Leviticus 22:26-23:44; Numbers 29:12-16, Torah Portion for First Day Sukkot, September 30, 2023

We have just passed through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, ten days when we examine who we are, what we have done in the past year, and how we want to change, grow and become more true to the purity of our soul, or God-given essence. It is a time of contemplation, prayer, and fasting. After this intense spiritual and psychological work we celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, which begins this Friday evening. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a pause, a deep intake of breath, and Sukkot is like an exhale of satisfaction. We have emerged from the other side of a difficult and serious experience and now it is time to give thanks and celebrate. For this reason Sukkot is called z’man simchateinu, the season of our joy. For eight days we are commanded to build fragile, temporary booths, and dwell in them. The holiday is marked by festive meals with family and friends. In the Land of Israel, Sukkot is the fall harvest festival. It is like one long motzi, giving thanks for the bounty the land yields that will nourish us in the coming year. In the Mishnah our sages debated whether the sukkah represented the booths our ancestors dwelled in during their time in the desert, after the Exodus from Egypt, sukkot mamash. Or whether they represented the protective Clods of Glory that God used to shelter the Israelites in the desert, aninei ha kavod. Perhaps the sukkah represents both, reminding us of our history of liberation from slavery to freedom and the role God’s presence can play in our lives, if we are open to it.