Sukkot 5781

Holiday #3 (283)

Sukkot 5781

October 2-8

From Ascent Quarterly From the Chasidic Masters From the Kabbalists Laws & Customs
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Sukkah is an extraordinary mitzvah!

First: the mitzvah of sukkah is done with the entire body — all of you sits in the sukkah — while most mitzvot are performed with specific parts of the body (e.g. tefillin with the hand and head).

Second: a person can dwell in his sukkah virtually the entire holiday — the longer you stay, the more the mitzvah! — while most mitzvot are done for a limited period of time only (Shabbat candles-Friday afternoon).

Third: since the sukkah is your “house” during Sukkot, you are centered there and “home-in” to it, and therefore are connected to the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah even when you leave it. It is as if it follows you around wherever you go!

Fourth: through sukkah, nearly all of our mundane activities can be transformed into holy acts. In general, the routine activities of eating, sleeping, socializing, etc. are not necessarily mitzvot. During Sukkot, however, by doing all these activities in a sukkah, they acquire the level of mitzvot, and thus become infused with holiness for the entire year to come.

Try to maintain consciousness of all of these aspects of the mitzvah. One of the most potent lessons of the sukkah is that, as Jews, all our activities can become mitzvot, and we can connect to G-d in whatever we do, no matter how  “mundane” it may seem.  


The Midrash tells us that the holiday of Sukkot with its mitzvah of sukkah is a reward for having completed Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The teachings of Kabbalah and Chassidut stress how Sukkot is actually an extension of these High Holy Days.

1. On Rosh HaShana, the shofar is blown 100 times, 60 tekiot (long blasts), 20 sh’varim (broken blasts), and 20 truot (staccato) blasts. The gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew word for sukkah-roof foliage, s’chach, equals 100, and further, the value of each of the letters individually corresponds exactly to the number of each type of blast: samech=60, chaf=20,chaf=20. The blessings invoked through the call of the shofar come to fruition via the s’chach of the sukkah!

2. The seven days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur—one for each day of the week—are spent in introspection, and offer the opportunity for rectifying all the days of the previous year: the Sunday for all the previous Sundays, the Monday for all the previous Mondays, etc. These seven Days of Awe become the seven days of Joy—from which we draw power to enliven and enrich each individual day of the coming year.

3. On Yom Kippur, the climax of the Temple-service used to be when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies (the innermost chamber of the Temple, which only he could enter, and only on Yom Kippur), and put the special incense on the coals from the altar, making a cloud that filled the room. These clouds of incense correspond to the “clouds of glory” that accompanied us in the desert, which are represented by the s’chach of the sukkah. So through the roof of the sukkah comes also the holiness of Yom Kippur!

Thus the holiness of the sukkah is powerfully encompassing and inclusive. It is the vehicle for the internalization (at the time of Waving the Four Species) of all the blessings granted to us on Rosh HaShana and confirmed on Yom Kippur. And since Sukkot  is “the Season of our Rejoicing”, this is best accomplished when all our activities in the sukkah are permeated with heart-felt joy.

From the Kabbalists

7 HEAVENLY GUESTS — "Ushpizin"

The Zohar tells us that these seven “Shepherds” of the Jewish people visit every Jew in his sukkah, each night a different one at the head. And each of them is a paradigm for a different one of the seven divine attributes.
1st day - Avraham — Chessed — kindness
2nd day - Yitzchak — Gevurah — severity
3rd day - Yaakov — Tiferet — beauty
4th day - Moshe — Netzach — victory
5th day - Aharon — Hod — acknowledgment
6th day - Yosef — Yesod — foundation
7th day- David — Malchut — sovereignty

Some Laws and Customs - Sukkot


What to DO in a Sukkah

Basically, a sukkah is a walled structure with a flimsy roof. It may not be constructed under an overlying tree or building. The walls may be made from any material and must be sturdy enough to withstand a normal wind. Ideally there should be four but, minimally, two full walls and part of a third is sufficient. The roof-covering of the sukkah, s’chach, must be vegetative matter that is detached and unprocessed, such as cornstalks, evergreen branches, or bamboo.

Every Jew (well. almost...) knows what a sukkah is, and that you go into one during the holiday of Sukkot. But once inside, what do you do? The commandment is, “live in a Sukkah for seven days just as in your regular home” (Shulchan Aruch I, 439:1), but what does that mean? Camp out? Watch video? Drink tequila? After all, Sukkot is a Jewish holiday. How do you do Jewish in a sukkah? And what will be expected of us in someone else’s sukkah?
Here are a few SUGGESTIONS:
 1. Survey and comment upon the structure and s’chach of the sukkah, and also the decorations
 2. Wave the Four Species if you didn’t yet do it that day
 3. Accept some food and drink if offered so as to be able to make the special sukkah blessing. See how many different sukkahs you can make this blessing in (“sukkah-hopping”). Make “l’chaim
 4. Discuss themes of Sukkot, such as the following, with your hosts

 1. The Kingdom of David  (i.e., the Jews’) is compared to a sukkah (see Blessings After A Meal)
 2. Heavenly visitor and Divine attribute of the day (see “7 Heavenly Guests” below)
 3. Sukkah is the mitzvah by which G-d will test the other nations (see Haftorah: Shabbat of Sukkot)
 4. The upcoming war of Gog and Magog (see Haftorah: First Day of Sukkot)
 5. One of the rewards for the righteous people in time-to-come is a special feast that will take place in a special sukkah
 6. Kohelet — the Megillah for Sukkot
 7. The ASCENT “A Sukkah Meditation” and "Inner Dimensions of Sukkot"

REMEMBER: an indispensable requirement on Jewish holidays is to enjoy oneself, especially on Sukkot!

Chag Samayach - Have a joyous holiday!

The ASCENT staff


Last year's Sukkot page


for more Kabbalah insights on Sukkot



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