Sukkos is marked by a unique command to “live” in the Sukkah, a hut-like structure built outdoors. We eat our meals in the Sukkah, and many sleep in the Sukkah as well. The Sukkah is meant to be our dwelling place for the duration of the holiday.
Sukkos also marks a change in the mood of the holidays we have during Tishrei. After completing the High Holidays, holidays of solemnity, we have Sukkos, a holiday on which we are commanded to rejoice. The Chida, R’ Chaim Yosef David Azulay writes that there is significance to the juxtaposition of the holidays. During Sukkos, we move to a temporary dwelling outdoors. The Chida says this move sends a message to us. We have just celebrated the holidays of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. On these days, we have spoken about how spiritual matters should be primary in our lives. We have dedicated ourselves to serving G-d instead of our passions. We have asked forgiveness for our pursuit of earthly pleasures. The Sukkah highlights what we have just experienced. It reminds us that our life in this world is temporary, just as is our dwelling in the Sukkah. G-d is giving us a booster shot so that after the serious times have slipped away, the Sukkah reminds us still about our decision to pursue the spiritual. When we sit in the Sukkah, we are to strengthen our resolve to do that which is right, by reminding ourselves that our goal is to accomplish for life in the World To Come.
The Sukkah has further significance. The Torah writes (Devarim 16:13) “You shall observe the Feast of Sukkos seven days, after you have gathered in your grain and your wine.” Why do we observe Sukkos at this harvest time? The Rashbam explains that the key to the answer is another reason the Torah gives for celebrating Sukkos (Vayikra 23:43): “That your generations may know that I made the people of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” When we sit in the Sukkah, the Torah tells us, we should remember how G-d provided shelter for the nation of Israel for 40 years after they left Egypt. The nation had no land to call their own. The had to wander and be sheltered by G-d. When we harvest our crops, we may tend to lose sight of how lucky we are that G-d provided for us. The Torah warns us of this danger. It says (Devarim 12: ) Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and lived there; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the L-rd your G- d, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, where were venomous serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought you water out of the rock of flint, who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers knew not, that he might humble you, and that he might test you, to do you good in the end, and you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.” To make sure that we do not come to the point of denying G-d’s providence, we go out into the Sukkah. We remind ourselves that just as G-d provided for those who lived in the desert with Sukkos to live in, so too did He provide for us, as our harvest. It is time to take a step back and remember who really provides for us. So we not lose sight of the source of our livelihood, G-d gave us the holiday of Sukkos at the time when are most likely to be blinded: harvest time.
Lodging in the Sukkah is intended to assist us in clarifying our outlook on life. We remember that life on this world is temporary. We remember that we can’t take it with us. We remember that what we have we got from G- d. The Sukkah is a sanctuary of spirituality. However, the Sukkah, as we know, is a temporary structure. We must make sure that the message the Sukkah imparts remains with us during the long winter months, so that the type of year we asked for on the High Holidays is the one we merit to live.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero and Torah.org.
The author has Rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, NY.