For the week ending 6 October 2012 / 19 Tishri 5773

Rich Succah, Poor Succah

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Steven

Dear Rabbi,

If the succah is about rejoicing before G-d with the bounty of one’s harvest, what message does it have for the poor, or for those with little harvest?

Dear Steven,

This is a very interesting question! But certainly the Torah has a message for all. Let’s see in more detail what the fundamental message of the succah is, and perhaps we’ll see how it applies to both the rich and the poor.

We dwell in the succah seven days. For seven days we leave our permanent homes for temporary ones, in fulfillment of G-d’s command in the Torah. In doing so we recall the Succot in which our forefathers dwelt in the wilderness, and the G-d given clouds of glory that shielded them there.

Reflecting on the nature and meaning of the succah enhances our insight into the meaning of trust in G-d, and the extent of Divine Providence in our lives.

We go out into the succah during the “Festival of the Ingathering” upon having harvested the fruit of our labor. If a person has received divine blessing and all his needs have been fulfilled, the Torah bids him to leave his bounty-filled house, his source of blessing and security to sojourn in the frail, meager and exposed succah. This is to teach him that the wealth and possessions that were given to him are from the Almighty alone, and conversely, G-d sustains even those who live in lowly abodes with little material wealth. Let him reflect that wealth is fleeting and only important if used to serve the One who bestowed it.

On the other hand, one who is poor or who has been given only very little bounty might be concerned how he’ll possibly manage the coming winter. Lest he feel forlorn and fearful, the Torah bids him to reside in the succah to remind him that G-d also had our ancestors dwell in such modest abodes in the wilderness, yet He sustained them there miraculously for decades in a way which they knew no want. All of their needs were miraculously cared for – water, food, clothing, protection from the elements and from all worldly harm. The succah thus teaches him that Divine Providence is better than all worldly possessions, and one who fully trusts in G-d will not be forsaken.

In this way, the succah is relevant for both wealthy and poor, and has a message that is pertinent to all generations – from the generation who wandered the wilderness of old to our generation wandering the spiritual wilderness of the modern world.

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