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    The sukkah of Leviathan

    Some sukkot are so tiny that a person can hardly squeeze in. Others are so huge that they could accommodate an army.

    The Destruction of Leviathan by Gustave Doré, 1865

    The biggest of all is the sukkah of Leviathan, a huge sea creature whose hide will cover the tent in which the righteous will be seated for the ultimate messianic banquet.

    In the Pesikta, Rabbi Levi explains that whoever fulfils the mitzvah of sukkah in this world will dwell in the sukkah of Leviathan in time to come.

    Not that Leviathan the monster is to be praised and admired despite its massive size. Isaiah says (27:1) that God will use His sword against “Leviathan the straight serpent and Leviathan the crooked serpent, and He will kill the dragon that is in the sea”. The two Leviathans are respectively male and female, according to the Talmud (Bava Batra 74b).

    Samson Raphael Hirsch points out that the name Leviathan (found in Psalm 104:25-26) comes from the same Hebrew root as melaveh and halvayah (accompanying). “Leviathan” therefore has the general connotation of society.

    God approves and encourages the formation of groups for the study of Torah and the service of one’s fellow man.

    But not every group is formed for good and constructive purposes. Think of the Tower of Babel and you get the point. God feels impelled to attack an animal or human society which clubs together to wreak fear, fright and terror.

    What has the Leviathan to do with Sukkot? At the time of the final resurrection there will be a banquet at which the flesh of the Leviathan will be served and from the monster’s hide God will construct a massive tent.

    Maimonides gives the banquet of Leviathan a spiritual and intellectual connotation: it will be the climactic gathering of the learned tzaddikim.

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