The Shabbat that occurs during the eight days of Sukkot has its own reading in keeping with the holiday. So what is this holiday all about? For seven nights Jews around the world eat – and some even sleep – in the outdoor temporary huts unique to this Jewish festival. Why do we do that?
One of our greatest Sages, Rabbi Akiva, taught that the “sukkot” or huts signify the specific relationship which the chosen people enjoy with the Holy One of Israel. It is a relationship to be sure with very specific demands but also great joys.
Our forefathers wandered into the desert under the leadership of Moses after being set free from the slavery of Pharaoh. Their faith in God sustained them throughout the forty years of their sojourn and that same faith sustains the Jew to this day. For us as individuals and families to forego the comforts of our homes and ‘live’ in a temporary shelter for these seven days is the heart of the Sukkot experience. It reminds us that in fact this earth is not our permanent dwelling place, but the God of Israel who led and fed our forefathers in the desert, and Who dwells in ultimate glory in the world to come awaits our reunion with Him after this life is over.
It also expresses our complete trust in His almighty providence and provision. It is an expression of our unwavering faith that despite the uncertainties of this world and its systems, we have a heavenly Father Who watches over us unceasingly and responds to our trust in His covenant with us.
Taking our meals in the Sukkah also serves as a reminder that since this life is temporary, it behooves us to focus on that which is spiritual. As food feeds the body, so spiritual food in the form of prayer and meditation on God’s Word, feeds our soul.
Though death is not something we generally like to think about, the serious minded person understands that at some point, this life as we know it will come to an end, and then what? Our Sages remind us that “this world is like the lobby for the World to Come; therefore, prepare yourself in the lobby so that you might enter the Banquet Hall of the Great King.” Sukkot is a vivid reminder that our thoughts, words, and actions on a daily basis DO matter; that each day we are creating our position, so to speak, in the next world. Each act of kindness, each choice to serve others rather than ourselves, each opportunity to pray, to study the Torah, to hold back our tongues from speaking negatively about others — all of these and more are recorded in the heavens and on that day when we are called to stand before the heavenly Court, those good deeds will be all we can take with us. Bank accounts, homes, jewelry, possessions — they will all remain behind. Our mitzvot – our good deeds – will accompany us into the presence of the King. Doesn’t it make sense to invest in what will remain for eternity?
In Tune with Torah this week – Sukkot is a wonderful time to reflect on our daily tasks. Are they simply routine or do we take the opportunity to make each one an offering of praise to Him Who has given us life and sustains us day by day?
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!