Parashat Sukkot – Erev Shabbat – 29 September 2023 (5784)
Week of 24-30 September 2023
Torah portion: Lev. 22 :26-23 :44 Haftarah: Zech. 14 :1-21
Theme: Under divine protection.
Upon leaving Mount Sinai, the Jews began their long journey through the desert to the Promised Land that lasted forty years. Throughout this period God performed miracles, as he would and does throughout the history of the people of Israel, always marked by the miracle of Divine Providence.
The religious holiday of Sukkot (plural of Sukkah) means “huts” or “tabernacles.” It celebrates Jewish survival in impossible situations. The Jews only survived in the desert thanks to God’s special care. Currently, practicing Jews – even those who live in the most beautiful homes – build fragile huts and “live” there throughout the festival, which lasts eight days.
In warmer countries, many Jews eat and sleep inside the Sukkah; in colder areas, it is only allowed to have one meal of the day there. The point is to exchange the security of a home for a fragile structure, so that you realize that, ultimately, all your protection comes from God.
Rabbinic literature tells us that God sat in judgment since Rosh Hashanah, and his judgment is sealed on Yom Kippur. If God condemns us to exile next year, we eliminate it by exiling ourselves on our Sukkot and thus nullify any worse form of exile that may have been decreed upon us for our sins.
The central point of the Sukkot festival is trust in God, who never abandons us, even when we are without the comfort of our homes. We need to remember that we are under God’s protection. These feelings arise much more readily when someone is forced to leave one’s home or country.
In the period of the Temple in Jerusalem, during the period of the Sukkot festival, 70 bulls were offered as sacrifices. But why 70? In the Talmud it is said that the number 70 represents the 70 nations of the world, which were known until that moment. In 1 Kings we see that King Solomon asks God for the Temple to be a place where all prayers are heard and not just those from the Jews, hence the reference to all the nations of the earth in the sacrifice.
All nations stand before divine mercy, protection, and providence. We must trust in God, often leave our homes, but also make the move to leave ourselves, our arrogance and pride; and remember that before God we are fragile and that from God we receive everything as the fruit of his free and universal love.
As the great 11th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides taught, “Exile atones because it makes man humbler and more subdued.” Are we prepared for this?
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Today’s society puts its faith in different things. Is it easy today to leave our homes and families and experience total trust in God? 2. The festival of Sukkot is about having a more intimate time with God, how does my intimacy with God manifest itself?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Nayon Nigel Cezar, NDS, Israel, ISPS-Ratisbonne Contributor