The Jew dwells for seven days in a succah, booth. Needing a minimum of two
and a half walls and organic material as its roof covering, the basic
mitzvah is eating bread on the first night of Succos. All activities
should be relocated to the succah during this festival (Leviticus
Succos commemorates the Israelites’ shelter – either the actual ‘huts’ in
which the Jewish people dwelled or to the Ananei Hakovod, miraculous
Clouds of Glory protecting them in the wilderness.
But it beggars belief why there is a festival to celebrate this miracle?
And why should Succos follow in the wake of the Days of Awe?
By swapping his permanent building for a temporary booth exposed to the
natural elements, the Jew affirms how he is, in truth, “strictly under
What Succos marks is not just simply their miraculous protection but how G-
d lovingly enveloped the nascent nation under His protective shelter. Ever
since their emergence as the Chosen People, after the Exodus, the Jew
would be subject to a special constant Divine providence.
However this unique relationship forged between G-d and Israel almost
disintegrated at the foot of Sinai. This was because of their treacherous
disloyalty in worshipping the Golden Calf.
Only on Succos, explains the Vilna Gaon, did the Clouds of Glory which had
departed because of their sin, return. That G-d allowed his Divine
Presence to return and rest upon the Jewish nation, and their instruction
to construct the Sanctuary, confirmed their full atonement. The
restoration of the Clouds of Glory is the source for the joyous
celebration of Succos, Zman Simchosenu, “time of our rejoicing”. Succos is
sequentially placed after the judgment and atonement of Rosh Hashanah and
But with their repentance, G-d once again rested upon Israel. Of the three
miracles in the wilderness – the manna, wellsprings of water and clouds of
glory – only the latter was not essential for the nation’s on-going
survival. Instead, it was an expression of G-d’s love and affection. And
they, in turn, would take delight in His protection.
Into the succah the Jew goes.
It is on this festival, that the Jew’s eyes are fixed upon the Heavens. He
places his trust and reliance in G-d – and not in the security of physical
structures or his financial assets.
The succah is the symbol of G-d is directly involved in every aspect of a
Jew’s life – just as He was, is and continues to be involved in their
miraculous national survival against all odds through the pages of
history. Where challenged and persecuted, the only fortress within which
Israel can seek refuge is under G-d’s wings.
It is the knowledge Israel is “strictly under Divine Supervision” which is
the happiness celebrated on Succos.