“He (Avraham) was sitting outside his tent as the day was hot” (Gen. 18:1) The Gemara (Bava Metzia 86b) explains that Hashem removed the sun from its sheath and the sun healed him.
The Talmud (Avoda Zara 3) relates that when Moshiach comes the nations of the world will complain to God saying: “if you would have given us the opportunity to do mitzvos then we too would have done them faithfully as the Jews did. Hashem replies “I will give you one mitzvah, we shall see if you can do it”. He gives them the commandment of Sukkah. As soon as they made their Sukkos and got comfortable, G-d removed the sun from its sheath and made it unbearably hot, causing the people to kick the walls of the Sukkah and leave.
The Gemara questions this incident: There is no obligation to sit in the Sukkah if it is causing one pain? Answers the Gemara, yes that is correct! There is however no excuse for kicking the walls. For that they lost their chance.
This incident begs explanation. Hashem seems to be toying with the nations of the world, giving them a mitzvah, and then not giving them the circumstances to correctly perform the mitzvah. Furthermore, we find that Hashem removed sun from sheath and made excessive heat. Why the similarity in language?
What’s the common thread?
I heard a beautiful thought from Rabbi Asher Brander – Avraham was technically exempt from welcoming his guests. He was old, recovering from surgery and in pain. It was very hot. But he was pained by this. He sat outside waiting for guests. He wanted to do the mitzvah. Therefore Hashem sent him guests and he was able to serve them and honor them.
A direct result of this was the creation of the Jewish people. That show of selflessness, of wanting to go above and beyond, was the impetus for Hashem to say “This man’s people will be My Chosen People.”
When the nations of the world come to Hashem when Moshiach comes and ask why he didn’t give them the opportunity to do mitzvos, they are in effect asking “why are the Jews the chosen people and not us?” Hashem offers them an opportunity to do a mitzvah, however he tests them with ‘removing the sun from its sheath’. Meaning to say, they had to show that they wanted to do the mitzvah, that even if they were exempt they would try to do it, and would be pained if they were unable to perform the mitzvah . They had to show that they were willing to go above and beyond the letter of the law to do the will of Hashem. When they left the Sukkah in disgust, kicking the walls behind them, they showed they were just trying to get points and did not altruistically want to do the will of God. They were not eligible to be the Chosen People.
With this we can explain a third incident. The Gemara in Nedarim 8b states in the name of Reish Lakish: “In the future (in messianic times) there will be no Gehennom. Rather Hashem will remove the sun from its sheath; Tzadikim will be cured by it and Reshaim will be judged by it.”
So again we have Hashem removing the sun from its sheath. What is the nature of the judgment?
Perhaps what Hashem is going to do is take each and every individual and examine them. Are you self-sacrificing in your service of God? Does it pain you when you are unable to perform His will, even when you are exempt? That is the Judgment of the future.
However this requires further study. What is the significance of removing the sun from its sheath? And how is the sun both the tool used to judge evil ones also used to heal righteous ones?
The Gemara above is based on several verses in Malachi (3:19-20), the closing of the book of prophets, where the prophet describes the end of days. The verse states: “The day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the wicked people and the evildoers will be like straw and Hashem will burn them up and totally consume them. But a sun of righteousness and healing will shine for those who fear my name, with healing in its rays…”
We see from the prophet the dual nature of the sun; burning the evil-doers and healing the righteous.
Hashem created light on the very first day of creation; however only on day four did He create the sun and the moon. The original light was all permeating and was too strong, and was wrapped in a sheath so as to contain it. (See Malbim in HaCarmel).
The Gemara tells us that when Hashem first created the constellations, the sun and the moon were equal in both size and intensity, the moon complained to Hashem saying that two kings cannot share one crown! Hashem responded, go minimize yourself. However when Moshiach comes the moon will be restored to its original splendor, matching the sun, and the sun will be 7x7x7 (343) times its intensity, as described in Isaiah (30:26). The verse goes on to say that on that day that Hashem intensifies the sun the wounds of his people will be healed.
This strong and full light that is the light of the first three days of creation, is the very same light that was revealed to heal Avraham [see tosfos beracha gen. 18:1], and this is the light that will be used to judge evildoers, discomfort the would-be Sukkah dwellers and heal tzadikim upon the ultimate redemption. This is referred to as the Ohr Haganuz, the light that is hidden away and reserved for the righteous at the end of days.
Hashem created the world with the attribute of ‘din’ or justice. When He ‘realized’ that the world would have no continuity if it was run under the attribute of justice he tempered it with the attribute of kindness so as to have permanence. Hashem is light (Hashem Ori)The original light, the light of the unsheathed sun, is the light of truth and justice, where veneers don’t matter and the raw truth is exposed. Those who are not true to God, whose actions are not done in a wholehearted manner, are exposed. This wouldn’t work for the continuity of the world, and God had to add the attribute of kindness.
However when Moshiach comes, we will go back to an all justice state. This sounds harsh but in truth the opposite is true. It’s truth! Everyone will be honest and true to Hashem, His presence will be so clear that there will be no double standard, no disconnect between our actions and thoughts.
In fact, this is an ideal that was always considered necessary and ideal. The Gemara in Yoma (72b) states that any Torah Scholar who’s interior does not match his external actions is not worthy of being considered a Torah Scholar. In fact, Rabban Gamliel originally insisted that only those scholars’ whose insides were the same as the outsides, i.e. were sincere, would be allowed into the Beis Midrash. Because in a true Torah environment that is a necessary prerequisite.
There are several things that are called an ‘os’, a sign. Milah (circumcision), Tefillin and Shabbos.
Milah – circumcision is the connection between a Jew and Hashem. When a Jew is circumcised, in the words of the Zohar, Hashem is visible from within him. It is the ‘seal’ of the King, a manifestation of His presence within every Jew. The sefarim say that the removal of the foreskin is the removal of the veneer of the heart, allowing the neshama to shine through and elevating the person to the potential of a tzaddik. (c.f. Ramban Gen. 17:4)
Tefillin – the Gemara tells us that the verse “when the nations of the land see that the name of Hashem is upon you and they will fear you” refers to tefillin. For tefillin are a manifestation of Hashem’s presence, they are called the name of Hashem.
Shabbos – Our celebration of Shabbos is celebrating the creation of the world, a ‘sign’ between Jews and God that Hashem crated the world and is actively manifest in all its aspects.
We find one more thing that’s called an ‘os’. The constellations are called osos, signs. The Gemara explains that they will show us the months etc. however perhaps simply understood, they are manifestations of Hashem’s presence, in the truest sense, the attribute of truth and justice.
Now everything comes together beautifully. Avraham, after his Bris Milah, exhibited the presence of Hashem from within Him. This pure manifestation of Hashem was deserving of the unsheathed sun, the pure and great light that would illuminate all in the truest sense, for Avraham it was healing, for he was, after the Milah, through and through dedicated to Hashem, as exhibited by his willingness to go above and beyond the call of the duty.
This light is manifest on Shabbos. The Zohar tells us that every Shabbos there is an aspect of the light from the beginning of creation, only at the end of Shabbos do we have to go back to the light of fire and heat, which is exhibited by the havdalah candle. This is why only Jews can keep Shabbos; only one who is clear and true to Hashem, without any distinction between his inner devotion and his outside deeds can partake in the light of Shabbos. (See also Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim 139,888)
This is why Adam only was scared by the darkness on the first Motzai Shabbos, whereupon he discovered fire(Ibid Bereishis 2:17)
This light will indeed be a healing light for all the tzadikim at the end of days, it will allow them to live in a true and clear brightly illuminated world. They will be out of the darkness, the presence of Hashem will be clear.
However when the evildoers are presented with this light, it exposes their inconsistencies, their lack of truth and honesty and the fact that their external, seen actions are not representative of their true feelings and thoughts.
When they are put in the Sukkah, and the big lights are turned on, the question is – are you willing to go above and beyond as you say you are? Are you committed to Hashem in the manner required, where His presence is manifest from within you? Are you like Avraham after his circumcision? Like a Jew on Shabbos? They claim yes, but by kicking the walls the answer is evident. They aren’t really willing to put themselves on the line and inconvenience themselves.
This will be the ultimate Day of Judgment for reshaim, as well as the ultimate day of healing for tzadikim. Each will be exposed for what they really are.
The take home lesson from this is that we must strive to make sure our actions mirror our thoughts and desires, and our thoughts and desires are in sync with what the Torah requires our wants to be, to be selfless and dedicated to Hashem, fully subservient to His will, and then we will be the children of Avraham, the Chosen People, in the fullest sense of the term.