Weekly Reading Insights:
Sukkot 5784

Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on First Day of Sukkot 15 Tishrei 5784 /Sept. 30, 2023

First Torah:
Sukkot 1 - Shabbat: Leviticus 22:26 - 23:44

Second Torah:
Sukkot 1 - Shabbat: Numbers 29:12-16

Zachariah 14:1-21

An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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This coming Shabbat begins the holiday of Sukkot. On Sukkot, we have two specific, different commandments: 1) dwelling in a sukka (hut), and 2) taking of the four species (palm frond - lulav, citron - esrog, myrtle branch - hadas, and willow branch - arava). Nevertheless, the holiday is named Sukkot, and not "the holiday of the four species" or some other general name.

The reason is the special characteristics of the sukka, which the mitzva of the four species does not have. First, the mitzva of sukka begins as soon as the holiday begins, whereas we perform the mitzva of the four species only the following morning (and this year, as we are forbidden to perform it on Shabbat, and must wait until Sunday morning). Secondly, the sukka itself must be built before the holiday begins, while the four species can be tied together on the holiday itself. Thirdly, each time we eat in the sukka we make the blessing, "…You have sanctified us with Your commandments, and commanded us to sit in the sukka." If we leave the sukka for anything other than a short time, and we want to eat there, we are obligated to make the blessing again. We fulfill the commandment of sitting in the sukka many times a day, yet having performed the mitzva of the four species once, we cannot do so again until the next day. Last but not least, we fulfill the commandment of sukka with our entire body being located in the sukka, as opposed to the four species which we hold only with our hands.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that from the commandment of sukka, we learn that everything a Jewish person does (not just learning Torah or fulfilling the commandments), even our everyday, mundane affairs, must be connected to G-d. Sukkot is soon after Yom Kippur. The word for the service of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur is "avoda". This is the same word used to describe the daily work that each of us does to make a living: avoda. We should regard our every day activities as potentially holy as the actions of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies.

The mitzvah of sukka embodies this concept. Whether sitting, eating, sleeping, etc., in a sukka, a Jew is entirely enveloped by the mitzva. Everything, even answering a phone call, in the sukka becomes part of the mitzva! The mundane reaches its potential in becoming holy!

Another aspect of being surrounded by the mitzvah of sukka is that it is compared to being hugged by G-d. When hugging someone, you accept even the person's back. People wear jewelry, a tie, etc. on the front side of their body, because the front is usually the focus of attention, not the back. The back is the part of themselves they do not usually share with others. But it is hugging, which also involves the back, that expresses a level of total and unconditional love. Through G-d accepting even all our seemingly insignificant and physical actions in the sukka, as most holy, He is a spiritually "hugging" us.

Sukkot follows Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Repentance, and Yom Kippur. During these preceding days we are not just being judged for our actions of the past year, we are also checking to see if we have met our expectations for the new year. It is appropriate that immediately following the High Holidays should come the holiday of Sukkot, when we dedicate all of our actions, unconditionally and without exception, to the Holy One Blessed Be He for the entire coming year.

When we sit in a sukka, our entire body and all of its actions become sanctified. When we make every mundane action in our lives into an act of holiness, we are making the entire world into a sukka, a dwelling place for the Almighty, uniting every part of the creation in the service of G-d. It is easy to be happy while fulfilling a mitzva when you know even your small individual action is accomplishing something very, very big.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom, Shaul!


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,
click to Sukkot

one sample:

The Holy Ari

Ceilings of Consciousness

By Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (from the Writings of the Ari as recorded by Rabbi Chaim Vital); translated and edited by Baruch Emanuel Erdstein

While the explicit reason for dwelling in a sukkah during the holiday of Sukkot is to commemorate the miraculous exodus from Egypt and G-d's shelter as we traveled through the desert, the Ari explains that the sukkah serves as a model of the spiritual worlds and conduit for expanded consciousness, channeling divine benevolence into the Lower Realms.

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