The Mitzvah of the Sukkah: Trusting in G-d
We all know the famous question: Why did the Creator command us to perform the mitzvah of the sukkah during the month of Tishri, rather than Nissan, since it was during Nissan that we left Egypt?
The Tur (Orach Chaim 625:1) replies as follows: “Even if we departed during the month of Nissan, it was not at that time that He commanded us to make a sukkah, for that was the summertime, when people usually make shelters to provide themselves with shade. Building a sukkah during that time would therefore not have been seen as fulfilling the Creator’s commandment. We must do so during the month of Tishri, which is a time of rain, when people normally leave their shelters and permanently dwell in their homes. It is at that point that we leave our homes and enter the sukkah, so that everyone may see that we are fulfilling the commandment of the King.”
The very fact that we perform the mitzvah of the sukkah during Tishri, not Nissan, teaches us a great principle in serving G-d.
We know that a person is constantly assailed with trials that always seek to overcome him, and the work that he must do to perfect himself occurs year-round. In Nissan, the month of our deliverance, a person removes all chametz from his home (i.e., all pride from his heart), and in this way he comes closer to G-d. He then continues to spiritually elevate himself during the month of Iyar, for these are the days when we count the Omer, a time when we must work to refine our character traits.
If that were not enough, during the month of Sivan a person elevates himself still more, for during that time he receives the Torah and thereby connects to Hashem. Arriving at the months of Tammuz and Av, he continues to improve himself, for everyone wants to rectify the sins that caused the destruction of Israel’s Temple, sins such as Lashon Harah and baseless hatred. A person returns to G-d especially during the months of Elul and Tishri, days of justice and mercy, when he is cleansed and purified of all sin.
Thus after all this, a person is susceptible of becoming proud. He may think, “I’ve now done all the work that I had to do on myself, and I have nothing more to rectify.” If he believes this, he is liable of loosing everything he has gained.
This is why the Creator, in His great mercy to us, commanded that we should build a sukkah at precisely that point in time. We are to once again leave our homes and head out to the sukkah, placing ourselves under the shelter of His wings and the shadow of faith (Zohar III:103a), for the sukkah constitutes the shadow of faith. In this way a person’s heart will grow in faith and he will not stumble into trials again. In addition, during the holiday of Sukkot the Holy One, blessed be He, visits each person in the sukkah at the same time as the seven faithful shepherds. What is the purpose of this? It is in order that these “guests” may bestow an abundance of blessing and success upon us, and we will therefore be able to overcome all trials. Furthermore, these holy “guests” stand by a person not only during Sukkot, but throughout the year, helping and supporting him to improve his Torah study, mitzvot performance, and character traits.
In examining this closely, we see that these guests are G-d’s sign that all our sins have been forgiven during the month of Tishri. This is like a person who committed a great number of sins against his fellowman, but then asked him for forgiveness. How will he know that his fellowman has actually forgiven him with all his heart and soul? If this friend comes to his home with a beautiful gift, he will then know that he has truly been forgiven.
The same applies to the Holy One, blessed be He. During the holiday of Sukkot, we invite the seven ushpizin (“guests”), and the Holy One, blessed be He, comes with them into our tiny sukkah. He thereby demonstrates and clearly proves to us that He has truly forgiven all our sins on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Not only that, but He also gives us a beautiful gift, namely faith, that we may believe in Him forever. We will thus know that all our sins have been forgiven. By way of allusion, we may add that the word ichaper (“he will forgive”) has the same numerical value as the word shai (“gift”), because the very fact of being forgiven constitutes a gift from Hashem.
For our part, we must learn to appreciate everything that G-d gives us. We must strengthen ourselves in faith, the fear of Heaven, and Torah study to become worthy recipients of all these gifts. This is why we build a sukkah, and furthermore we build it as soon as Yom Kippur ends, as stated in Halachah (Rema, Orach Chaim 624:5). This means that immediately after our sins have been forgiven, we want to become suitable vessels to receive the benefits that Hashem sends us. Therefore we immediately begin to build a sukkah.
This proves that we are so grateful to Hashem for all the good that He continuously does for us, and for the fact that He has forgiven us, that we want to come increasingly closer to Him. This is why, as soon as we are cleansed on Yom Kippur, we begin to build a sukkah, thereby preventing the Satan from entering and residing with us. Thus our entire body and soul will be filled uniquely with mitzvot, faith, and a love for Hashem. If we truly act in this way, we will thereby demonstrate our love for Him and His mitzvot.