After the spiritual drama of the High Holy days, it could appear that Succot is somewhat of an anti-climax. Having filled our shuls and homes with the sublime spirit worthy of this time of year, we then leave it all behind for the succah – a simple, flimsy and seemingly undignified hut. Is this the most appropriate way to end the holiday season?
Succot is referred to as zeman simchateinu – the season of our rejoicing and various explanations are offered for this description. It displays our joy and confidence that we have been judged favourably for the coming year, and is
a symbol of the unity of the Jewish people.
However, my favourite reason is that its central observance – dwelling in the succah – is the only mitzvah that can be performed with the entire body. Other mitzvot require the use of one or more of our faculties, but the succah is unique in requiring our whole being to enter into it. The opportunity to connect with God at the beginning of a new year is a source of great delight.
This fact is emphasised in the Talmud, which refers to Succot simply as ha’chag – “the festival”. It is the archetypal celebration of our relationship with God and Judaism.
If our approach to our heritage is half-hearted, then we cannot possibly hope to be uplifted by it. Only when we practice Judaism with our whole being, fully investing both heart and soul, do we experience the joy that is its essence.
- Rabbi Alex Chapper serves Elstree & Borehamwood Synagogue and is the Children’s Rabbi, childrensrabbi.com