Why do we rush to build our Sukkah?
I hope that you enjoyed an uplifting Yom Kippur experience. I am still flying from a Neilah that had me soaring. It was a day that reminded me of what is truly important and valuable in life – and that I always have the ability to strengthen those values. However, the challenge now is how to capture that feeling, and not let it slip away.
As we transition from the High Holidays into the festival of Sukkot, there is a Mitzva to actually start building your Sukkah the night right after Yom Kippur ends. Many people go home after Neilah, grab something to eat, then pick up a nail and hammer and start building their Sukkah in their backyard.
The question of “why” is asked by many, and there are several answers that have resonated deeply with me over the years – but allow me to share just one of them with you. After all, The House realizes that Judaism cannot be sustained if it is driven simply by “tell me what to do.” Rather, its strength comes from “why do I have to do it?” Or, in Hebrew, what is called, “Ta’amei Hamitzvot.”
Ta’am can mean “reason,” but a deeper examination reveals that it also means “taste.” Why does one word mean both things? Perhaps it is to teach us that, just like food, it is about the nutritious content. Although we could just get nutrients in artificial forms like vitamins and pills, God has created a world where there are delicious “tastes” to enjoy the process of eating what is good for us. So too with mitzvoth: while they might naturally be good for us – let’s call them our “soulfood” – God doesn’t want us to perform mitzvoth only for their end benefit; He wants us to enjoy the process. Ta’amei Hamitzvot, the place where we get a taste for the mitzvah, is the reason behind the action. If the reason is sweet and relevant, the celebration of that mitzvah will be sweet as well!
“While they might naturally be good for us – let’s call them our ‘soulfood’ – God doesn’t want us to perform mitzvoth only for their end benefit; He wants us to enjoy the process.”
So why do we build a Sukkah right after Yom Kippur?
It is the perfect time of year to consider what is really important, what truly enriches our lives. Yom Kippur challenges us to reflect on our values through our past actions, while Sukkot asks us to reassess our values through what we construct and create. Often in life, we get sidetracked by the home we have, the car we drive, or the vacation destinations we travel to. These things are great, and while we should enjoy and share with family and friends all that God has blessed us with, we must remember that they are only tools to be used to enjoy the finer things in life. We mustn’t fall prey to thinking that they are what defines us or gives us ultimate joy.
Likewise, our Sukkah reminds us that the greatest things in life are not things!
When I erect those four walls in my backyard, I intend to sit down with my family and friends – not worry about how many people I am letting in, and if they will ruin the carpet. I welcome them in because the more people I open my doors for, the more meaningful my home becomes.
Just as The House is a vehicle to inspire Jewish values in the next generation, so too should your house inspire Jewish values. The greatest joy one can experience is not the next generation of Jews buying houses… but instead having them build Jewish homes!
Founder & Executive Director