Although it's barely been a month and a half, it feels like at least three months have passed. You've adapted to a new program, with new friends and a new (and surprisingly exhausting) schedule. The emotional roller coaster of Slichos, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur was like nothing you've ever experienced. Finally, it's Sukkos and Bein HaZmanim - time to relax, enjoy, and prepare for the upcoming Choref Zman. Most of your time will hopefully be spent out in the Sukka. Eating, learning, sleeping, and shmoozing are all moved outside for the week. But what exactly is Sukkos celebrating, and what is it meant to do for me?
This Sukkos, use some of the time in your Sukka to think about one of the ideas below. Discuss your thoughts with friends. This will help you actually process and grow from the ideas Chazal wanted us to think about over the course of the Chag, as expressed by the Halachos governing the Mitzvos they instituted.
Each holiday has a unique descriptor in Davening. Pesach is Zman Cheiruseinu, the time of our freedom. Shavuos gets Zman Matan Toraseinu, the time of the giving of our Torah. Surprisingly, Sukkos doesn’t get a descriptor related to it’s historical origins, but to an aspect of it’s yearly celebration. After commanding us to take the four species, the Torah adds that we should rejoice before Hashem for the week of Sukkos. While there’s a Mitzva of Simchas Yom Tov for every Regel (and potentially for other Moadim, as well), it’s highlighted on Sukkos. Sukkos wears a number of hats, any or all of which could contribute to the extra Simcha – the end of the yearly Moadim cycle, the end of the harvest season, and the end of the Yamim Nora’im
While every Mitzva has a component of Zeh Keili V’Anvehu, a value to performing the Mitzva in an aesthetically pleasant way, Arba Minim is unique. First of all, Hashem chose to describe the Esrog as a Pri Eitz Hadar, the beautiful fruit of a tree (according to the standard interpretation). Second of all, that description is used as the source that one’s Esrog should be Mehudar, avoiding issues such as spots, holes, scabs, or cuts. There may even be an additional Kiyum to choose an Esrog which you personally find pleasing, in addition to the objective criteria! Finally, that Din is extended to the rest of Minim. It is almost unique among the rest of the 613 Mitzvos that external beauty plays such a definitional role in the Mitzva
The fundamental nature of the Sukka as being temporary or permanent is a Machlokes that permeates the first two Perakim of Masechet Sukka. We paskin that the Sukka should at least in theory be built in a way which lends itself to temporality, although the actual materials you use in practice are basically irrelevant. Hashem directs us to spend a week away from our comfortable, solid houses to spend a week barely protected from the elements. In certain areas of the world, it’s entirely possible to find your Sukka covered with a layer of snow, blown off your front porch, or lying in a pile of splintered wood and ripped canvas after a particularly rough rainstorm.
The most mysterious of all the holidays. On the one hand, it’s the 8th day of Sukkos. On the other hand, it has its own name, and Chazal said that it should be seen as a Regel Bifnei Atzmo. At least on the surface, there’s no specific Mitzvas HaYom to give us a hint, similar to Shavuos. At some point in our history, Simchas Torah was attached to Shmini Atzeres – why was this day chosen?! A Medrish suggests that Shmini Atzeres is actually a very simple day – it’s Hashem holding us with Him for one more day before the start of a long, cold winter. The Avoda of the day is simply tapping into that feeling of love, the culmination of the relationship we’ve been working on since the beginning of Elul and Rosh HaShana.
After a tough Elul Zman, Bein HaZmanim is a great time to catch up on sleep, relax, and recharge for a long Choref Zman. If used incorrectly, though, it can negate any growth a person made over the previous month and a half. The best way to navigate this double-edged sword is with a schedule and clear goals. By planning out what you want to do, who you want to do it with, and when you’ll be doing it, you’ll make sure you do fun things, with people you want to strengthen relationships with, and maintain your Kvius of learning every day.
We're just getting this site started, and can really use your help. If you appreciated this article, please share it with some friends!Return to Blog