Sukkot, which begins this Shabbat, is one of the three Biblical pilgrimage holidays (hagim – in Hebrew). It is called The Season of Our Joy from the special Torah reading for the holiday, “… and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.” (Leviticus 23:40)
After the intense self-examination and wrestling with mortality that characterizes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot is a time of re-engagement with the physical world. We take our experience of the High Holy Days and bring it into the world.
Sukkot contains within it a dynamic tension. On the one hand, Sukkot is a harvest festival where we appreciate the bounty of God’s world. Even today in Israel, during the fall harvest season, farmers build booths (sukkot) to rest in while taking in the harvest. On the other hand, the Sukkah, a fragile and temporary structure is a symbol of the fragility and impermanence of life.
Perhaps this tension is a reminder that life is not permanent, but it is rich, so we need to rejoice in it.
Under the full moon, in the Sukkah, we appreciate the gift of life, give thanks and feel joy.