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Sukkot in a Time of Crisis

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According to the text of Vayikra 23:43, the commandment to dwell in sukkot (booths/shelters) is observed:

“In order that future generations will know that I made the children of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

In the Exodus narrative itself, these booths are not mentioned. This gave rise to a Talmudic dispute in which R. Akiva’s claim (that the festival of Sukkot refers to physical booths built in the desert) is contested by R. Eliezar, who suggests that the shelter referred to is none other than that of the “annanei kavod”…the Divine clouds of The Glory which protected Israel in the desert. (Midrash Sifra 17, Talmud Bavli, Sukkah 11b).

There is a sense in which both opinions are correct.

The hut (sukkah) which is built during the festival of Sukkot is a reminder of our reliance on Divine Providence and Protection. For some the emphasis is on the idea that it is we ourselves who build it-literally by our labour and creativity and figuratively by our attempt to live according to the Torah. For others it is a reminder that ultimately we are totally reliant on the Protection of God, and that He will be gracious to whomsoever He chooses. Both ideas are part of the liturgy of this festival, and both ideas can be a fruitful source of inspiration for our meditation, prayers, and other acts of gemilut chasadim.

Though the nature and symbolism of the Shelter/shelter under which we celebrate generated much creative argument – one opinion on the festival of Sukkot which was always universally agreed upon is that Sukkot is the “Season of our Joy”.

The Joy which characterises this season celebrates a “time in the desert” which was no Nature Ramble or jolly summer-camp vacation. As Rabbi Irving........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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