We have just emerged from the intense period of the High Holidays. Our prayers and hearts have been focused on the act of repentance, as we made amends for the wrongdoings of the past and resolved to work toward a better, more committed future. We sought forgiveness from God and dedicated ourselves to making the oftentimes difficult effort to improve ourselves, our character and our actions; we reflect on the past but we renew our passion for the future.
Sukkot fits into a similar pattern. Sukkot commemorates the temporary dwellings our ancestors lived in during their 40 years in the desert, but it also alludes to the Messianic age when all will be sheltered by God's Sukkah of peace. The Torah, in the book of Vayikra, trains our attention on forward-thinking rationale for the holiday: "And you shall dwell in Sukkot for seven days...so that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am HaShem your God" (Vayikra 23:42-43). In this passage, the Torah teaches that although the mitzvah of sitting in a sukkah is predicated upon a national memory, the purpose of sitting in the sukkah lies in our future generations. To sit in a sukkah teaches our children of HaShem's Divine providence over us; knowledge that God watches over and protects us trains our eyes forward on our ultimate goal, educating our future generations to perpetuate our heritage, our people, and our intimate relationship with God.
With its incorporation of experiential education into its ritual, Sukkot teaches that our beginnings necessitated living in a hut in the desert, and that our future includes agricultural abundance and material bounty. Both parts of our Jewish experience rely on God's gifts and both depend on our recognizing the goodness in our lives. By appreciating what we have, by celebrating the holiday with its varied rituals, and by sharing our experiences with our community and family, we gain knowledge of God and God's role in our national and personal lives.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach