Sedra of the week: Succot

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Sedra of the week: Succot

Rabbi Jonathan Tawil looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah for Succot

Are you up for an adventure? Not had the opportunity to get out of lockdown properly?

Well you’re in luck. Try sleeping in the succah – camping out at home is a wonderful opportunity to get to know your natural neighbourhood intimately.

The Torah tells us to “live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths, so your descendants will know that I made the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev.23: 42-43.)

When we sit in the succah, we recall Jewish history – not just the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, but also the entire experience of exile.

The succah is defined as a ‘temporary dwelling’ (dirat arai). It is one of the most powerful symbols of Jewish history. Which other nation sees its home not as a castle, but as a fragile tabernacle?

We are the nation that was born, not in its land, but in the desert.

There are two opinions in the Talmud as to the essence of this mitzvah.

Rabbi Eliezer held that the succah represents the clouds of glory that surrounded the Israelites during the wilderness years, protecting them from heat during the day, cold during the night, and bathing them with the radiance of the divine presence.

Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, says succot mammash, meaning a succah is a succah, no more and no less: a hut, a booth, a temporary dwelling.

If a succah is merely a hut, what was the miracle? Why should there be a festival dedicated to something ordinary and non-miraculous?

Rashbam (Rashi’s grandson) says the succah was there to remind us of our humble origins so that we never fall into the complacency of taking for granted freedom, the land of Israel and the blessings it yields.

The miracle is that despite the trials and tribulations we have endured in Jewish history, we are still here.

We might not see it, it might seem to be just a hut, but in essence it is the protection of the Almighty.

Chag sameach!

Rabbi Jonathan Tawil is the founder and director of Torah Action Life

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