In the Mishna (Sukkah 3:9) towards the end of today’s daf (Sukkah 37b), we are informed of the different sections of Hallel when the lulav bundle is waved, and though Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree on the matter, the Mishna concludes (and the custom is codified – see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 651:8) that while the lulav is waved when we say אנא ה’ הושיעא נא – ‘Please, Hashem, save now’, it is not waved when saying the parallel line of אנא ה’ הצליחה נא – ‘Please, Hashem, bring success now’.
And why is this significant? Because, as Rav Yitzchak Hutner once explained (see Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s ‘Along the Maggid’s Journey’ p. 238), we can learn a profound lesson from here which can be applied to all forms of decision making.
A father and his teenage yeshiva student son once came to Rav Hutner to seek advice. In general, the boy liked his Yeshiva teacher and felt a warm camaraderie with his classmates. The father, however, felt that his son was not fulfilling his potential and was sure that he would do better in another yeshiva. Consequently, they decided to ask Rav Hutner what he thought they should do.
Having discussed some of the pertinent details and options with them both, Rav Hutner turned to the father and asked him, “Is your son’s learning in jeopardy? Is the situation such that you feel you would be saving him by taking him out of the yeshiva? Or is it only that you just feel that he could have more success in another yeshiva?”.
“It’s the latter,” replied the father, “I’m believe he could accomplish more somewhere else.”
Rabbi Hutner smiled and said, “During Hallel on Sukkot, when we say אנא ה’ הושיעא נא – ‘Please, Hashem, save now,’ we shake the Lulav and Etrog in all directions. But when we say אנא ה’ הצליחה נא – ‘Please, Hashem, bring success now,’ we do not make any movement. For salvation, people do everything possible. But merely for more success, one should stay put.”
Since reading this advice from Rav Hutner over twenty years ago, I’ve applied this insight on countless occasions, and whenever I’ve felt pulled in different directions, I’ve simply asked myself: “Is this something that I need to be saved from? Or is it something that needs greater success?”. If the former – I move away from the situation, and if the latter – I stay with it and work harder.
Especially as we reflect on life decisions and personal change this Ellul, it is important for us to consider whether there are things in our life from which we need salvation and therefore require from us that we move away from them, and which need greater success and require that we continue to focus on them for the sake of improving them.