Every year, we designate a place outside where we can assemble our sukkot; we create a frame, erect our walls, cover the open ceiling with s’chach, and design its interior. For the following eight days (seven in Israel), we try and live in these temporary homes, eating, drinking, or even sleeping in them.
Of course, we enjoy our feasts, our family, and the autumn season during the holiday, but what is the essence of what we are doing? Why do we sit in the sukkah?
The Torah says “You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the LORD your God” (Vayikra 23; 42-43).
The standard idea explains that the sukkah commemorates Hashem’s protection throughout our journey in the desert, symbolizing our unwavering emunah.
While it is surely beautiful, I believe we can delve deeper into this idea.
What is emunah? Often translated as “faith,” Rabbi David Aaron describes a more accurate understanding. The word emunah, he explains, relates to three Hebrew words: ne’eman (faithful/dedicated), omanut, (artistry), and emunim (exercises). Absorbing these diverse words we are brought to an actual definition of emunah: faithfully portraying what is. Someone who has emunah lives their life in accordance with truth, choosing to exercise their will to reflect authentic reality.
It is quite easy for empty words to slide off our tongues or synthetic ideas to leave our lips. Hashem calls upon us to live our lives in accordance with reality, to live our lives in accordance with what is. When we live mitzvot and seek to recognize Hashem in every aspect of our lives, we express our true selves as divine souls, connected to the Greater Self.
When we sit outside in the sukkah, day after day, night after night, we do something quite amazing. We express our truest will of connecting to Hashem, implicitly affirming our realization that Hashem is always with us, loving and protecting us. This is an active example for us to continue trying to channel the natural drive within us which seeks to live life with this Hashem-conscious mindset.
Stepping out of our homes subsequently has us step out of our characters. When we sit in the sukkah, the facades of this world and the imbalance of our values blow away from the gust of truth. Our vision refocuses and we remember what life truly is, we remember that we have a purpose and a mission.
Every day, we are faced with a choice at every juncture to decide if we will portray or betray our true, divine essence. Sukkot is a time for us to exhibit our will to exercise our emunah. We symbolically put ourselves in the wilderness and acknowledge Hashem’s endless presence in our lives; that is the time to embody our emunah into all that we do.
When we sit in the sukkah, we must ask ourselves: If we are Jews, and we have been ascribed godly missions, why would we deny our purpose? What should we be doing? How do we want to live our lives?