Sukkot – The journey is what is important…
Sukkot is one of the 3 main Jewish holidays, which, along with Pesach and Shavuot are called the “Shalosh Regalim”. Pesach, as we know, celebrates God’s miraculous liberation of our ancestors from Egypt after their having been enslaved for over 200 years. Shavuot commemorates the day that the Jews received the Torah, the all-time best seller and moral compass of the world that is as relevant and deep today as it was 3300 years ago. So one would expect Sukkot, the 3rd of the series, to be something REALLY significant.
However, according to one opinion, Sukkot’s purpose is to remind us that while the Jews journeyed in the desert for 40 years, they lived in wooden huts. I know that it might be miraculous that Jews were able to build their own huts over and over again without the help of Lowes or Home Depot, but would you not agree that this still seems to be a very petty reason to make an 8 day holiday?!
I would like to suggest that this reason is much more profound than it first appears. The freedom of Pesach is wonderful and the Torah revealed on Shavuot is so wise, but more important is what happens after those life-changing moments. It is the journey we take using our freedom and our religion, or perhaps I should say how we exercise our freedom of religion, especially in such a welcoming society. Sukkot reminds us that historical events are amazing, but it is the day to day journey, implementing and living out those values, that make those moments truly transformative.
Life is not about the big bombastic events, any more than a marriage is about the anniversary or a profession is about one’s graduation, it is the days that make up the journey after specific events that is what life is all about.
With this understanding, it now makes sense why Sukkot falls right after the High Holidays. Assuming you had as inspiring a Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as I had, one could easily catch oneself saying “that was a GREAT High Holidays.” There is a story of a Chassid that approaches his Rebbe after Yom Kippur and asks “Wasn’t your Yom Kippur amazing?!” To which the Rebbe responds, “How should I know? Ask me at Chanukah time (two months later) and I will be able to tell you if Yom Kippur was truly successful.” It all depends on what the days and months ahead bring. The success of our holidays hinges on the way we remain inspired and incorporate their messages once they are over.
Just like the Jews of old celebrated their journey in the desert as an opportunity to live out their values, so too may this year’s Sukkot remind us to pay attention to the importance of our day to day journey.
Rabbi Rafi and The House Team