d doesn’t exist. The difficulty of the search itself brings one to a state of nothingness. By strengthening oneself during these moments, the very obstacles which prevented perception of G-d, can be transformed into a vessel for Divine light.

Sometimes we undergo bitter situations where our understanding disappears completely. Even though we want to believe in G-d, we live inside a dark cloud. However much we search, we cannot find Him. This is a very dangerous situation, because we are unable to see G-d in spite of a sincere desire to find Him. What can we do?

Rebbe Nachman has advice for this dilemma as well. Cry out, “G-d! Where are You? I don’t see you, but I believe You are here! Where are You?” These cries will eventually enable you to return to your proper place, because the question of “Where are You?” indicates a belief in the existence of the thing for which you are searching. You believe G-d is present, but you just don’t know where. The repeated cries of “Where are You?” from the depths of the heart are answered with,“Here! Deeply inside, where You have always been.”

“The whole world is filled with His Glory.” One begins to sense G-d’s direct supervision over every detail. Anything that seemed unjust or unfair is now understood as being orchestrated in a wondrous way for the good. Only by passing through darkness and obstacles can we draw closer to G-d, which is a fulfillment of the Divine will.

Sometimes during difficult times, we say, “Oy! This is too much! I’ve had enough obstacles and darkness! I’m finished!” This way of thinking is erroneous, since we were not created to remain on a single level. On the contrary, we were created to continually ascend from level to level. Difficult situations are necessary in order to progress and come closer to G-d. The message of Rebbe Nachman is that it shouldn’t even occur to a person to despair and think, “I can’t go on.” Strengthen yourself over and over again, and eventually you will make it through.

There is always a limit to difficulties because G-d doesn’t leave us in difficult straits forever. The only purpose of obstacles is to create a vessel to receive light. Material obstacles and the vessels they can create have measure and definition. However, G-d’s light is unlimited. We need only to strengthen ourselves and not give up. Sometimes one becomes so weak in the last moment and loses everything. This is a shame, since at that very moment a vessel is being completed to receive a higher light. At the end, the darkness can become so overwhelming that we think we are lost and give up completely, G-d forbid.

Constantly strengthening oneself is the secret to our existence. There is no book in the world that can tell the entire awesome story of what the Jewish people have undergone since inception. Yet, despite everything, we continue to exist. This is only because of our patience, trust, and will to strengthen ourselves anew each time, despite constant suffering. We will continue to develop, and with the help of G-d, we will exist until the end, when the purpose for which we were created will be fulfilled: To know the unlimited light of the Infinite One.

Vessels to receive light are formed through obstacles. By overcoming the obstacles, the obstacles themselves are transformed into vessels of pleasantness. Rebbe Nachman calls this pleasantness “supernal delight,” which can now flow into completed vessels. The delight that the upper intellect can experience is more pleasant than anything in this world. This is the meaning of “May the Compassionate One raise for us the Fallen Sukkah of David.”

Rebbe Nachman is proclaiming to the entire world a message that everyone must hear. There is no such thing as despair! There is no situation beyond hope! The Jewish people have always found themselves in difficult situations, and today is no different. Instead of losing hope, we must strengthen ourselves with perfected faith, especially during the days of Sukkot, when we bring our entire physical being into the sukkah. We will then be worthy of being illuminated with a new light, which will reestablish the “Fallen Sukkah of David forever.” Amen. ♦

Translated and adapted from a shiur given in Tsfat.

1. Kohelet Rabbah 7:2
2. Micha 7:8

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LIMITS OF THE MIND : R. Gedaliah Aharon Kenig


According to the Zohar, human beings are called by the name “Adam” by virtue of intellect and wisdom. It is impossible to separate intellect from the concept of a human being. Without intellect, the concept of “Adam” would not exist, since da’at, higher knowledge, is what defines a human being. For this reason, we possess a will and desire to know everything—to increase da’at. Thus, the human being and intellect are one and inseparable.

In this light, Rebbe Nachman writes,[1] “It is a great mitzvah to sharpen the intellect in order to come to a clear understanding of what G-d has limited to the human mind.” It is important to note the precise language of Rebbe Nachman: “…what God has limited (higbil, from the word g’vul, meaning limitation) to the human mind”; this indicates that human intellect is inherently limited. The obligation to sharpen the intellect is only according to one’s intellectual capacity. A person should not attempt to reach beyond this limit, since it will cause what is termed, in the language of the Arizal, shevirat ha-keilim, “shattering of the vessels”—meaning destruction and collapse. The human mind is a type of receptacle made to receive the “light” of the intellect according to its capacity. If this measure is breached, the vessel soon reaches its breaking point and shatters. It then loses the ability to receive anything more.

For this reason, we must correctly gauge the receptive capacity of our intellect and guard it by not exceeding its limit. Even though we generally have the ability to estimate this limit for ourselves, it would be greatly beneficial if we had expert guidance from someone knowledgeable in this matter. This would make our desire and search for enlightenment much easier, since the danger would be removed, and we would have a greater likelihood of success.

This is exactly what Rebbe Nachman has accomplished. He paved a path for us to increase and broaden the intellect, as well as a way for us to guard it from all harm. With divine wisdom, deep understanding, and expertise in every philosophical path, he established that we must divide our philosophical inquiry into two types: 1) investigations that possess no danger whatsoever; and 2) investigations where it is impossible to escape from inherent dangers.

The first category we can enter, since such investigation will broaden and increase our intellect. Every question has a correct answer and each investigation can be fully concluded. This is not the case with the second category. It is forbidden to enter it, since the human mind does not possess the ability to resolve any of the difficulties that arise. The deeper the investigation, the more confusion is generated, since the very essence of this second category is comprised of contradictions and opposites. Any solutions reached will be incorrect and untrue.

Rebbe Nachman bases his conclusions on a kabbalistic explanation of Genesis. Based on a teaching of the Arizal, he writes[2] that when it became G-d’s Will to create the universe, there was no “place” for it, since everything was Ein Sof, G-d’s Infinite Being. The place where we exist today was originally the Infinite Divine Light called the Ohr Ein Sof. Therefore, when it arose in the Divine Will to create the universe, He constricted His light to the “sides” so to speak, and through this constriction (tzimtzum), He created a “Vacated Space,” termed the Chalal ha-Panui. Inside of this space, the entire creation came into being. The Vacated Space was fundamentally necessary for creation, since without it, there would have been no place to create anything. However this produces a philosophical paradox. Is G-d present or absent in the Vacated Space? G-d can’t be truly absent, for nothing can exist without G-d’s animating force; yet if He were present in the Vacated Space, there would be no “place” for the universe—all that would exist is the Ein Sof, as prior to creation.

Presently, the paradox of the Vacated Space is impossible for the human mind to understand. It can only be comprehended in the future, when the capacity of the human mind will greatly expand. For the time being, there is no way to comprehend it since it contains two opposites, yesh and ayin, “somethingness” and “nothingness.” On one hand, we state that G-d constricted His unlimited essence to the sides to make the Vacated Space. Without it, there would have been no “place” to create the world. The Vacated Space is thus termed ayin, “nothingness.” On the other hand, however, even this Vacated Space must contain His G-dliness, since nothing can exist without the Divine life force. This is the Yesh, “somethingness.”

Thus, we have before us three divisions: 1) the Ein Sof; 2) the preparation for creation; and 3) creation. We exist in a lowly physical world, which is also the focal point of creation. When we begin to investigate and search for the meaning of life and the true path, we encounter many problems and doubts. These difficulties can be divided into two categories: 1) problems engendered by the creation itself; and 2) problems originating in the Vacated Space that preceded creation—the preparation for creation.

In the first category, we need to know that God created everything in the universe through His spoken word, which our sages call the Asarah Ma’amorot, or “Ten Divine Utterances.” These Ten Divine Utterances through which the world was created are made up of the twenty-seven Hebrew letters of the Torah (twenty-two consonants plus the five final letters) and their various combinations.

However, the second category, involving the act of constriction, which formed the Vacated Space preceding Creation, was not made through letters at all. It came into existence solely through the Divine Will. No letters are present there.

Now we can understand that as we search for a way to draw closer to the Infinite G-d, we must pass through the creation, as well as the Vacated Space. This journey is fraught with inevitable difficulties and doubts. However, it is vital to understand and examine the source of these difficulties in order to determine into which of the two categories they belong. If a question is rooted in the first category of creation, comprised of the twenty-seven Hebrew letters of G-d’s creative word, then an answer exists which is accessible to human intellect. It may be solved through discussions, explanations, and speech, and there is no inherent danger in these types of investigations. They are even worthwhile to embark upon, since they will bear the fruit of increasing intellectual understanding, as well as grant the ability to teach and clarify the way for others.

This is not the case with the second category. When we engage in questions rooted in the Vacated Space, which contains no letters, then difficulties and doubts will always remain with no solution whatsoever. This is because there are no letters or words in the Vacated Space which would enable us to find an answer. Therefore, extreme caution must be taken to avoid entering and investigating problems and doubts in the second category. Those who do enter remain submerged and trapped in a sea of doubt with no hope for rescue. Every conclusion they reach will be negative, since it is the opposite of true existence upon which the first category is based. Since the entire essence of the Vacated Space is built on two irreconcilable opposites, yesh and ayin, “somethingness” and “nothingness”, questions originating from this paradox are irreconcilable and no words exist in creation to address them.

One who is careful and travels on the first path expands the intellect properly. They are protected from all damage and possess a healthy mind. Such a person is called “Adam”—the quintessential human being. Rebbe Nachman brings everything one step further by concerning himself with those who have faltered on the second, forbidden path. He reveals a wondrous way for such individuals to be rescued through the awesome power hidden in music. He tells us that it is possible to extract even those caught in the sea of doubt originating in the Vacated Space through the influence of the melody of the “Tzaddik in the category of Moses.”

I concluded my previous talk with one of these melodies attributed to Rebbe Nachman, who attained this lofty level. Therefore, his song can lift up all souls from their fallen condition and return them to their holy place of origin. Understandably, there is much more to explain on these topics and perhaps, G-d willing, we can explain further at another opportunity. ♦

1. Likutey Moharan I, 62:2

2. Likutey Moharan I, 64

NOTE: Reb Gedaliah did not live long enough to provide a second installment of this talk given during a series of two radio broadcasts on station WBAI in New York in 1979. He passed away in 1980 at the age of 59 while visiting Manchester, England on behalf of rebuilding the City of Tsfat. Many have since requested further clarification on this idea of the hidden power in this type of melody. Reb Gedaliah once said that any of Rebbe Nachman’s niggunim without words are part of this melody of the “Tzaddik in the category of Moses.” An audio recording of one of these melodies that Reb Gedaliah sang on the first broadcast is published here on this site under “Audio.”

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