Sukkot is the holyday that follows 5 days after Yom Kippur, it is called “the holyday of our joy” (chag simchatenu). Sukkot is a festive holyday where we dwell in the sukkah (booth/hut), a temporary dwelling place we put up yearly and cover with branches or other organic material as its roof. We a re also commanded to pick up, join together, and bless 4 species (arbah meenim): etrog – citron, lulav – palm branch, aravot – willow branches, and hadassim – mirtle branches.
The holyday of Sukkot has many deep meanings connected with it, and it’s one of my all time favorites. For seven days we hang out in the sukkah, eating, drinking, singing, studying, sleeping… It becomes our new Divine home. After all of the inner work, all the teshuvah done from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur we now get a chance to celebrate our new selves and new connection to G!d… to relax and just bliss out in the “shade of the sukkah”.
The sukkah is generally a 4 walled structure with a roof made of organic matter, usually some kind of tree branches. The roof is called “schach” which comes from the root “sochei“, which has several meanings. One of the meanings is to anoint with oil, another is to gaze upon, and another is to see with ruach hakodesh – Divine Inspiration/Holy Spirit. Each is connected with the sukkah. First, when we come into the sukkah we are in a way being anointed with oil, just as a priest or king is anointed with oil to symbolize a new rank, connection, or level in consciousness, so to we are anointed with a new connection and new level of consciousness when we enter into the sukkah and dwell within. Second, when we gaze up to the roof we are reminded of the abundance of this earth and how G!d is watching over us and constantly providing for us… We realize we are always dwelling in Her Presence. Third, while dwelling in the sukkah and contemplating G!d’s Presence covering us, protecting us, surrounding and flowing through us, we can come to a place of clear vision, of ruach hakodesh.
Sukkot is really a time of integration; after the intensity of the deep inner contemplation of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we bring it back down to the earth and body of Sukkot. We physically build a hut, and are commanded to live in it. On Sukkot the everyday (at times seemingly mundane) action of eating becomes an actual mitzvah… we say a special brachah over food in the sukkah. So, we’re bringing the consciousness back down into the body and our ability to do this integration now is so much greater. Even “hanging out” and socializing become more apparently “holy” acts while in the sukkah. The intention of course is to use this powerful time, intentional actions, and spiritual practice to become aware of and integrate into the constant year-round holiness of these “mundane” activities. We take the holiness of these acts with us back into our homes and “everyday lives” after Sukkot because if we leave it in the sukkah we’ve missed the point.
For the “basics” of Sukkot click here: http://ascentofsafed.com/cgi-bin/ascent.cgi?Name=sukkot6761