From Fasting to Feasting
After cleansing our souls on Yom Kippur, Jews celebrate wholeness and spontaneity during the festival of Sukkot
BY: Rabbi David Aaron
Ready to fulfill our purpose on earth we are able to celebrate our return back to nature and nature supports us in our holy efforts. Therefore, we embrace the four species and feel embraced by the natural setting of the sukkah, covered by its roof made of foliage, living in its shade by day, and peering at the stars at night. In fact, according to Jewish mysticism, the sukkah has the ambience of the Garden of Eden, where humanity was in complete harmony with nature and all our physical needs were naturally provided for without the sweat of our brow.
Some sages explain that the sukkah even has the ambience of the World to Come. Even though on Yom Kippur we got a glimpse of the World to Come, to get that glimpse we had to leave this world through fasting and other abstentions of physical pleasures. However, on Sukkot, now that we have already purged ourselves of our wrongdoings, we can experience heaven on earth through feasting in our sukkah-we experience the World to Come in this world precisely through physical pleasure.
The fasting on Yom Kippur prepares us for the feasting on Sukkot. The abstention from the physical pleasures of this world on Yom Kippur is only meant to heal us from the sickness of overindulgence. But, once we take control of ourselves and free ourselves from our sins, addictions, and obsessions, then we are free to enjoy the pleasures of this world on Sukkot.
On Yom Kippur we leave this world and experience union with G-d through transcending nature and abstaining from physical pleasures. However, on Sukkot we experience union with G-d in nature and through physical pleasures. This is the journey of holiness.
The epitome of holiness is expressed when we experience no conflict between the physical and the spiritual, the natural and the supernatural, the eternal and the temporal. We simply enjoy perfect harmony, synergy, and wholeness.
This truth is clearly expressed in the commandment to dwell in the sukkah. It is one of the very few commandments that we do with our entire body and we fulfill it by merely living, eating, drinking, and conversing in the sukkah. We even fulfill the commandment by simply sleeping there.
After the hard work during the days of penitence we can now relax and experience how our everyday natural life is immersed in the truth of G-d's all embracing presence. The sukkah teaches us that we are always and completely one with G-d even when we are tending to our mundane needs of eating and sleeping. Our choice is to realize this truth and celebrate it.
Sukkot is the celebration of ultimate holiness. On this holiday we celebrate the wholeness we achieved after penitence and the wholeness with G-d that we can now experience in our physical world. We feel the ecstatic joy of being integrated within ourselves, one with our people and our leaders throughout time, aligned with our nation's universal mission, renewed in our commitment to humanity, and harmonized with nature. We are thrilled to know and feel that we have finally returned back to our true selves. We are whole in One-whole with G-d and whole in G-d.