Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Spirit of the Holiday
To dedicate this lesson

Succot's Relief

he culmination of the great month of Tishrei occurs with the commemoration of the holiday of Succot. It provides a joyful relief and release from the intensity of the first two major holidays of the month, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

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Rabbi Berel Wein

Tishrei 9 5782
The culmination of the great month of Tishrei occurs with the commemoration of the holiday of Succot. It provides a joyful relief and release from the intensity of the first two major holidays of the month, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. While we experience an enjoyable sense of celebration, of commemoration and exalted purpose with these two unmatched high holy days, there is a sense of tension and even foreboding that accompanies them since they are days of judgment and of heavenly decree.

This holiday of Succot, with its emphasis on the beauty of nature and the freedom from being housebound, provides an emotional and psychological relief that, to a great extent. characterizes the nature of this holiday itself.

It is called the time of our joy and happiness not only because of what it represents, but also because it raises us from the concerns and doubts that naturally accompany our commemoration of the high holy days – the days of awe – that dominate the first part of the month.

We have the feeling within us of having passed through the time of testing and challenge, of trial and judgment, and of emerging as a better and more wholesome individual, both in relation to our Creator and to our fellow human beings.

It is this feeling that we have when we leave the hospital in a better state of health than when we entered, of being vindicated in a court of law, pardoned for our transgressions and wrongdoing.

This feeling certainly manifests itself in achieving a state of happiness, and contentment. Because of the time of judgement that comes before Succot, the holiday can perhaps be more appreciated than others. It is as though one emerges from a long dark tunnel and then comes to see the cheerful light of nature and of Jewish life.

In northern climates, having to leave the house and exist in a booth opened to the elements, is perhaps not such a pleasant experience. However, it should be obvious to all that the Jewish holidays were meant to be celebrated in the land of Israel even though they are observed outside of Israel. Here in Israel, the holiday occurs when sitting outside is not only possible but is actually enjoyable.

Sitting in the cold northern winter weather in Chicago, I remember my father telling me that out of all the holidays of the year, Succot was especially difficult for him because it brought home the fact that the real home of the Jewish people was in the land of Israel. In Chicago we oftentimes had snow on the covering of the roof of the succah. He ruefully remarked that the Torah apparently made no provision for snow on Succot and that, in itself, was a proof that we really belong in the land of Israel to celebrate the holidays of the Jewish calendar.

In general, there certainly is a sense of satisfaction, if not even joy, in appreciating the wonders and beauty of nature. Many of us are urban dwellers and are not even accustomed to noticing, much less appreciating, the wonders of the natural world that we inhabit.

On the holiday of Succot we are obligated by Jewish law and tradition to leave our house and in some fashion connect ourselves to the natural surroundings that we often ignore during the rest of the year. Insects, especially bees, can be very annoying but their purpose is to remind us that we are not the only creatures that inhabit this planet. The wonders of the natural world, with their infinite variety of creatures and colors, is meant to testify to the power and infinite grace of the Creator of the universe.

The holidays of the Jewish people are built on the platform of agriculture, climate, and the variety of nature, as well as they are based upon the historical events that these holidays represent. They are meant to give us a complete picture of creation, nature and human history as well. They are meant to instill within us the harmony of and appreciation of life and its wonders. The holiday most representative of this is that of Succot.
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