5) Rabbi Yitzhak Aboab lived in Spain in the fifteenth century. In his classic book of Jewish ethics, Menorat Hamaor, he gives still another explanation for sitting in the sukkah (Ner 3, Kelal 4, Part 6, Chapter 1, ed. Mossad Harav Kuk, p. 315):
When the Sages said in the Tractate of Sukkah (fol. 2a): "Go out from your permanent dwellings and live in a temporary dwelling", they meant that the commandment to dwell in the sukkah teaches us that a man must not put his trust in the size or strength or conveniences of his house, even though it be filled with the best of everything; nor should he rely upon the help of any man, even though he be the lord of the land. But let him put his trust in Him whose word called the universe into being, for He alone is mighty and faithful, and He does not retract what He promises.
This explanation is the subtlest of all we have seen thus far. R. Yitzhak Aboab thinks that the main point of living in the sukkah for seven days is to increase our faith in God. When we live in a sturdy house, we are protected from the elements; rain and cold and heat do not harm us. As a result, we begin to have faith in our homes, not in God. Likewise, we tend to place all of our trust in men, especially influential rulers and leaders. By living in a flimsy sukkah for seven days, exposed once again to the elements, we realize that ultimately we must put our trust in God who rules over our houses, the elements, and all human rulers.
6) Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch was the leader of neo-Orthodoxy in Germany in the nineteenth century. In his book Horeb, he says that the sukkah is a symbol of universal peace and brotherhood, as we recite in the evening service on Shabbat and festivals: "ufeross aleinu sukkat shelomekha", "spread over us Your sukkah of peace". The term sukkah is used in this prayer to symbolize peace and brotherhood, which shall be based not on economic and political interests, but on a joint belief in one God (Horeb p. 126, quoted by Rabbi Isaac Klein, A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, p. 159).
7) The last reason for sitting in the sukkah is my own, although I'm sure someone has said it before. By sitting in a flimsy sukkah, exposed to sun and wind (and in some places, rain and snow!), we are reminded of those less fortunate than ourselves. Precisely at harvest time when we thank God for the bounty he has given us, we must remember to share it with the poor and the hungry.
In summation, we have seen seven reasons for dwelling in the sukkah on sukkot:
- To thank God for a bountiful harvest;
- To remember how our ancestors lived when they left Egypt and how God helped them survive in the wilderness;
- To be reminded of "the bad old days" and thereby instill in us a sense of gratitude;
- To instill in us a sense of humility at a time of year when we are liable to feel haughty;
- To subject ourselves to the elements and thus strengthen our faith in God;
- As a symbol of peace and brotherhood;
- To subject ourselves to the whims of nature and thereby remember the poor in our season of joy.
* This article is based on Rabbi Philip Goodman, The Sukkot and Simhat Torah Anthology, Philadelphia, 1973, pp. 47-57; Rabbi Isaac Klein, A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, New York, 1979, pp. 156-160; and other sources.