When you imagine your best night ever with your partner the last place it would be is in a crowded, vulnerable, temporary hut you built on your porch. Yet, ironically the Sukkah is the Jewish symbol of sex. Did you even know Judaism had a sex symbol?
One commonly known fact about the Sukkah is taught in Tractate Sukka 2:9 that one does not need to stay in the Sukkah if it is raining. In fact the Talmud lists many seemingly bearable incidences that the sages have used as excuses not to be in the Sukka. These range from uncomfortable smells, a bothered eye, and even the caretakers can skip out on this commandment.
Interestingly, this is in contrast to many of other commandments where we are encouraged to sacrifice, or to push ourselves in the name of beautifying the mitzvah. The etrog is famous for this. The Tosofot on Bava Kamma 9b:2:1 argues what it means to spend a third of your money on a mitzvah by comparing etrogim. On Pesach, the Haggadah boast of the sages who stayed up all night talking about the Exodus, a difficult feat after four cups of wine I’m sure. And every yeshiva girl and boy has been brainwashed to believe in toiling for Torah, at the expense of our fragile physical and mental health.
So why is the Sukkah different? Why are we so ready to ditch the hut, guilt free, at the slightest inconvenience? Because being in the Sukkah is an act of consent. It is often compared to a hug as described in Pri Eitz Chaim Shaar Chag Hasukkot chapter 4. It is compared to the arm around a person with its two and a half walls. God doesn’t say “I’m a hugger!” You just made me your King, I am your Father, now bond with me! What we have failed to be taught is that, following the high holidays, this relationship is all about consent. It will be our happiest time of year even if you need to go inside and take care of yourself. It doesn’t harm our relationship one bit. I still love you.
To further highlight this, the Sukkah is one of the three mitzvot that involves your entire physical body. The other is the ever so intimate, naked, immersive mikva experience, and living in the land of Israel. These three mitzvot speak to our intimacy issues. Studying them helps us start the conversation on unconditional love, intimacy, and boundaries. This holiday is the perfect time to reflect on these fundamentals to mental health as we head into our more reserved, introspective month of Cheshvan.