What is the essence of Sukkot and why do we celebrate it immediately after the Days of Awe?
Let us hear a story brought in the Talmud (Taanit 24b) which will shine a special light on Sukkot for us: The Persian king during the Talmudic era was called Shvor and his mother’s name was Ifra Hurmiz. Ifra Hurmiz told her son Shvor, “Be careful that you don’t start up with the Jews or cause them anguish in any way. Their G-d takes revenge from anyone who does evil to them when they pray to Him and complain about their sufferings.”
“How are their prayers so effective?” the king asked his mother.
His mother replied in awe, “Despite now being the month of Tammuz and the sun is at its peak in Persia, if they just pray for heavy rains they will fall.”
The king believed his mother. He called the holy Amora Rava and commanded him to bring down rain through the power of his prayers in the middle of the summer. Rava, who realized that if the king’s request wasn’t fulfilled it might bring disaster upon the Jews, began to pray and within a short time heavy rains fell that created streams that fed into the Euphrates!
King Shvor was satisfied, but there was someone in the upper worlds who was not satisfied. It was Rava’s father. Rava’s father came to him in a dream and warned him: Since you bothered the Creator of the universe to change nature, don’t sleep tonight in your bed.”
Rav listened to his father even though he didn’t understand the connection between the two. In the morning he woke up in the bed he had moved to and when he checked his previous bed, he saw to his shock that it was full of knives and cut in half…
The damage was done by harmful heavenly agents who were fuming that a human had dared to bother his Creator to bring down rain in the summer and change nature. This is why his father had warned him to change his place of sleep.
Rabbi Shlomo Kluger asked: We also bother our Creator with our prayers. We ask that G-d should “tear up” all the bills of indictment for our sins and transgressions. On Yom Kippur, many difficult decrees that were waiting for us were cancelled and we are instead looking forward to a sweet new year. The harmful heavenly agents in heaven are fuming.
So what can we do? The holy Torah tells us: Immediately after Yom Kippur change your place of sleep. Enter for a week in a holy sukkah “in the protective shade of our faith” where the harmful agents have no control and cannot do us any harm.
The Torah advises us to move to a sukkah not only to save us from disaster and damage. There is a more profound reason: The Torah wants us to leave our permanent home and live in a temporary home. What is it trying to tell us?
Rabbi Shlomo Kluger explains that after the High Holiday prayers, G-d says: “My son, I forgave your sins. I made up with you. But I didn’t do that so you can sin again. Go into the sukkah and feel how “temporary” This World is, internalize in your heart and your insides the fact that you will have to give a Final Reckoning after your years here.”
Let us take with us into the sukkah some of the prayers of the High Holidays, a little of the feeling of closeness to the Creator of the world that we acquired then, and hopefully it will remain with us for the rest of the year so our service of G-d will be in a far better place.