Seeing as everything in Judaism has a meaning, and every time of year has its own strengths and possibilities for growth, why does Sukkos come immediately after Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Sukkos is commemorating the 40 years of travel around the desert, which took place all year round, for forty years. Why then is the holiday of Sukkos in the middle of Tishrei.

The simple, well-known answer is that if we were to sit in Sukkot, huts, at the beginning of the summer, on Pesach, it would not be obvious that we are doing so for the mitzvah. People would think that we are sitting in these Sukkot because it is warm outside, and much more enjoyable to sit outside in these huts. The Chag of Sukkos is therefore postponed until the end of the summer, and when everyone is coming in from his or her hut outside, we go out of our house, into huts. This shows that we are going out solely for the sake of the mitzvah, and not for the pleasure of sitting out (in the freezing winter!).

The question still follows, why do we go out in Tishrei, and why immediately after Yom Kippur.

To answer this, we must understand what the Sukkah is all about, and a bit of Jewish History.

We will start with a simple lesson in history.
Several thousand years ago, on the day of creation, Adam sinned. What happened as a result, evil became part of the person. What does this mean? Originally, a person instinctively followed what was right and good. Evil only existed as a little thought at the back of one’s head, much like what we have now, as a conscience. After the sin of Adam, evil replaced good, and the instinct became evil, with good only being in one’s conscience. This is why it is so hard nowadays to do what is right. We must now use our conscience to overcome our instinct. This is not an easy feat at all.

This is how the world ran, with people’s instincts running their lives, causing the Great Flood, and many generations of evil doers, until Avraham Avinu came along. What Avraham accomplished was the recognition of good. He separated good from evil, and re-established the possibility of good in the world. He worked on himself, weeding out his evil from his good that he had inherited from his forbearers, until he managed to perfect himself entirely. Even in his children, he almost completely separated the good from evil. Yitzchak was born, containing almost entirely his good genes and traits, and Yishmael was born, containing almost entirely his evil genes and traits.

Yitzchak worked on himself too, to remove all the evil that was in him, from the good that he wanted to retain, and once again, all his good, which was now absolute good, without a trace of evil whatsoever was the genetic modelling of Yaakov, and all his evil was the genetic modelling of Esav.

[It is interesting to note, that just as Yitzchak needed evil weeded out in order to produce a Yaakov, Yishmael must have also had some good in him. This is probably where Yishmael had the strength to do teshuva, to repent, in his later years, whereas Esav remained evil until his last day.]

We now have a Yaakov who was the epitome of good. When Yaakov was on his way home from Lavan’s house, Esav came to ‘greet’ him. As we know, there were many miracles, and Esav gave Yaakov a bear hug and kisses instead of killing him. When Esav was about to go home, Esav, the epitome and allegory for evil turns to Yaakov and asks him, “may I accompany you home?” With this historical background, we can see that this was not simply a question full of brotherly love, where Yaakov’s big brother Esav wanted to help him home. Rather it was evil speaking to good. Evil turned to good and said, I managed with Adam to take you over, and become instinct rather than conscience. Now, you Yaakov are the epitome of good, let me come along with you, and mix you up once more, as I cannot bear the thought that there is refined good in the world, which leaves me with no place to exist. Yaakov of course, refuses and Esav goes on his evil way, and Yaakov then travels to Sukkot. This place was named for the Sukkot that Yaakov built for himself, his family and animals. What did Yaakov go to these Sukkot for, and what did he get from them?

Let’s go back to the month of Tishrei, and then we will understand what a Sukkah is al about, and why it fits in with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and what Yaakov had these Sukkot for.

The whole year we spend our time battling out the battle of evil versus good. Sometimes we are victorious; many times we are not, much like Adam after he sinned. What happens on Rosh Hashanah? This is the day that we coronate our King, and embrace His kingdom with our bodies and souls. What is His kingdom all about? As we know, the world is a mixture of good and evil, Hashem wants us to be good, and avoid the evil. The day of Rosh Hashanah is therefore a day of recognising that there is both good and evil in the world, and that we need to fight against the evil in order to reach the good. This is reminiscent of Avraham Avinu, who recognised good, and started to fight against evil. We then spend the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, the ten days of repentance working on ourselves, and internalising just how important good is to us, and how fake evil is. This is the two generations of Yitzchak and Yaakov, until we reach Yom Kippur, where not only have we internalised that all we want is good, we are so sure of this, that we receive full atonement for all our sins, as we have internalised the message, and are ready to rid ourselves entirely of our evil. We have ‘sent Esav off’, having no interest anymore in travelling with evil as a companion.

We then enter the Sukkah. The Chazal say that a Sukkah is protection from Hashem. Having reached a level of Yaakov sending away Esav, having fully internalised the message of the futility and vainness of evil, we merit the Divine protection to continue in our path of growth. If we just quickly flash back to Yaakov, it is remarkable. Yaakov went on to Sukkot, which was his last time of tranquillity. After leaving Sukkot, first Dinah was kidnapped, then Yosef was sold to slavery. Yaakov ended up going down to Egypt, and did not live in peace as he had in Sukkot again. This is our Sukkot is reminiscent to, Hashem holds our hand, and guides us for one more week, showing us the correct way to lead life, without sinning. After this, we are on our own. It is up to us to take the trials and tribulations, and elevate ourselves as Yaakov did, growing from our Divine tests.

This is a lesson for life. Hashem loves us so much, that he wants us to pass all our tests. The only way to pass tests is to take them. However, Hashem does not just give us tests to pass; He first walks us through the test in order to show us what to do. Have you ever experienced a time of absolute bliss, where everything was going perfectly. You were on a spiritual high, then suddenly you felt yourself drop, you were suddenly unsure of your spiritual standing, and the high level you had so recently soared upon disappeared. What happened? Was it false until now? The answer is best explained with the following scenario. Do you remember learning to ride a bike? At first, you rode around with someone, possibly a parent, holding onto the back of the bike, and it was so easy. You were riding around, sure that you had mastered the feat of riding a bicycle so quickly. Suddenly, without any warning, the person holding you up left go, and you may have managed another two metres, and you went toppling over. What went through your brain then? So cruel, how could they leave go! After enough times, you had mastered the techniques of riding your bike, and you are now a master bike rider. This person helped you to learn the techniques of riding your bike, by showing you how to do it, and then giving you the opportunity to continue yourself. This is how Hashem works with us too. First, he takes us through the situations he wants us to master, holding our hand and showing us exactly what to do when. We are then flying high in our spirituality, Hashem Himself is doing it all for us. When He feels we are up to doing it ourselves, what He does is, He leaves go. This is when we feel the spiritual drop, what happened, it was all so easy until now, and suddenly it has become so hard. What happened? Now we understand what happened, Hashem left go, giving us the opportunity to grow ourselves. Yes, we dropped from our spiritual flight, but this drop is so that we can work on ourselves to regain the spiritual altitude Hashem gave us as a gift along the path He showed us to tread.

This is what Sukkos is all about. Hashem takes us by the hand for just one week, showing us how to traverse all our trials and tribulations. We sit in the Sukkah ensconced by His presence. This is His way of not only showing us His love, but also showing us how to continue what we built up over Rosh Hashanah through to Yom Kippur. How to return to the mundane world of good and evil mixed together, and still retain our spiritual loftiness, choosing good over evil, working step by step on our lifelong work of perfecting ourselves.

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