Lessons of the Sukkah
By Harav Yonah Burr
So that your generations will know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in succahs when I took them from the land of Egypt.
The Talmud cites the well know dispute regarding these succahs. According to Rabbi Eliezer, they refer to the miraculous clouds of glory that G-d enveloped the Jewish People with during their entire forty year stay in the wilderness. According to Rabbi Akiva, however, they were simple huts that the people built for themselves.
Now, according to Rabbi Eliezer it is quite understandable why Hashem gave us a mitzvah to commemorate these succahs; it was a miracle of incredible proportion, spending forty years under the Divine protection of the clouds. Additionally, the medrash relates that these clouds softened the harsh desert terrain, flattened any obstacle in their way, and even ‘dry cleaned’ their clothing!
But according to Rabbi Akiva they were simple huts; it is not readily apparent what makes these simple structures something worth commemorating.
The Rashbam explains that according to Rabbi Akiva, it is precisely our humble beginnings that we are recalling. We often take for granted the blessings we have, or attribute them to our own efforts. The mitzvah of succah is there to remind us that we started with nothing; and then Hashem brought us into the land; everything we have is from Him, and we should be grateful for what He gives us.
It emerges then that succah contains a double message; what we have is a gift, and we should appreciate it, while at the same time we realize that Hashem is there behind the scenes, affording us His Divine protection!
A good Yom Tov!