From Fasting to Feasting
After cleansing our souls on Yom Kippur, Jews celebrate wholeness and spontaneity during the festival of Sukkotsukkah
, which is a temporary hut covered by a roof made ofsechach
-branches or any other material that grows from the ground and is detached from it. There must be enoughsechach
to provide shade but not too densely packed that you cannot see the stars at night.
During the entire seven days of the holiday we are required to leave our permanent homes and take up residence in thesukkah
as much as possible. Therefore, we eat our meals there, entertain our guests there and even sleep there. Thesukkah
reminds us of the huts that the Jewish people lived in during the 40 years that they wandered in the desert prior to finally entering the land of Israel. Thesukkah
also symbolizes the miraculous clouds of glory that G-d enveloped the Jewish people, giving them shelter and protection.
Another main feature of the holiday is the four species: the lulav (palm branch), which is bound together with three myrtle branches and two willow branches and an etrog (citron), which looks somewhat like a lemon. We are commanded to own a set of these four species and each day wave it towards the four corners of the world, upward and downward.
Recovering Our Inner Child
I find the contrast of Sukkot next to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur amazing. We just spent 10 heavy days, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, immersed in intensive introspection, probing the depth of our souls to uncover our flaws and confront our mistakes, expressing heartfelt remorse for our wrongdoings and courageously committing ourselves to long lasting changes. Then, the very next day after Yom Kippur, we are out and about like playful children admiring the beauty of nature; looking at etrogim, palm branches, willows and myrtles. And we are building and decorating clubhouses - the sukkah.
What's Going On?
Although we value the maturity of the repentance process-we paid a price for the process. The heavy concentration and intensity of the last tens days often weakens us and damages the spontaneity and joy of our inner child.
The seriousness of repentance takes it toll on the joyfulness of life and our naturalness. Although repentance is a process of spiritual healing, there are side effects that need to be attended to. Even though we are over the sickness, we need to become healthy, whole and strong again. We need to reconnect with our vitality and life force. On Sukkot we recover our playfulness and our zest for life.
Passover is referred in the holiday prayers as the "time of our freedom." Shavuot is called "the time of the giving of our Torah." However, Sukkot is described as the "time of our happiness." On Sukkot we reclaim the joy and liveliness of our inner child and remember "Toy-rah R Us."
Judaism teaches that the goal of life and the source of true happiness is holiness. We are holy when we are whole-integrated and harmonious with our inner self, with our nation, with the rest of humanity, with nature and with G-d. This is accomplished through fulfilling the Commandments of G-d.