The Pasuk in Vayikra [23, 42] orders: “You shall dwell in huts for seven days; all Bnei Yisrael shall dwell in huts.” Why is the Pasuk repeating itself regarding the obligation to dwell in the “Sukkah”?
The next Pasuk provides the reason why we’re ordered to dwell in the Sukkah: “So, that future generations may know that I sheltered the Bnei Yisrael in “huts” when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Hashem your God”. Though, the Pasuk does not mention the reason it has to be for 7 days. If the reason is for a mere tribute for a past occurrence, it should’ve sufficed to build the Sukkah and seat in it for just a meal.
Rashi explains: “Huts” does not mean that Hashem sheltered the Israelites in “huts”, but rather it means the “Clouds of Glory” by which they were sheltered. Nachmanides adds that the reason why the Torah did not need to spell out what these huts were is that we have already been told of the phenomenon of the “Clouds of Glory” that sheltered the Israelites during almost their entire journey to the land of Israel (until the death of Aaron). The meaning of the word “Huts” is therefore quite clear to mean “Clouds of Glory”.
Obviously then, this teaches us that the Sukkah not only acts as a commemoration, but also provides the same effect as the “Clouds of Glory”. Though, the “Clouds of Glory” were effective only during such time as the person was in them. Enemies such as Amalek, were only able to harm those who were outside the “Clouds of Glory”.
It’s then important to understand: 1. The reason the festival of Sukkoth takes place merely a few days after Yom Kippur? Is there any correlation between them? 2. The festival of Sukkoth is also called the “Ingathering festival”, what hint does that name provides regarding the character of that Holiday? 3. Is the Sukkah only effective while one resides in it just as the “Clouds of Glory” or does it have a broader effect?
The Midrash teaches us: “Despite that the exodus from Egypt was in the spring, the Torah required us to perform this Mitzva in the autumn for 4 reasons;
1- Building a Sukkah in the spring could be interpreted by the gentiles as doing so to enjoy the warmer weather.
2- Building huts at this time of the year, with the approaching winter, and leaving more comfortable quarters in favor of a flimsy shelter, prove that our intention is motivated by one consideration only, i.e. to fulfill Hashem’s commandment.
3- Since it’s the time of harvest, the Ingathering, it’s a tempting time to feel contentment and pride of our financial achievement, which may be counterproductive in our service of Hashem. Therefore, we must leave our houses as to remember, we’re not eternal, and one day we’ll leave all this behind us for good.
4- Remembering the miracles Hashem performed to the Bnei Yisrael in the desert by moving into a flimsy hut for a week is definitely a powerful means of identifying with our ancestors, and is also a statement we belong to Hashem’s nation.
The Zohar has a different approach: The Sukkah truly represents the “Clouds of Glory”. Their power depends directly on our level of “Emuna”, how much we believe they’re here for us. It’ll depend also how we behave in the Sukkah, what we speak about, it not any different than a Shul which sanctity depends on the behavior of the congregants. Then aach Sukkah will reverberate a different level of the “Clouds of Glory”. Therefore, it’s important to visit the Sukkah of a pious Rabbi, as its sanctity is great and prayers are answered there.
This is the reason why the Halacha stresses the obligation to have the utmost respect for the Sukkah. The Zohar expands on it at length, stating that in the Sukkah the “Spirit of Hashem”, the “Shchinah” is present to rejoice with us. Therefore, the Pasuk repeats the commandment, to stress the importance of this Mitzva, where the “Shchina” as well as our Forefathers will visit our Sukkah to bless us for the entire year.
In fact, the Zohar considers Sukkoth to be an extension of Yom Kippur. It would’ve been impossible to appear before Hashem and our Forefathers soiled with sins as we were before Yom Kippur. Therefore, it had to be only a short time after Yom
Kippur, so we have no time to sin. Besides, since we’ll be in the presence of the “Spirit of Hashem”, if one’s repenting was incomplete on Yom Kippur, or just wants to get even closer to Hashem, it is possible to keep repenting during Sukkoth and Hashem will immediately grant us forgiveness not to ruin our Yom Tov.
The Zohar explains the reason why Sukkoth must be performed for 7 days. During the creation in Bereshis, it clearly states that Hashem created only 7 days. Those are the very 7 days we live each week. Just as a train on rails, the train is moving and gets us to different stations, so too the 7 days rolls over time. Therefore, each day in the Sukkah, for example Sunday, provides protection and blessings for all the Sundays of the year, and so on.
People resort to a multitude of interesting approaches at their time of affliction. Some will do “Seguloth” other will go at any cost to a certain “Mekubal”. It does help, but those means are to intercede before Hashem on your behalf. Please remember, Hashem is present in your Sukkah for 7 days, in Israel, and 8 days in the diaspora, you can ask Him directly anything you want and need, and He will honor your demands. The only attribute required is your “trust” that Hashem will answer your prayers. The response level will mirror your Emuna!
By Rabbi Fridmann * firstname.lastname@example.org * 305.985.3461
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