For the week ending 22 September 2018 / 13 Tishri 5779

The Succot Season

by Rabbi Shlomo Wiener
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In reference to the holiday of Succot, the Tur asks a very pertinent question in Orach Chaim 625. He asks: Shouldn’t Succot really be celebrated in the month of Nissan, and not in the month of Tishrei? Since Succot commemorates the Clouds of Glory that accompanied our ancestors when they left Egypt, it should be celebrated in Nissan, the month when we left Egypt. In other words, why are we celebrating Succot six months after its proper time?

The Tur answers by saying that if we celebrated Succot in Nissan, it would not be recognizable that we are sitting in the Succah for the sake of doing a mitzvah. Since the weather is warm in Nissan, people often sit outside to cool off, and, therefore, leaving one's home at that time might not be understood as happening for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah. However, when we sit in a Succah in Tishrei, since Tishrei is a cold and rainy time of year, it is obvious that we are sitting there to perform a mitzvah. Therefore, the Torah "moved" Succot from its natural date in Nissan, and changed it to a new date in Tishrei.

This answer of the Tur may be technically correct, but perhaps we may offer a deeper explanation to answer his question. In Judaism we know that there are two aspects of our belief. First there is "emunah," which is Belief in G-d, and, secondly, there is "bitachon," which is Trust in G-d. Emunah is more the theoretical aspect of our belief, namely that intellectually and emotionally we know that there is a G-d. There are many levels of emunah, but all of these levels represent an intellectual and emotional awareness that G-d created and supervises the universe. Bitachon is a second stage that we can achieve after we have clarified our emunah. Bitachon is putting our emunah into practice, or, in other words, living with G-d. A person who has bitachon integrates G-d into all aspects of his life. He relies upon G-d for his livelihood, good health, and every other major challenge that he faces. Instead of merely speaking about G-d, a person with bitachon lives with G-d in every aspect of his life.

Based upon this idea, we can suggest an answer to the Tur’s question. By Succot falling in the month of Tishrei, it chronologically follows the holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are times when a Jew perfects his emunah and connection to G-d. On Rosh Hashana we proclaim that G-d is the King of the universe, and that we are His loyal servants. On Yom Kippur we confess our transgressions and promise to improve our behavior in the upcoming year. Through these two holidays we raise our emunah to a very exalted level. Once we have perfected our emunah to the highest degree on the High Holidays, we move on to stage two, namely bitachon. During Succot we leave the comfort of our homes and we live in a Succah, a temporary dwelling. In a Succah we are completely exposed to the natural elements, showing that we are completely dependent upon G-d. It shows our complete trust in Gd, and that we are living with G-d. After the theoretical declarations that we make on the High Holidays, we have to do a practical act to physically express our emunah. That practical act is the mitzvah of dwelling in the Succah. And that is a reason why we should celebrate Succot in the month of Tishrei — so that it can follow Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Based upon this explanation we can understand why in many holy books Succot is referred to as the conclusion and the summation of the High Holidays. Succot allows us to concretize and solidify our emunah, and to translate our belief into a practical act of bitachon. Succot is the fitting conclusion to the entire High Holiday season.

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