The Power of the Sukah; Why is Sukkot after Yom Kippur

This guest Drash is by Rachamim Bitton of Jerusalem's Nahar Shalom Yeshiva located in the Nachlaot neighborhood.

sukkot

There’s a famous question mentioned by the Tur about the time of year when we celebrate Sukot.

The question is why do we not celebrate Sukot right after Pesach, in the month of Nisan, when it is more chronologically appropriate.

We celebrate Sukot to connect to the recognition that Hashem surrounded us with the Ananei Kavod, the clouds of holy glory, when He took us out of Mitzrayim.

לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּ דֹרֹתֵיכֶם כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַׁבְתִּי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּהוֹצִיאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:

in order that your [ensuing] generations should know that I had the children of Israel live in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God.

If so, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to celebrate during the month when we commemorate this exodus from Mitzrayim!?

There are many explanation given to answer this question. One of them is that the intention in fulfilling the Torah and Mitzvot is that we come to do them purely out of selfless(lacking of the lower self and exclusively the higher self) intention of connecting to Hashem.

We are to clear out and release any other ulterior motives. In this way we open ourselves up to the greatest level of connection to Hashem.

If we were to celebrate Sukot, a holy day when we leave our houses to dwell in our huts, it would not be clear that we are doing so purely for the commandment and connection with Hashem. It could also be that we would be doing so because the weather is so nice at that time of the year.

We do so when it is almost the beginning of Winter, when people are no longer spending time outdoors and camping out, and purely for the purpose of connection to Hashem.

There are a few reasons that are given that have a central theme that the reason why we celebrate Sukot now is because it could truly only be celebrated after Yom Kipur.

One reason given is that the Zohar teaches us that when we sit in the Sukah we are sitting in the protection of Emunah, the protection of Hashem’s presence. The Zohar then says that only someone who is worthy will merit feeling the pleasure of this holiness, the pleasure of this protection, the pleasure of the Shechinah. Someone who isn’t worthy will be rejected by the Sukah just as Noach’s Ark rejected any animal that perverted its ways.

Based on this, only once we have experienced the purification of Yom Kippur may we be accepted in the Sukah’s holiness and experience its delightful bliss, the protection of Emunah.

If we lack the feeling of protection that comes from Emunah, this means that on some level the faith-representing Hashem’s presence, isn’t accepting us in. If we go inside and look to heal and purify what is the point of resistance, what are the sins and wrongful beliefs, emotions, and attitudes which are holding us back and acting as barriers, we will merit to be accepted into the sukah, the protection of faith.

Yom Kippur brings us this level of purification.
It is because of this that only after Yom Kipur we can experience the Sukah.

Another explanation, given by the Medrash Yalkut Shimoni, is that Yom Kippur is also a day of finalizing the judgement of Rosh Hashana. It is the day of the first seal on that judgement.

We celebrate Sukot right after Yom Kippur so that even if someone was sealed for a judgement of death, Heaven forbid, he will be saved from this judgement through the Sukkah.

This is because leaving our homes to dwell in the sukkah is called, on some level, an exile. Our Rabbis teach us that exile atones as is the person died. In this way, anyone who was sealed for dying, Heaven forbid, may exchange that death with the exile of dwelling in the Sukah, and when the second seal is done, on Hoshana Raba, he will be sealed for a sweet new year of healthy and successful long life Amen.

Yet, another explanation is that we celebrate Sukot right after Yom Kippur because when we merited such tremendous purification on Yom Kippur, the evil inclination may be jealous of us. The Gemara teaches us that the Satan=Evil inclination is powerless on Yom Kippur. He is unable to say any wrong about Hashem’s nation. The year is made up of 365 days and the Satan has no power or ability to speak ill on Yom Kippur so he is only able to work the 364 days out of the 365. This is why, explains the Gemara, the name השטן has the numerical value of 364.
We are given Sukot right after Yom Kippur so that we may enter this holy space and be protected from the Satan by the “shade of Emunah”, the Shechina, the great revelation of Hashem’s presence.

Finally, there’s a beautiful explanation that we celebrate Sukot only after Yom KIppur and not right after Pesach, because Sukot represents unity among us. This is expressed by the unity of the four species, which represent the four different categories of Jews. This is also expressed by the three parts that make up the dimensions of the Sukah. These are the floor, the surrounding walls, and the Schach-the top of the Sukah.

Unity among us happens when we remove the sins that separate us. When we purify our hearts from all the causes of our sins, deep within our midot, belief systems, attitudes, and perspectives, we come to see every Jew for the good within them. We see them for the Neshama within them.

This unity is made possible though the purification of Yom Kippur.

May we merit really connecting to this holy protection of the Emunah, the Shecinah revealed through the Sukah, and the unity between us and Hashem and with every Jew that happens through the shaking the lulav and dwelling in the sukah. May we feeling this inspiration burning within our hearts and being expressed in every aspect of our lives throughout the whole year and may we merit a sweet and successful new year full of all the blessings that we need and that we want until the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days Amen!

rachamim-bitton

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