The sukkah commemorates the miracle that God gave us in the desert in the form of the Ananei Ha-Kavod (the Clouds of Glory). These miraculous clouds protected us from the surrounding enemies as well as provided us with shelter from all the negative elements associated with living in a desert.
Yet there were other miracles that God provided to us in the desert, such as the manna which fell directly from heaven or the Well of Miriam, a rock which spewed forth fresh drinking water for the Jewish nation to drink from while in the desert. So why are the Clouds of Glory the only miracle that merits its own holiday, the holiday of Sukkot? And shouldn’t the holiday be during the month of Nisan, Pesach time, when the Jewish people first received the miracle of the Clouds of Glory? Why is the holiday during the fall?
To fully understand the answer to this question let us pause for a minute and obtain a deeper understanding as to why we commemorate these special clouds at all. The Clouds of Glory followed and protected the Jewish people from all the negative elements of the desert starting from when the Jewish people left Egypt. Yet following the sin of the golden calf, God punished the Jewish people by removing the protecting clouds. After the terrible transgression of the golden calf, Moshe went up to heaven for 40 days to beg for God’s forgiveness on behalf of the Jewish people.
Following his 40-day successful trip, Moshe spoke to the Jewish people and relayed the three things he received from God:
- The second Tablets with The 10 Commandments”
- A one-word message from God: “Selachti” (“I have forgiven you”) regarding the sin of the golden calf.
- The return of the Clouds of Glory, marking the reconciliation between God and the Jewish people
I was listening to a fascinating shiur by Rabbi Eli Mansour, who gave a beautiful answer as to why we specifically celebrate the Clouds of Glory versus all the other miracles that happened in the desert. Rabbi Mansour explains that when Moshe returned from heaven with the good news that the Jewish people were forgiven for the sin of the golden calf, the Jewish people could have been worried that the relationship would not be the same as it was before the sin. God returned the clouds to teach important message about the concept of forgiveness. As Rabbi Mansour eloquently states, “When God forgives us for our sins, it is such a full and complete forgiveness that it is as if the sin never happened thereby enabling everything to go back exactly to the way it was.” Sukkot, therefore, celebrates the complete reconciliation between God and the Jewish people, represented with the return of the Clouds of Glory, which occurred on the 15th of Tishrei. That is yet another reason why Sukkot is commemorated in the fall.
And yes, there were other miracles in the desert, but only the return of the Clouds of Glory signifies the restoration of the closeness between God and the Jewish people.
There are unfortunate times in all our lives where we get wronged by somebody else. Be it in the home, the workplace or the community, people say or do the wrong thing to us and it’s very painful to forgive. We somehow find a way to pick up the pieces and move on, yet we can never seem to go back to the way it was. Our reaction is the same: “Do you have any idea what he has done to me” or “I mean I guess I sort of forgive him, but we can never go back to being friends again.”
Sukkot reminds us to forgive our fellow man in the same way that God has forgiven the Jewish people. Let us emulate God’s example of how to deal with hurt, pain, and betrayal with one word “Selachti – I have forgiven you”.
May we not only superficially forgive our fellow man for all the wrongdoings they have caused us, but to find the emotional strength within ourselves to fully forgive to the point of as if we were never even wronged.