Why the Sukah? “Because G-d made us dwell in Sukos when we left Egypt.” Exactly what are we celebrating and remembering when we sit in a Sukah?
There is a well-known dispute in the Gemarah.
One opinion taught that we are celebrating the spirit of G-d. G-d protected us with a cloud of glory that cleansed us, hydrated us, and helped us feel the spirit of Hashem. This was a great miracle, certainly worthy of our celebration.
The second opinion is “Sukos Mamash”. When we left Egypt and ran into the desert we were homeless. We didn’t have any place to live; we were in a desert. We built Sukos out of whatever we could find. We were hardly protected. The wealthier Jews had four walls, the poorer ones had two or three walls. No one had a proper roof. This is how we lived in the desert and this is what we are celebrating today.
Let us think. I understand celebrating G-d’s glory. I understand celebrating G-d’s miracles. I understand opinion one. On Pesach we celebrate the splitting of the sea; on Sukos we celebrate Anani HaKovod.
Why in the world would we celebrate the makeshift broken huts we put together from odds and ends in the desert? Why would we rejoice over our refugee lifestyle?
Upon reflection, the second opinion works better that the first. The huts in the desert really did not protect us. We did the best we could, but we were vulnerable, exposed and defenseless. We were uncomfortable and afraid but we we were marching toward freedom, spirituality and Eretz Yisroel. We trusted G-d that He would get us through the sand storms, that He would protect us from the wild animals of the desert, and that He would hold our hand and walk us through difficult times. And He did.
According to the first opinion, on Sukos we celebrate G-d’s strength and His overpowering of nature. According to the second opinion we celebrate our leap of faith, our making ourselves comfortable with the uncomfortable. We stood up and bravely depended on G-d.
We repeat this celebration every year. That G-d can do it is an understatement. That is what Pesach is for. That we can do it causes a kind of happiness that touches the depth of the soul. This is Sukos.
The Rambam teaches that as Sukos approaches an atmospheric transition takes place. We change from yemei pachad, days of awe, to yemei sason, days of rejoicing. We rejoice because we are confident in the Tzila D -Mehemnuse; the protection of G-d.
We rejoiced in the desert, we did it through our generations. Today, during difficult times, I believe we are called upon to do it again. As someone pointed out recently, the Jew feels safer in their shaky little Sukah than they do in the tallest building in the world. We understand and rejoice in the fact that G-d will take care of us.
David said, “He hides us in His sukah during difficult days, He protects us in the shelters of His tent.”