Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Essence of Yom Kippur
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Tishrei 8 5778
A "3-day Rosh Hashana" followed by Yom Kippur/Shabbat – isn’t it time that we relaxed in the spaciousness of our homes? "No!" says the Torah; we must move out of our house & into the tiny little Sukka out in the open.

Some want to put a bit of a negative spin on this move & suggest that if we were found guilty by the Heavenly Court for our sins, let us be sent into a "mini-Exile" as expiation. But I prefer to see this as a very positive experience.

All year long, we extend ourselves to the world at large. We travel constantly, we connect by telephone, Internet or the media to events happening all over the world, we are tuned in & affected by global markets & politics. But come Sukkot, we abruptly "shrink" our world, confining ourselves to a small space, with just the very basics we need to survive. We become "minimalists," if only for a week.

It is only natural to lust for bigger living quarters, for more room for our clothes, for a den, a study or a family room. But how many of us, when we think back to our first home – especially the place we lived in when newly-married –
fondly remember how comfy & cozy we were! Size wasn’t the issue then; Love was more important than Large.

Close quarters can give us a new perspective on life. We can literally come face-to-face with the people we love the most: Our spouses, our parents & kids, the special guests we invite into our intimate igloo during the week. We
can also appreciate how sometimes Less is More, how the simple things in life – though they may be less advanced technologically – can actually bring us the most joy.

On the 10 Days of Repentance - & particularly on Yom Kippur - our fate, & the fate of the entire world are being decided. It’s Life & Death stuff; these weighty issues weigh heavily on our hearts & minds, & upon our souls. Sukkot is the perfect time to ease into serenity-mode, to surround ourselves in Mitzvot – the Sukka, Arba Minim, Hoshanot, Hakafot, etc. To "down-size" our material pursuits ("Morid HaGashem!"), even as we "up-size" & focus on our spiritual side, contemplating the year ahead.

The Torah emphasizes the quality of Simcha on Sukkot, more than any other holiday of the year. Indeed, we say specifically about Sukkot: V’hayita ACH Sameach!" – You shall be ONLY happy! Yes, the Sukka may be fragile, even flimsy. But it can be a happy, pleasant, peaceful palace if you just make it so.

Shana Tova – G’mar Chatima Tova – Chag Sameach!
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