Lessons of Succos part 2

Here are the questions on the table:

1.     Why do we sit in a Succah?

a.     The Torah says it is to commemorate the way we lived in the desert after we left Egypt.                                                         

    i.      Then why isn’t it celebrated in the spring, after Pesach?                                                         

  ii.      If it’s not in the spring, why do we pick now, in the month of Tishrei?

2.     What relevance is there to how they traveled in the desert?

Why in the 21st century is that important?

I can understand the Exodus being a seminal moment in Judaism, but the caravans and huts they left in? Those are footnotes in history!?

3.     How does “Zman Simchasainu” – the holiday of happiness fit in with sitting in a Succah and being exposed to the elements? Wouldn’t the holiday of happiness be a “Ritz Carlton” type of stay, instead? In my mind, heat, A/C, no bugs and squirrels, ESPN and a closed roof are much more conducive to happiness.

4.     What does the harvest month being now have to do with succos?

One of the concepts everyone ties into their answers is: The “roof” of the Succah – the Schach – has to be made of flimsy un-protective material (also unfinished by humans). That symbolizes our “unprotected-ness and our reliance from Hashem to protect us. The expression “roof over your head” is considered a very basic requirement for some semblance of protection and security.The following ideas will help answer some of these questions and will give us what to think about in developing them further.

Not ancient history- A direction that the “Sifsei Chaim” takes:

The whole lesson of Succos is to remember the time that the Jews were in the desert. Totally vulnerable, totally exposed and unable to protect themselves in the “huts” they were able to build. Had Hashem not miraculously protected them with his clouds, fed them with Manna and water, they could not have survived.We need to sit in a Succah for us to be “exposed to the elements” (especially here in Minnesota) to realize that we, in the 21st century, are just as needy of Hashem’s protection as the nation was in the desert.

We are just as vulnerable, just as exposed as they were. We just don’t realize it day in and day out. We think our homes, our money, our political power are all assets that make us self sufficient. Succos is intended for us to realize how much we really don’t have control over (perhaps the economic downturn coupled with Iran’s increased threat these past two years have made this lesson more believable).

We are just as in need of G-d’s help and protection every day, as we always have been for 3300+ years.

To top it off, Succos takes place during the harvest season. While we are gathering in the harvest, thinking that our bumper crop is our success and financial security, the Torah tells us otherwise. We make our schach / roof in the Succah not out of the crops, but out of the husks and “garbage” from the harvest. To show that our protection comes from where we least expect it to. 

R’ Hirsch on Succos

Points out a few concepts:

·        The walls can be made of anything, the roof is where the restrictions are. That shows us that the separations between man and man (personal property) is perfectly OK and encouraged in our society. There is no obligation to make a communal Succah for all. Every household is supposed to make their own. However, the roof is where the limitations are. That is to show that our personal success (walls) and our actual security in life (roof) have nothing to do with each other.

·        Why in this month?

o   Succos can ONLY be in the month of Tishrei, because “precisely when the condition of the nation is opposite of its condition in the wilderness (harvest compared to barren desert), the people are to remind themselves of their life in the wilderness”.

o   Not only do we live in a Succah, but we were expected to leave our home and celebrate in Jerusalem with the nation. “on this Chag (national communal holiday), one is asked to renounce his separate existence and to join the nation which has gathered together with G-d, and he is asked to do so precisely at the time he is most inclined to cultivate his separate existence.”

o   Only after getting a new start through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can we have the strength and ability to attempt to develop true joy in our life on Succos. 

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