Joy of Succos
Rivka Olenick
"So that your generations may know that in the tabernacles did I make the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am God, your Lord." Levitticus 23:43 "And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, Thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and Thy maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the Fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Deuteronomy16:14
Just four days ago on Yom Kippur, we all stood before God; we confessed our sins and pleaded for His forgiveness. We have hopefully fulfilled our requirements on Yom Kippur and with renewed life we now look forward to the festival of Succos. God has granted all of us physical and spiritual survival; so with tremendous joy, together we partake of this beautiful Yom Tov. What is the joy of Succos and what should it mean to us individually as Jews and as a community? All the Yom Tovim and the Sabbath are considered to be as sanctuaries, places of refuge and protection, the true reality that is meant for us as Jews.
We treat the entire time allotted to Yom Tov and Sabbath differently, not only by refraining from all work, malacha but with regard to our recognition of our Creator. Each time we observe the Sabbath or Yom Tov it should illuminate in our minds a joyous and constant awareness of Who the Creator of the Universe is and what our relationship to our Creator should be. Otherwise, what is the purpose of these observances and what joy should we partake of in recognizing God during these designated holidays? Of course we celebrate with our family and friends, with special food, with wine and with special clothing set aside for our physical enjoyment, the enjoyment that adds to the simcha, of the Yom Tov. We can engage in all of the normal physical enjoyments as well, that are performed with the intention of Divine service.
But what is also the real simcha of Yom Tov, the true happiness we feel in our minds? We are asked not to burden ourselves with thoughts or conversations involving physical matters or anything pertaining to our occupational or weekday activities. We don't read our business documents, our bills or our mail this is all prohibited for positive reasons, not only for restriction of work. All of the prohibitions of malacha are in place to bring about a different reality for us. The reality of Yom Tov, as mentioned before is to be perceived as a sanctuary a place also in our minds that is a place of protection and a place of peace. We make room in our minds for our own spiritual growth through mental activity for the ideas related to the service of God, and to Torah since God has once again given us spiritual survival. Since we have invested most of our energies into the physical preparation of Succos, how do we make use of this "spiritual gift" from God? We are now ready to embrace Succos outdoors, by dwelling in booths. Succos falls during the Autumn, when the strong heat of summer is over. We are used to our comfortable and secure homes, but now we are asked to come out of our homes and immerse ourselves in the beauty and bounty of nature, another gift from God. However, in our minds we should remember that we lived and wandered forty years in the wilderness and then God took us out of Egypt to bring us to Israel. Our lives in the wilderness were deficient, we struggled and were overwhelmed with worry in maintaining our existence, yet we lacked nothing! We were tested by God in every way; with the manna and with little possessions, but we were under God's protection! By our living in the "wilderness", our own prowess and skill were put to the test by God. Our reliance for existence would have to come from God, and not from our own creativity. This was our realization then, right now, and should be the awareness for future generations.
God saw that we were worthy and that we would actually keep the commandments. Our realization is that God did maintain us, and He did shelter and care for us during those forty years just as He still does now. "Thy clothes did not wear out, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years." Deuteronomy Chapter 8. We understand from this important truth that it is only God that sustains us, not man. The succah represents the happiness, the joy of living "deficiently" in the wilderness under God's protection, as this is what we are commanded to do! The succah isn't man's mastery of the earth, it is not a building or a strong structure. The succah itself is temporary and "deficient," yet God commands us to live this way now and in the future. This is the way our forefathers "lived" in simple huts with their families and with the happiness in serving God, happiness even before we entered Israel, "the land of milk and honey." Israel, the land God gave us is where we would use all of our human talent and skill to build it successfully and beautifully. We were to build it as our "permanent" home with God as the "foundation" of our existence and nothing else. Everything we had and everything we have now is only because of God. This is the idea of, "that your generations may know." These are the truths we should understand and internalize. It is these truths that we pass along to our future generations. Even in the "wilderness" we "Serve the Lord with gladness, and come before Him in exultation." Psalms 100:2. Hag Sameach!

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