Tomorrow night starts the holiday of Succos. The holiday of Succos seems to contain a quite strong paradox. On the one hand in all our prayers it is called zman simchasainu – the time of our joy. On a spiritual plane, this is the time that we have just cleansed ourselves from sin on Yom Kippur. On a physical plane, this is the time of year that we bring in the produce that has been drying in the fields during the summer. Certainly there is great joy in the hearts of all. Yet, when we are told how to celebrate this time of joy, we are told to do it in a most strange way: We must leave our comfortable heated or air conditioned homes, to dwell in temporary, rickety, unstable Succah. Is this the way that we feel joy? Is this the best we can do to arouse feelings of gratitude to Hashem and content with what we have? Wouldn’t we feel better in the comfort of our own homes, sitting like Kings and Queens with our family?
The Torah, in the commandment to sit in the Succah, is giving us a vehicle to serve Hashem properly, with joy. As long as our happiness is based on physical pleasure, upon having whatever we have, we are doomed for failure. As the Talmud tells us, “One who has 100 wants to have 200”. Sooner or later we are going to start feeling an emptiness, a lack of having enough, a burning desire for more.
Our Succah is really what gives the answer to this problem. When the Torah tells us to leave the comfort of our home, to dwell in the temporary dwelling of a Succah, we are being give the best recipe in the world for living with true joy: living in the Succah. The message of the Succah, that we are all in a most temporary existence in this world, that we are constantly under the watch and care of Hashem, and that we are never alone. If we really understand that, and feel it, then the joy we feel is endless. The frustrations of not having things exactly the way we want them are removed, as we suddenly are faced with a world that is running exactly the way The Director wants it to. Things are suddenly as best as they could be. The story is told that the Chofetz Chaim once asked someone he met how things were going. The man responded, “Things could be better”. The Chofetz Chaim asked “How do you know?”.
This is the beauty of living in the Succah; the beauty of living directly under the loving hand of Hashem. Hopefully, we will emerge from this holiday with a new feeling of trust in Him, and a feeling of closeness to Him that will remain with us for the entire year.