Sukkot Essay 5780

Sukkot Essay 5780

Date: 2019

By Shlomo M. Hamburger

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson was the father and teacher of Rabbi Menachem M.  Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe.  For about 25 years, the Rebbe lived, for the most part, in his parents’ home where the Rebbe and his father developed a close personal bond.  The Rebbe and his father last saw each other in the fall of 1927 (29 Tishrei 5688) and would never see each other again in the physical world.  During 1928, and pending the Rebbe’s wedding date, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wrote a series of letters to his son all related to the Rebbe’s upcoming wedding.  Four of the letters were written on the eve of Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, and Sukkot.  In each letter, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak tied the holiday to his son’s upcoming wedding through explaining the Kabbalistic significance of each holiday and how it relates to different aspects of marriage.  These letters show not just Torah insights but also very personal insights into the close connection between Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (the then 50-year old father) and the Rebbe (his then 26-year old son). 

In her memoirs, Rebbetzin Chana, the Rebbe’s mother, expressed her desperate wish that her husband’s writing would be published: 

Something ought to be published from such a personality, such a flowing “wellspring” of incessant Torah thought, never ceasing even a moment, who, when he had no one to address, would write down his thoughts on paper in installments.

Certainly I am entitled to hope for this, after all that I have witnessed in my life.  In any event, it is something that ought to come about.  I can do nothing to help it happen, but my desire for it is strong and I hope it will happen.[1]

Similarly, the Rebbe wrote: “It is my obligation and great zechus to suggest, request, etc., that everyone study from {my father’s} teachings…” From a letter of the Rebbe, Motzaei Tisha B’Av 5744 (1984).

In that spirit, the following essay address topics based on Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s letter from Erev Sukkot, 1928 (5689).  This essay is part of a larger publication entitled Unlocking the Code: The Letters of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson by Shlomo M. Hamburger. For more information on this publication, please contact Jewish Enrichment Press at or


Establishing a “B’li G’vul” Relationship With Your Children


In Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s letter from Erev Sukkot, he wished that the Rebbe would have a chuppah (wedding canopy) and a wedding “b’li g’vul” – without boundaries or limitations. What exactly does that mean?  On the one hand, a chuppah clearly has physical boundaries or limitations.  So, too, a marriage relationship has its boundaries and limitations.  Does a “b’li g’vulchuppah or marriage really mean that there are no boundaries at all?

Chassidus has a concept known as “orot d’tohu b’keilim d’tikun” (“the lights of Tohu in vessels of Tikun”).  Stated simply, this idea refers to bringing the infinite (in the form of the intense G-dly lights in the world of Tohu (or “the world of void”), which was before creation of the physical world) into the finite (in the form of the defined vessels in this world of Tikun (the “world of repair”)).

With this thought in mind, “b’li g’vul” means merging the finite with the infinite so the infinite potential does not overwhelm the boundaries or limitations and the boundaries or limitations do not otherwise interfere with the full expression of the infinite potential.  Wishing someone to have a chuppah that is b’li g’vul is a wish for the infinite Divine presence to be drawn down into the chuppah at the time when bride and groom are present in that space.  Similarly, a marriage that is b’li g’vul is not a marriage without boundaries, it is one where the third (infinite) partner, G-d, is an active part of the finite relationship. 

We also see this idea with regard to Sukkot.  A Sukkah has inherent finite boundaries.  Yes, you can have a Sukkah at sea or on land.  You can build one on a car, a bicycle, or an all-wheel drive vehicle.  You can even put one on a camel.  The Sukkah can be very small or large enough to include the entire Jewish people; but it will still have its boundaries.  At the same time, the Sukkah has its schach (covering) which, as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explained, represents the drawing down of the infinite surrounding presence of G-d into this world.  The Sukkah represents b’li g’vul in that it allows the infinite to merge with the finite to achieve its purpose.

There is a commonly used truism that our children have infinite potential.  In other words, the finite child is invested with infinite abilities.  We as parents are supposed to raise our children in a way that we do not stifle that infinite potential.  That is easy to say, but harder to do.  Based on Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s Erev Sukkot letter, as well as some basic lessons about Sukkot, here are five specific actions we can take to help build a b’li g’vul relationship with our children and help them tap into that infinite potential within.[2]

  1. Real Caring. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s letters are all about his love and caring for his son, the Rebbe.  Each letter opens and closes with heartfelt expressions of the father’s love and desires for his son.  These expressions form bookends around the content of the letters and make it clear that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak had only one interest in mind – that of his son.  Here is the question for us – When we give advice or guidance to our children, is it 100% clear to them that the advice is solely for their benefit?  Or do we really mean to steer them in the direction that we want them to go?  Our children can tell the difference.  When our children see that we really care only about their dreams and their goals, our words will have much more of a lasting impact.


  1. Continued Investment in the Relationship. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak sent multiple letters to his son prior to and even subsequent to the wedding.  The letters were meaningful letters filled with wisdom, advice, and caring.  Building a relationship with our children means a continued investment of quality time.  It means taking the time to think about the guidance you want to give and how it will help your child.  It also means spending time even when there is nothing to talk about; just be there.  A common investing principle would tell an investor to keep investing at regular intervals through up markets and down markets.  This is one way to protect “downside risk.”  Relationships are the same way; constant regular investment of time in the relationship (through the ups and downs) is a key to building a deeper bond. 


  1. Being Properly Pushy. Children always criticize parents for being too pushy.  Often they are right.  Pushing children to be what the parents want them to be is not helpful and will not bring out the child’s infinite potential.  Here, Sukkot can teach a valuable lesson. We spend a lot of time and effort in building a Sukkah and putting together our lulavim so they are just right. Then along comes a big storm and the Sukkah collapses.  Or we don’t keep the willows adequately moist and they dry out or the myrtle leaves fall off.  Despite our best efforts, we might not fully succeed at all aspects of Sukkot.  Being properly pushy means telling our children that it is OK to fail; it is just not OK to fail to try! 


  1. Help Them Find Their Passion. Sukkot is a time of passion.  It is z’man simchateinu (the time of our happiness).  The holiday period culminates with Simchat Torah where we pray with our feet.  We celebrate the Torah not by reading it or studying it but by closing it up and dancing with it until the wee hours of the night.  A successful holiday is not generated by our talent, credentials, education, or intellectual prowess.  It is about our passion.  So, too, when it comes to our children, the key element to their success will be found by them following their passions.  Information can be learned and skills can be trained. But without passion, the skills and education will not lead to happiness and fulfillment.  Parents need to help children find their passion and help them unleash their full potential.


  1. Helping to Protect from “Harmful Winds.” In his letter, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak prayed for G-d’s protection from “harmful winds.”  Part of training our children to achieve their potential is to provide them with tools to succeed in the face of obstacles.  Consider these questions to see how you can empower your children to solve problems:


  1. When helping your child, is your goal to be right or to help?
  2. Are you providing your children with the answers or are you teaching them how to reason through and understand their issues?
  3. Are you just providing “cold” logical well-reasoned arguments or are you tempering your arguments with recognition of your child’s emotions and concerns?
  4. Are you only present at the beginning and the end of the problem or are you there through the entire process?

These five basic steps are not intended to be an exhaustive list of how to establish a b’li g’vul relationship with your children.  They are intended to promote thinking about the process based on the Erev Sukkot letter from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak.  To continue your own take-away, consider one last piece of advice – take it one step at a time.  Building a Sukkah takes preparation (take out your tools and the parts of the Sukkah), action (put up the walls, one at a time), and completion (add the schach).  When it comes to building your relationship with your children, they deserve the same careful care and attention. 

[1]           Kehot Publication Society.  Memoirs of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson.  Brooklyn, New York: 2011, installment 35.

[2]           Of course, these steps apply to almost any type of personal or business relationship.  However, sticking with the theme of a father and son as reflected in Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s letters to his son, the Rebbe, this discussion focuses on the parent/child relationship.