A Simple, Peaceful Abode
By Rabbi Naphtali Hoff
Imagine the following scenario. One cool October afternoon, a religious
man goes to visit his Torah observant therapist to discuss his many
stresses. He is uneasy with his material lot, and feels the strain of
keeping up with all of the proverbial Goldbergs in his life. It troubles
him to see others in his community who live in larger, more beautiful
homes, drive fancier cars, and go on more elaborate vacations. He is
pained to see the names of these same people appear on dedication plaques
and as dinner honorees, while he can barely eke out a small contribution.
The therapist listens closely. After much thought and reflection, he
directs his suffering client, not to medication or further counseling, but
to a Sukkah. “There”, he says, “you will find relief from your troubles.”
One could envision the confused and troubled look on the face of the
client, especially after he receives his bill!
Yet, that is exactly one of Hashem’s primary remedies to such feelings of
Every evening during Maariv we ask Hashem to “spread upon us your Sukkah
of peace.” One might wonder, what is the relationship between the Sukkah
and peace? We understand that the act of sitting (and even sleeping) in a
Sukkah evokes memories of Hashem’s miraculous preservation of the Jewish
people during their forty years of wandering in the Sinai desert following
their exodus from Egypt.
You shall dwell in Succos (booths) for seven days…so that your generations
will know that I made the people of Israel to dwell in Succos, when I
brought them out of the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 23:42-43)
But how does such commemoration bring us to a deeper sense of peace and
In truth, there is much more to the mitzvah of Sukkah than a simple
historical commemoration. Sitting in the Sukkah affords us the opportunity
to take a step back from the competitive rat race in which we live, and
come to a fuller and more accurate understanding of what this world is
really all about.
Never has this been truer than in our times. Our world is that of Madison
Avenue, where the marketing of luxury products continues unabated, echoing
one basic message: Without this, your life is incomplete. Of course,
depending on the target audience, “this” may refer to anything from toys
and dolls (American Girl, mind you), to designer clothing, to oversized
houses with granite backsplashes, as well as sleek sports cars which can
go from “0 to 60” in 0.2 seconds. In such a world, a person who lacks any –
or certainly all – of these comforts simply cannot find satisfaction. (Of
course, we know that even those who are able to acquire these items are
typically far from satisfied, as their attention is soon drawn to a new
line of the “latest and greatest”.)
On Succos, we leave the comforts of our materialistic existence behind and
enter a simple structure called a Sukkah. There we are to remain for seven
days, living directly under Hashem’s protection without concern for our
The Sukkah is the great equalizer. It is there that we turn our attention
away from materialistic pursuits. Instead, we gaze up at the sky above us
and come to a deeper appreciation that Hashem runs the world and that only
He can and does provide for us.
The Sukkah reminds us that there is no physical permanence for us in this
world, that all efforts at achieving materialism are fleeting and
wasteful. In the words of the wisest of all men, King Solomon, “vanity of
vanities…all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) It is for this exact reason
that we read these words on Succos.
That, says Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Vol. 1, pp. 106ff),
is how a Sukkah can bring a sense of peace to man. Peace, he says, can
only exist when each person is satisfied with his lot, and does not view
others as being his personal competition. Once we have been redirected
away from our materialistic urges and our competitive sense has been
removed, we can work together harmoniously for the common good, perfectly
at ease with one another.
It should thus come as no surprise that the clouds of glory which
protected the Jewish nation during their long trek through the desert were
bestowed to the people in the personal merit of Aharon Hakohen (see
Leviticus Rabbah 27:6, et al). Aharon was the quintessential “pursuer of
peace” (Hillel used to say, ‘Be of the students of Aharon, loving peace
and pursuing peace.’ – Avos 1:12). What is perhaps even more compelling is
the fact that, according to one opinion in the Mishna (Sukkah 11b),
the “Sukkah” to which the Torah refers was not an actual booth, but was
clouds themselves. Thus, the defining characteristic of Aharon Hakohen,
peace and contentment, emerges every time we sit in the structure that his
While it is still unlikely that the above explanation would bring solace
to our incredulous patient, it should be comforting to us, particularly in
the tumultuous times in which we live, to know that we can enter our
own “Sukkah of peace”, which will bring us the deep sense of contentment
that we all so desperately seek.
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, M.Ed., is an instructor of Jewish History at Hebrew
Theological College (Skokie, Illinois) and serves as associate principal
at Yeshiva Shearis Yisroel in Chicago. More information about Rabbi Hoff
can be found on his website,rabbihoff.com
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero and Torah.org.
The author has Rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, NY.