SUKKOT IS MUCH MORE THAN WHAT IT SEEMS TO BE, AND MUCH DEEPER. ANALYZING WHAT TORAH AND TALMUD SAY ABOUT SUKKOT, WE FIND THAT IT IS A CELEBRATION OF OUR EVERYDAY GIFTS, BUT THAT THESE ORDINARY GIFTS ARE NOT ORDINARY AT ALL.
By Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe
Sukkot, and in particular, the Mitzvah that gives this holiday its name— the Sukkah—seems to be an exercise in contradictions.
The Jewish people spent 40 years in a desert with no natural sources
of food and water, a desert where they were exposed to the extremes of heat by day, with a merciless sun beating down on them, and chilling nights. The Jewish people were miraculously fed by the Manna that fell from Heaven, drank from the Well of Miriam that traveled with them, and were sheltered from the heat and radiance of the sun, and the chill of night by the shelter of the supernatural Clouds of Glory that surrounded them above and from all sides by day and night.
Which brings us to a jarring contradiction! The Sukkah we are supposed to build to commemorate these miracles is a simple hut (as per Rabbi Akiva’s description) that according to Jewish law must be roofed by inedible vegetation that allows the rain through. If rain cannot get through the roof of the Sukkah, it is no Sukkah according to Jewish Law.
Furthermore, Sukkot is described in the Torah as “The Festival of Gathering the Harvest.”
There is nothing more natural than the cycle of the seasons and the fall harvest of the tree-fruits and other fall crops. Indeed, we build the Sukkah in accordance with the idea that the roof is made of inedible vegetation, as the Rabbis of the Talmud put it, “That which is left behind after the (edible) harvest is gathered into the granary and winepress.”
We confronted here with a split personality; Is Sukkot a celebration of the gifts of the natural world or is it a celebration of G-d’s miracles?
Sukkot teaches us that these are not two things, but one.
The only di erence between miracles and nature is frequency. As a 1703 sermon by Chacham David Nieto to the newly formed Sephardic community in London pointed out G-d and nature are one and G-d alone is the essence of the rain and the wind, the life within the soil and every creature. This aroused controversy until the Chacham Tzvi demonstrated that this idea is fundamental to Judaism and has always been such from the moment of the giving of the Torah onwards.
A miracle is a suspension of the way G-d ordinarily is revealed, but every particle and system in the universe is G-d creating them and making them function at every moment. The purpose of miracles is to remind us the ordinary and everyday are miraculous in the sense that every breath we take, every bite we eat, and every blade of grass is woven purely of G-d’s presence and energy—and nothing else. As the Torah says “There is nothing else other than It” (G-d).
We by plowing, planting, building, writing software, cutting diamonds, driving an Uber etc. simply are making a vessel for G-d’s blessings. Anyone who has been in business knows that there are sure things that fail and long shots that bring great pro t. There are no sure things, only containers we create and ask G-d to ll them with good and abundance.
These are the lessons of the Sukkah—if it rains, the wealthiest and poorest Jew alike get wet. We are at the mercy of the elements that G-d controls. By dwelling in the Sukkah as if it were our home, we remember that our home is as secure as G-d decides it will be. By surrounding ourselves with motifs of the harvest at the time of the harvest we remember that all we have ows from His Being and are dependent upon it.
We therefore remember that whatever G-d gives us is given as trust that we must discharge, by sharing with the poor, by supporting places of Torah Study and Prayer, and by celebrating Shabbat and Yom-tov with joy, pleasure, and a table full of guests.
Sukkot gives us the awareness for the whole year that the ordinary is breathtakingly miraculous if we only stop to think about it.
By Chani Rosenblum
1 EVE OF SUKKOT
WEDNESDAY – OCTOBER 4, 2017
- Light candles.
- Pray in the synagogue.
- Enjoy a festive dinner. During the recital of Kiddush, first say the blessing of Leshev Basukkah, then Shehecheyanu.
2 FIRST DAY OF SUKKOT
THURSDAY – OCTOBER 5, 2017
- From October 5th until October 11th (except Saturday), make the blessing over the four species, as early in the day as possible, preferably in a sukkah.
- Take the Lulav in your right hand, with the green spine facing you, and make the blessing, as you finish the blessing pick up the Etrog and bring it in contact with the bottom part of the lulav. And shake.
- The first time, add the blessing Shehecheyanu before you shake.
- Go to the synagogue.
- Enjoy a festive lunch.
- Light candles from a preexisting flame.
- Pray in the synagogue.
- Enjoy a festive dinner. During the recital of Kiddush, first say theblessing of Shehecheyanu and then Leshev Ba’sukkah.
3 SECOND DAY OF SUKKOT
FRIDAY – OCTOBER 6, 2017
- Light candles, from a preexisting flame.
- Pray in the synagogue.
- Enjoy a Shabbat dinner.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2017
• Pray in the synagogue.
• Enjoy a Shabbat meal.
• Make Havdala.
5 CHOL HAMOED
SUNDAY – OCTOBER 8, 2017 UNTIL WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 11, 2017
• Chol Hamoed, the usual restrictions that apply to the Biblical Jewish holidays are relaxed, but not entirely eliminated. Work only if necessary, honor the festivity with the study of Torah and with food and wine.
6 HOSHANA RABA
TUESDAY – OCTOBER 10, 2017 AND
WEDNESDAY – OCTOBER 11, 2017
• It is customary to stay awake Tuesday night studying Torah and reciting Psalms. Wednesday morning in the synagogues, men circle the Torah- reading-platform seven times, with the four kinds in hand while reciting the Hoshanot.
• Have a festive lunch without Kiddush. Two challoth are not necessary for the hamotzi.
All the Sukkot meals should be done in the Sukkah. For the festive as well as Shabbat dinner and lunches make Kiddush, recite the blessing Leshev Ba’sukkah, and then recite Hamotzi over two challoth, a er washing and reciting al netilat yadaim, then dip the challah in honey.
If you do not have a Sukkah, holiday festive meals, should be done fully, with Kiddush and challoth, as well as Neilat Yadaim, omitting the blessing Leshev Ba’sukkah.