As modern life keeps moving along, Jewish people all over the world dwell outside in a hut for eight days. On one hand it is not easy to stop everything, but that is the exact reason we must.
Everybody is looking for purpose, meaning, and to believe in something, to have a purpose in this world. Each Jewish holiday takes us through self reflection, learning from our ancestors, and reconnecting with our essence.
I’d like to share these beautiful words from Elchonon Cohen’s speech at the third meal of Shabbos yesterday (I used as few Hebrew words as possible, because I think the lesson is pretty universal):
The Gemara says that the walls of a sukkah (ceremonial booth for this holiday) are representative of the clouds of glory which accompanied the Jews as they left Egypt, all across the desert. Famously, it poses the following question–if the clouds of glory first appeared in the spring, when we left Egypt, why don’t we celebrate Sukkot in the spring? The Gemara says, well, since the weather is so lovely in the spring, and people are anxious to go outside after the cold winter, maybe people wouldn’t notice that the Jews are performing a ritual. (This is the explanation I always heard previously.)
However, there’s another answer: Citing the Vilna Gaon (I think–but maybe it was the Maharil?), Elchonon explained that the walls of the sukkah don’t represent the original clouds of glory. They represent those that returned AFTER the sin of the golden calf was properly atoned for (on the first Yom Kippur ever). Thus, placing Sukkot after Yom Kippur, in the fall, is perfectly logical. We only get to enjoy the complete joy of dwelling in the sukkah after we’ve done teshuvah (regret + apology/confession + commitment to change your ways) and reconciled with our Creator and the community.
Elchonon also pointed out that the word sukkah is one of the few words that has no lingual sounds. Your tongue can remain still the entire time you say it. Properly celebrating sukkot can atone for improper speech. Thus, refraining from hurtful speech and gossip while sitting in your sukkah is a good way to maintain that feeling of purity we gained from Yom Kippur. (Also, IMO, it’s a good opportunity to apologize to anyone you didn’t apologize to before Yom Kippur.)
Have a great Sukkot to all who celebrate it!