Friday, October 06, 2006

Succah: Strictly Under Divine Supervision

Rabino Osher Chaim Levene

The Mitzvah:

The Jew dwells for seven days in a succah, booth. Needing a minimum of twoand a half walls and organic material as its roof covering, the basicmitzvah is eating bread on the first night of Succos. All activitiesshould be relocated to the succah during this festival (Leviticus 24:42-43)
Succos commemorates the Israelites’ shelter – either the actual ‘huts’ inwhich the Jewish people dwelled or to the Ananei Hakovod, miraculousClouds of Glory protecting them in the wilderness.
But it beggars belief why there is a festival to celebrate this miracle?And why should Succos follow in the wake of the Days of Awe?
By swapping his permanent building for a temporary booth exposed to thenatural elements, the Jew affirms how he is, in truth, “strictly underDivine Supervision”.
What Succos marks is not just simply their miraculous protection but how G-d lovingly enveloped the nascent nation under His protective shelter. Eversince their emergence as the Chosen People, after the Exodus, the Jewwould be subject to a special constant Divine providence.
However this unique relationship forged between G-d and Israel almostdisintegrated at the foot of Sinai. This was because of their treacherousdisloyalty in worshipping the Golden Calf.
Only on Succos, explains the Vilna Gaon, did the Clouds of Glory which haddeparted because of their sin, return. That G-d allowed his DivinePresence to return and rest upon the Jewish nation, and their instructionto construct the Sanctuary, confirmed their full atonement. Therestoration of the Clouds of Glory is the source for the joyouscelebration of Succos, Zman Simchosenu, “time of our rejoicing”. Succos issequentially placed after the judgment and atonement of Rosh Hashanah andYom Kippur.
But with their repentance, G-d once again rested upon Israel. Of the threemiracles in the wilderness – the manna, wellsprings of water and clouds ofglory – only the latter was not essential for the nation’s on-goingsurvival. Instead, it was an expression of G-d’s love and affection. Andthey, in turn, would take delight in His protection.
Into the succah the Jew goes.
It is on this festival, that the Jew’s eyes are fixed upon the Heavens. Heplaces his trust and reliance in G-d – and not in the security of physicalstructures or his financial assets.
The succah is the symbol of G-d is directly involved in every aspect of aJew’s life – just as He was, is and continues to be involved in theirmiraculous national survival against all odds through the pages ofhistory. Where challenged and persecuted, the only fortress within whichIsrael can seek refuge is under G-d’s wings.
It is the knowledge Israel is “strictly under Divine Supervision” which isthe happiness celebrated on Succos.