Rabbi Yisrael Shachor
Former Rosh Kollel in Chicago
The phrase “succat shlomecha” (literally, “the shelter of Your peace”) is particularly significant in light of recent events. Shalom (peace) and shleimut (perfection or completeness) are one and the same, and Succot embodies shleimut.
The Maharal explains that Succot completes two cycles. First, Succot is the last of the Shloshet HaRegalim. Pesach recalls Am Yisrael’s beginning, and Shavuot is Chag Matan Torah, which represents Am Yisrael’s spirituality throughout the generations. Succot, in turn, corresponds to the End of Days, when the entire world will come to recognize Hashem’s Dominion. As we read in the haftarot of Succot: “
“And Hashem shall become King over all the land; on that day Hashem will be One, and His Name will be One.” (Zechariah 14:9)
Hence, the seventy parim, which correspond to the seventy nations, are brought as a korban.
The second cycle involves the Tishrei festivals. This cycle begins with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – “worship Hashem with fear” – and concludes with Succot and Shmini Atzeret – “and rejoice with trembling”. Spiritual simchah (happiness) is only complete when it is the result of worshiping Hashem with fear. The Maharal teaches us that simchah stems from shleimut, just as sorrow and mourning stem from loss.
Succot’s shleimut stems from the entire Klal Yisrael. As the Gemara (BT Succah 27b) states:
“All of Yisrael are fit to dwell in one succah.”
In the succah, which is tzila dimeheim’nuta (literally, the shade of belief), there is room for all of Am Yisrael. Moreover, the arba’at haminim symbolize all of Am Yisrael. As noted by the famous Midrash, there are those who have both Torah and good deeds, and there are others who have neither Torah nor good deeds. Nevertheless, they are all bundled together as one.
On a more profound level, we note that succah in gematria is 91, which is the sum of two of Hashem’s Names (26 and 65 respectively). The Gemara (BT Pesachim 50a) states:
“Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said, ‘The World to Come does not resemble this world. [In] this world, [Hashem’s Name] is written with [the letters] yud, hey, but is pronounced with aleph, dalet. But in the World to Come, it will all be one.’”
This Gemara is based on a pasuk:
“This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance from generation to generation.” (Shmot 3:15)
In this world, Hashem’s Presence is hidden, and therefore, the Name is not read as it is written. However, in the World to Come, everything will become one, and the Name – which includes the past, present and future – will be read as it is written. Similarly, in the Mikdash, the kohen gadol would pronounce the Name as it is written, because the Shechinah’s Presence was revealed in the Mikdash.
Therefore, the succah, which is the tzila dimeheim’nuta, incorporates both Names, and dwelling in the succah leads to the revelation of the Shechinah. Furthermore, we can now understand why Succot revolves around the Beit HaMikdash – nisuach hamayim, encircling the mizbe’ach with the aravot, simchat beit hasho’evah – because it is from the Beit HaMikdash that we “draw” the Ruach HaKodesh.
The succah evokes the ananei hakavod (the Clouds of Glory). As the pasuk states:
“In order that your generations will know that I had the Children of Israel dwell in booths (succot)…” (Vayikra 23:43)
The ananei hakavod symbolize the Shechinah’s Presence which filled the Mishkan and the Beit HaMikdash.
As we have seen, bundling and uniting are one of Succot’s major themes. For example, Succot joins the previous year with the new year, haba aleinu l’tovah.
Also, the Torah refers to Succot as Chag HaAsif (“the ingathering festival”). The annual agricultural cycle begins with plowing and planting, which are both dependent on rain being sent from Heaven. Reaping the crop and picking the fruit then follow, and the cycle concludes with gathering the produce and bringing it into one’s home. Therefore, the Torah stresses – three times – that we are obligated to rejoice on Succot.
However, at the same time, we begin the year with prayers for rain. Hence, the nisuach hamayim took place in the Beit HaMikdash on Succot, and we recite the tefilot hahoshaanot.
Similarly, on Succot, we thank the Creator for our “spiritual assif” during the previous year. We “harvested” Torah learning, mitzvah observance, and good deeds, and now is the time to express our gratitude for this spiritual bounty. Yet, at the same time, we must look forward to the new year. Just as the farmer recognizes that his entire world depends on the mercies of Heaven – the rains of blessing – so too one who strives and plants spiritual matters understands that without Siyata D’Shmaya (Divine Providence), he will not succeed. Therefore, we pray that we will not come up emptyhanded.
May we be privileged to enjoy a Succot of deep spiritual meaning, and may we merit seeing the rebuilt Beit HaMikdash and celebrating Succot together with simchah shleimah.