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Posted on August 6, 2021 (5782) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

You shall make the festival of Succos for yourself for seven days, when you gather in from your threshing floor…You shall rejoice on your festival…A seven day period you shall celebrate before Hashem in the place that Hashem your G-d will choose.[2]

One statement of holiday length ought to suffice. So why does the Torah need to tell us twice – in rapid succession – that Succos lasts seven days? Moreover, whom (or Whom) is the focus of the celebration? You, as the first pasuk says, or Hashem, as the last pasuk indicates? Both these questions might lead us to the same place. Succos is really two different holidays, depending on how you celebrate it.

The optimum way to engage Succos is to feel the simchah of having lived through the Yemai HaDin, and experienced a rapprochement with Hashem. Through the teshuvah of Elul, the tefillos of Rosh Hashanah, and the intimate time spent together with Him on Yom Kippur, we sense that we have restored a broken relationship, and are on good terms with our Creator.

Realism, however, reminds us that not everyone can wrap their heads around such lofty ideas. Succos, therefore, is introduced to us as the time of ingathering. In usual times, the fall delivers its bounty, and those who worked the soil for months before find immense pleasure and satisfaction with their harvest. G-d dictates that we should celebrate this bounty, so long as we attribute our gain to His assistance, rather than our skill. Even in unconventional years, when the earth’s yield has disappointed, we can find joy in understanding that His Will underlies everything, and that our prayers and actions can bring us a better harvest in the next year. (This is hinted at in the pasuk, “in the place that Hashem your G-d will choose,” meaning whatever set of circumstances Hashem will lead you to, there you will find ample reason to celebrate His providence and the hope that it offers for the future.)

All of this is fine, and describes a festival that is “yours.” It is designed by Hashem Himself as the proper way to react to the season. It is proper – but not optimum. The better way to live through the season is to cherish the righting of our ways, and the renewed closeness to Hashem. Thus, the Torah continues with an alternate mode of celebration: “A seven-day period you shall celebrate for Hashem.” We celebrate not our material enhancements, but having merited, so to speak, a bigger, richer portion of Hashem Himself.

  1. Based on Chiddushei R. Yosef Nechemiah (Kornitzer) (1880-1933), Rav of Krakow
  2. Devarim 16:13-15