Sukkot at the Kotel
Sukkot at the KotelChanan Morrison

Emerging from Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, hopefully all have been inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy, successful and meaningful year and years ahead, we now find ourselves, after assembling our Succahs and acquiring our Arba Minim (Lulav, Hadassim, Aravot and Etrog) celebrating Succot.

And we all know who the first Ushpizin is… “And now, the man without whom the Jews wouldn’t be the Jews without the Jew — Avraham Aveinu!”

During Succot, the B’nei Yisrael, as an Am Segula (a nation apart and unique from the other nations) — as Hashem’s special, chosen people, visit and bond with our brethren while celebrating our special and unique relationship with HaKodosh Borchu. To this author, this visiting and bonding with brethren conjures up memories, during youth, of visits to family in Montreal (this author’s Mother’s side of the family was from Montreal) where, one night during the visit, this author’s Grandfather would host the entire assembled family for dinner in a prominent restaurant in the city.

The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, z”l wrote discussing Succot in his Sefer, “Inspiration and Insight,” Volume ll (pages 97-99)

In the Shemonah Esrei of Yom Tov, we say, “And you, Hashem Kelokeinu, have lovingly given us appointed times for gladness, festivals and seasons for joy…” Every Yom Tov is a time for Simcha, gladness. However, only Succot is called “Z’man Simchateinu,” the season of our gladness. The source of this… is the verse (Devarim, Perek 16, posuk 14) where the term Simcha is used specifically in connection with Succot (though it applies to the other Yomim Tovim as well). Why, indeed, is Simcha associated with Succot more than with Pesach and Shavuot?

The joy of Succot can be explained…, the season of soul-searching and introspection which commences with Rosh Chodesh Elul becomes more intense with the advent of Rosh Hashana and reaches its climax with Yom Kippur, when we enumerate our sins… and beg forgiveness. Those who approach this season with the seriousness that it demands might well become dispirited after spending so much time pondering their spiritual failings. R’ Yisrael Salanter writes in a letter that in days past “every man was seized with dread by the voice which proclaimed the month of Elul.” (ibid, citing Ohr Yisrael 14) Forty days and countless tears later, such a man might find it difficult to mend his broken heart.

Yom Tov is a time of special closeness between Hashem and His people: this closeness is the source of the joy that permeates the Yom Tov experience. The Mitzvah of Succot symbolizes this closeness in a most unique way. The Gemara states that the Succah represents the Ananei HaKavod, Clouds of Glory, through which Hashem’s Presence was manifest during the Jews’ sojourn in the Wilderness and which sheltered them from harm. The Vilna Gaon, in Shir HaShirim 1:2, showed how the very date on which Succot commences is related to the Clouds of Glory. Succot is the season of our gladness because its arrival revives our broken spirit and infuses us with joy, both because it is Yom Tov and because its primary Mitzvah (ibid, Primary in the sense that it becomes one’s dwelling throughout the festival) represents the special bond which exists between HaKadosh Borchu and Klal Yisrael.

Sefer Shem Mishmuel (written by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, the Rebbe of Sochaczev and translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski) provides a slightly different take on Succot (page 445-446)

“On that day, Eisev (Esau) returned to his path, toward Seir. Yaakov went to Succot. There he built and made huts for his cattle. Therefore, he called the place Succot.” (Sefer Shem Mishmuel rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 33, posukim 16-17)

…Why did Yaakov name the place after his cattle sheds rather than using the name of his own dwelling?

The Zohar HaKadosh explains a deeper significance behind these posukim. Yaakov’s departure from Eisev points to man’s egression from Hashem’s presence immediately after Yom Kippur. We may have been forgiven all our sins, but our connection to the Divine, which helped us achieve this, has been severed. Immediately afterwards [presumably after Yaakov and Eisev went their separate ways], Yaakov built Succot, and we,too, build and dwell in our Succot. This afforded Yaakov’s livestock appropriate shelter in both a physical and spiritual sense. Our Succah is a place where Hashem, as it were, brings us into His home and provides us with protection against impure influences, both within ourselves and without. This is needed to help us maintain our post-Yom Kippur high.

In this context, …with the help of Hashem, [one] has refined his personality and risen above his previous state. However, it is easy for him to backslide. His previous intransigence is lurking, ready to catch him unawares at any moment. The Succah provides the help he needs to maintain his exalted level.

In Sefer, “Inspiration and Insight,” Volume ll, Rabbi Segal, z”l speaks about Teshuvah, this refinement of personality above one’s previous state (page 100):

Through teshuvah, one can rise to limitless heights, far above the spiritual level he had maintained prior to having sinned. Is it any wonder then, that the Yom Yov which immediately follows Yom Kippur is referred to as “Z’man Simchateinu,” the season of our gladness?

In Sefer Shem Mishmuel, the Rebbe of Sochaczev relates (page 447):

There is a well-known idea in Judaism that everything in the physical world is merely a representation of its spiritual counterpart. The specifics of the physical plane correspond to those of the non-physical, to help us understand the underlying spiritual reality. It therefore follows that if Succot is a time of physical in-gathering, it must also be a similar time for spiritual activities. The fruits of one’s spiritual labors are Mitzvot, Torah study and acts of Chesed. These, as it were, are reaped on the festival of Succot.

Succot, which immediately follows the Yom Nora’im, is therefore a most fitting time for this spiritual reaping. The sum total of this in-gathering is the real person, which represents what he has made of himself after the layers of dross have been removed, and what sort of person he will… [be in] the year ahead. The roof of our Succah is made from pieces of vegetation which have been severed from their source, leaving behind just the main plant. This serves to remind us that by the time Succot arrives, we have merited to free ourselves from all impurity and can begin a new year with our true selves in control, striving for greater achievement in the service of Hashem.

The Sefer, “Inspiration and Insight, concludes its vort on Succot (page 103):

May the joy of Succot inspire us to serve Hashem throughout the year in a spirit of love, repentance and joy.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

L’Shana Tova, Chag Same’ach and Good Shabbos! — may all who read this enjoy a healthy, happy, sweet and prosperous 5782 and every year thereafter to at least 120!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh. In writing this vort, he was sponsored by Haim and Danit Kalb and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh Lilui Nishmas for Haim’s Dad, Mordechai Yosef ben R’ Efraim, his Mother, Feigye bat R’ Mordechai and for the Yahrtzeit of Haim’s Grandfather R’ Efraim ben R’ Mordechai.