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How to Find a Sense of Security - סוכות

Thursday, 1 October, 2020 - 11:12 pm

How to Find a Sense of Security

The three biblical pilgrimage holidays follow the agricultural cycle. Passover, which commemorates the exodus from Egypt, must take place in the month of spring. The Hebrew word for spring, Aviv, means the ripening of the first grain. Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah, is referred to in the Torah as the holiday of the harvest, and Sukkot, which commemorates  G-d establishing us in huts when he took us out of Egypt, is referred to as the holiday of the ingathering, as the Torah tells us:   

But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the festival of the Lord for a seven day period; the first day shall be a rest day, and the eighth day shall be a rest day (Leviticus 23:39)

For a seven day period you shall live in booths. Every resident among the Israelites shall live in booths (ibid. 23:42)

The first two holidays find the farmer out in the field, inspecting the ripening produce, and engaging in the harvest. By the time the third holiday comes around, the farmer is comfortably in his home, with all his produce stored away indoors. This is the time when the farmer feels most secure, knowing that his home contains the produce that will sustain him and his family throughout the long winter. 

Yet, ironically, specifically when the farmer feels most secure in his home, the Torah tells him to go out of his home and find shelter in a temporary structure. The Torah uses the term “every resident among the Israelites shall live in booths” emphasizing that the Israelites are residents, they have homes, their homes are full of produce, yet they should dwell outside. 

And this is the message the Sukkah conveys to the Jew: every person needs a sense of security in order to experience peace of mind and a sense of joy. Yet the Torah tells us that, specifically when we are tempted to find our security in the walls we have build and the produce we have gathered, we must abandon the home and seek refuge in the sukkah, internalizing the awareness that our security comes not from the power of our achievements but rather from G-d’s protection. 

And here the Torah offers us a profound insight: The Torah emphasizes that, more than the other holidays, Sukkot is the holiday of joy. This seems counterintuitive, after all if the person is to experience joy shouldn't he be allowed to dwell in his home  where he can enjoy the wealth which he  gathered with much effort? The Torah says no. Joy cannot come from one’s wealth and one’s achievements alone. If one puts his trust and joy in the produce alone, it can only lead to greater anxiety. He will question if the produce will suffice. Will it rot? Will he be able to recreate this degree of success next year? Joy, the Torah tells us can only come from a sense of connection to G-d. Joy comes when we step out of our home, away from the produce we gathered, and realize that our shelter, our security, and our meaning and purpose in life comes not from the produce which we have gathered but rather from connecting to the infinite G-d. 

(Adapted from the Kli Yakar, Leviticus 23:42)    

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