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Happiness is... A Sukkah!

by Mrs. Robin Treistman

  

Library » Holidays » Sukkot » Essays | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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What a whirlwind holiday! On Sukkot we move out of the house into a hut. We parade around the synagogue with palm branches and citrons. In the times of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a special water libation was poured as everyone sang and danced, and we are commanded to rejoice. Why on earth do we do all this?

In outlining the foundations of the Sukkah, we come across contradictions. For one thing, the Sukkah is meant to be "permanent," yet "transitory."

The Sukkah walls can be built from any material, as long as it is sturdy enough to stand up to the average wind. Hence, a sense of permanence. Yet, the branch covering is 'schach' a disorganized bramble of uprooted vegetation. Palm branches, bamboo sticks, corn stalks, or clippings from your front yard. Chaotic. Without tying the branches in an organized fashion, we throw the stuff over the top of the Sukkah (the beams holding up the schach must also be of natural origin such as wood) and let it form the "roof" if you can call it that. This roof (hah) must provide more shade than sunlight at the height of the day, yet allows us to see some stars at night.

Either way, Club Med or the Magic Fog, we thank G-d for sustaining us in the dreaded desert
This top part of the structure makes our Sukkah transitory. You get that feeling when that strong unexpected gust takes your branches for a ride.

Why do we sit in this "permanent, yet transitory" schizoid hut? There are several answers to this question, all valid. Read on to see which suits you most:

Divine Shelter in the Desert

When the Jews left Egypt and wandered in the desert. Their first encampment was in a place called (you got it...) Sukkot.

There are two perceptions of what happened in Sukkot. One opinion states that the Israelites dwelled in actual huts. Picture this - you are wandering in the hot desert, you look up in the distance, and there before you is G-d's Club Med, and best of all, free! Not a bad deal.

The other opinion states that "clouds of glory" surrounded the Jewish people. Neat. Either way, Club Med or the Magic Fog, we thank G-d for sustaining us in the dreaded desert.

So if this happened during the Exodus, why don't we sit in huts on Passover?

Ah! A good question. Based on this Sukkot encampment reason, that would seem to be the perfect time. There are two answers: First, as the story unfolds, things didn't work out well. The "clouds of glory" that surrounded the Israelites were removed after the Sin of the Golden Calf. The Israelites repented, and G-d forgave them on Yom Kippur, perfect timing! The "clouds of glory" were reinstalled 5 days later on Sukkot.

The other reason we sit in huts in the fall is to show that we are doing it to fulfill the commandment - not for mere convenience. Passover is in the Spring. Who wouldn't want to sit out on the patio at such a nice time of year? No problem, with pleasure. But in the colder fall, it is less pleasant (in parts of the world it is almost winter) If we go out and sit in the Sukkah despite the elements, we must be doing it for the sake of the Mitzvah.


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What a wonderful concept...

Posted by: Margie Kaltman, Jacksonville, FL on Oct 05, 2006

I was really inspired by this article. It reminded me of my youth growing up in Chicago and the wonderful quality time we spent in the Sukkah. I think I'm going to give it a whir this year.

Thanks again!


RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » Sukkot » The Sukkah

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Sukkah
The temporary structure in which we are required to dwell for the duration of the holiday of Sukkot. The Sukkah must have at least three walls and its roof consists of unsecured branches, twigs or wooden slats.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
Ecclesiastes
One of the 24 books of the Bible. This book of wise sayings was authored by King Solomon.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.