“A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.”
We make a big deal over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but in the Biblical and early rabbinic eras, Sukkot (booths or huts; Sukkah is the singular) is the major holiday of the month. It is so important the rabbis refer to it simple as hechag, “the holiday,” expecting everybody to know which holiday they meant.
The sukkah itself is the holiday’s primary symbol. This temporary structure covered with branches you can see through connotes the fragility of life (which is one reason we read Kohelet, the book of Ecclesiastes, on the intermediate Shabbat of Sukkot. Kohelet reminds us to accept and enjoy every moment of life, both the ups and the downs, because life is fleeting).
The Torah states, “In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days; all citizens of Israel shall dwell in sukkot” (Lev. 23:42). In the Hebrew, the word “b’sukkot” is missing the letter “vav,” which allows the word to be pronounced “b’sukkat,” in the sukkah of… The rabbis infer from this not only that you don’t have to own a sukkah to fulfill the commandment, but that, “It is fitting that all of Israel should dwell in a single sukkah” (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 27b). The sukkah is no longer a symbol of the fragility of life, but rather of Jewish unity.
Maybe this is a reason Sukkot is also known as z’man simchateinu, the time of our rejoicing; the possibility that for at least one week a year, we put aside our differences and sit together as a family.
Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom
Gut Yontif/Chag Sameach,