Weekly Letter: The Deeper Meaning of Sukkos

This Week, we present an excerpt from the writings of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel explaining the deeper significance of the holiday of Sukkos.

The essay is from a forthcoming book by Nissan Mindel Publications on the philosophy of Chabad, based on Torah Or and Likutei Torah.

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The Festival of Succoth, as already mentioned, is traditionally and in liturgy known as “Zeman Simchachenu,” the “season of Our Rejoicing.” Although all three Pilgrimage Festivals (ShalashRegalim) are referred to as mo’adim seasons lesimchah (“seasons for rejoicing”),Succoth has been singled out as the festival of rejoicing. Being the chag ha’asif, the festival of ingathering, it is understandable why this festival was particularly joyous, for it marked the final ingathering of the produce of the fields, orchards, vine­ yards, and olive groves, which took place in  the  late summer. However, RSZ looks at it from a deeper spiritual viewpoint: Succoth follows the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Days of Teshuvah. It therefore brings the intense joy experienced by the Ba’ al Teshuvah, when he feels that his repentance has been accepted and he has returned to his Father in Heaven from Whom he had been separated, estranged by his sins. This elated feeling has already been described elsewhere.

Likewise is the Succot itself interpreted by RSZ in terms of mystical symbolism. The Biblical explanation of the Succot is, of course, simple. The Succah is to serve as a reminder of the tents in which the children of Israel dwelt in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. The Rabbis elaborate on this historical aspect of the Succah, identifying  it with  the “Clouds  of  Glory” wherewith  G-d protected the Israelites in the desert. Maimonides  and  others  point out of deserts do that are in want of comfort. We shall thereby remember that this has once been our condition.”

RSZ does not dwell on these historical and moral associations of the Succah. He is primarily concerned with its esoteric significance. Pointing out that Halachically the essential part of the Succah is its covering (sechach, from which the word Succah is derived), RSZ goes on to explain that it symbolizes the Or Makkif, the encompassing or transcending Divine Light that descends on earth as a result  of the Teshuvah attained on Yom Kippur. He finds further support for this doctrine in the Halachah that requires the sechach to provide more shade than light, but that the stars should be visible through it. Explains RSZ; The the moral lessons to be derived from the Succah, such as: “Man ought to remember his evil days in his days of prosperity. He will thereby be induced to thank G-d repeatedly, to lead a modest and humble life. We, therefore leave our houses in order to dwell in Succoth, as inhabitants.

Or Makkif comes from such a high Source that it is precluded from being perceptible by finite beings. In  the Zohar  this  Or Makkif is called Keter El-yon (Supernal Crown). Of this aspect of G-dliness it is written, “He makes darkness His mystery”; it is a light so sublime and  incomprehensible that it can only be  described  as “darkness.” Only a fraction of this Light  (faintly  visible  “stars,” metaphorically speaking) can be drawn forth into a perceptible state by the Mitzvah of the Succah.

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