Sukkos

Sukkos

The Festival of Joy

What is Sukkos ?

Sukkos is a seven-day holiday that is biblically mandated. This holiday starts on the 15th of Tishrei and ends on the 21st of Tishrei, a day known as Hoshanah Rabbah. The following two days of Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah come immediately after Sukkos, on the 22nd and 23rd of Tishrei, but are a holiday unto themselves. Note that in Israel the two days of Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah are combined into one day.

We read, “In a Sukkah you shall dwell for seven days…” The Torah goes on to explain that by sitting in the Sukkah we remember how G-d settled the Jews in booths (Sukkahs) when they left Egypt. Hashem enveloped the Jewish nation in a protective cloud shelter, with a cloud above to keep them shaded, a cloud below to soften the desert terrain, and clouds on each side to keep them safe.

As such, Jews the world over erect booths out of wood, hard plastic, canvas, and other materials in the days leading up to Sukkos. These booths are covered over with Schach, which is the material that covers the Sukkah, usually made from large branches, twigs, or long bamboo sticks. Throughout the seven days of Sukkos the Jewish nation eats, sleeps, studies, and spends their free time in the temporary dwelling of the Sukkah.

The Torah also commands us to take the “Four Species” on Sukkos, which are the Esrog, Lulov, Hadasim and Aravos. Holding the Esrog in the left hand and the other three species in the right hand, we make a blessing and wave them in all six directions. Some have the custom to wave the Four Species in the Sukkah.

In Jewish History

One can ask, if we are commemorating events that occurred during our exodus from Egypt, shouldn’t the obligation to sit in a Sukkah coincide with the Pesach holiday? The answer given is that the first set of protective clouds that enveloped the Jews after leaving Egypt was stripped away from them when they sinned with the Golden Calf. Moshe begged Hashem for forgiveness…and received it on Yom Kippur. Then Hashem commanded to set up a Mishkan to atone for the Golden Calf and to allow G-d’s presence to rest among the Jewish nation. Over the next few days the materials were gathered. On the 15th day of Tishrei all materials needed for the building of the Mishkan were piled up and ready. At that time Hashem once again enveloped the nation with protective clouds. It is this second set of clouds that we commemorate by building Sukkahs.

In The Future

The Midrash tells us that when Moshiach will come everyone will want “in” so they can receive reward like the Jewish nation. They will claim it unfair that they were not given a chance to be rewarded like the Jewish nation…and had they realized the reward, they would have accepted upon themselves the yoke of Mitzvos. The Talmud says that G-d will then instruct them to fulfil the Mitzvah of Sukkah. These people will then gladly set up their Sukkahs according to all the necessary specifications. However, the “climate change” that everyone discusses today will occur. There will be icy conditions and sleet and hail. Next the world will become roasting hot. The poor folks trying to sit outdoors in the Sukkah will give up, storm out of the Sukkah and bang it down in great anger. This will demonstrate that they do not deserve the same reward. After all, our nation erected Sukkahs throughout the centuries in climates across the globe, and under great duress. There have been Sukkas erected in Siberia, in concentration camps, and in the broiling sun of the desert. Because we clung to faith in G-d and fulfilled the Mitzvos despite all opposition, our nation will merit to sit in a gigantic Sukkah that G-d will erect out of the hide of the Leviathan.

The Mitzvos of Sukkos

The holiday of Sukkos includes a delightful array of mitzvos. One reason given for so many mitzvos this time of year is because we believe that we exited from the judgment days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur victorious. Like the winner in olden times who left court with the scepter in his hand, we carry our Lulav high. We fulfill the mitzvos of Sukkos joyously and dance with the Torah in a state of delirious happiness because we are confident that Hashem stamped us in the Book of the Righteous.

Sukkah

The Technicalities of a Sukkah

  • A Sukkah is a kind of hut with a minimum of 2 1/2 walls, with a mat, pile of leaves, or branches placed on top as “schach.”
  • The walls must be sturdy enough to withstand a standard wind.
  • The walls must be put up first, after which the schach can be set in place.
  • A Sukkah must be at least 31.5” tall and not more than 31’5” high.
  • A Sukkah should be at least 22.5” long by 22.5” wide.
  • The Sukkah must be built under the sky, with no branches, porches or overhangs blocking one’s view of the stars through the schach.
  • One can use a friend’s Sukkah to fulfil his obligation…however one does not fulfil their obligation by using a stolen Sukkah.
  • It is customary to beautify the Sukkah with decorations.

Deeper Meaning

We leave our homes for a week to live in the “Tzila D’Maymenoosa” – the shadow of faith. By doing so, we demonstrate that we do not rely on our wealth or the walls of our house to protect us. We recognize that all blessing and all protection is solely from Hashem.
There are four expressions of love.  On the first level, one uses speech to express how much he loves another person. This finds expression on Pesach, by using the Peh – the mouth – to speak. The essence of the night revolves around talking about the Exodus, and G-d talks to us through His miracles. The next level is kissing, which is symbolized by Matan Torah. We experienced the Giving of the Torah Peh el Peh – mouth-to-mouth, as Hashem spoke to the Jewish nation and to Moshe directly.  Then comes the Yomim Noraim, the High Holidays. There the love is communicated through gazing – when a mere look is enough to convey the deepest feelings.  But the highest level of love is the hug. Hugs are unconditional as the face is not seen. Rather, one buries themselves in the experience of accepting another.  It is a safe feeling, where one reels the other into their embrace.
One must bend an arm to bring the other person close.  A Kosher Sukkah must have a minimum of 2 walls and a Tefach.  When sketching it out, it resembles a hug. One should consider themselves hugged by G-d Himself, so to speak, on the holiday of Sukkos.

Guests in the Sukkah (Ushpizin)

Each night of Sukkos, a spiritual presence of one of the seven “shepherds” of our nation graces our faith-filled Sukkah hut. Avraham, the paragon of Chesed – kindness come to our Sukkah on the first night. The next night Yitzchok arrives, the paradigm of Gevurah, which is the strength of strict sanctity and direct connection to G-dliness. The following night we greet Yaakov, who represents Tiferes – balance and beauty of intertwining the character traits of the two previous nights into one. Moshe follows representing Netzach – the eternity of Torah. Night five brings us the spark of Aharon whose spiritual dimension represents Hod – Glory of service. On the sixth night, we tap into the Yesod – foundation that was laid by Yosef. And the final night of Ushpizin is dedicated to Dovid who represents Malchus – sovereignty.

Arba Minim – The Four Species

The Torah commands us to take four species:

 

Esrog/Citron

Lulav/Date Frond

Hadassim/Myrtle

Aravos/Willow Branch

What we do with them

The Lulav, Hadassim and Aravos are bound together. The Lulav is situated in the center, with the Hadassim on the right side and the Aravos on the left. They are bound together with three binding rings.
Each morning (except for Shabbos when they are Muktzeh), we recite a blessing on the Mitzvah of taking a Lulav, while holding the Esrog in our left hand, and the Lulav bundle in our right. We bring them all together, and shake them in six directions. We start upwards, then downwards, and finally in all four directions of the wind, all of which belong to G-d.

On a higher level

“Beloved are all seven” (seven days of the week, seven colors, seven musical notes, seven heavens, seven years of the Shmitta cycle, seven Sabbatical cycles of the Yovel-Jubilee, seven times tefillin wrapped around the arm, and more). The Seventh month (counting from Nisan) is Tishrei. This month has more Mitzvos than any other month. And yes, what we bind together and wave above our heads is bundled in the number seven. Seven is the gamut of all that is physical. Hence, the Four Species are represented in two different ways. First are the species that represent the body’s makeup. The Esrog represents the heart (circulatory system). The Lulav represents the spine (neural system). The Hadassim represent the eyes (sensory system). And the Aravos represent the mouth (digestive system). Our entire body must be bound together and active in the whole world that is created and managed by G-d.
The Arbah Minim also represent our nation. The Esrog represents the best of our nation, those who study and do good deeds. They have both smell and taste, like the Esrog. The Lulav signifies those who learn but do not perform, they have taste, but no rich smell. The Hadassim smell divine, and are representative of those who cannot learn but who do good deeds. Finally, there is the lowly Aravos, with no smell and no taste – the people who are bereft of knowledge and not busy doing any good. A nation must be united. We cannot expel anyone, not even the ragtag elements. Rather, we bind them all together into one cohesive unit, and bring along that Aravos in the waving of the Lulav and Esrog so that they too can serve G-d. This represents the communal responsibility to “bind together” every element and make them into one God-centric nation.

Vesamachta Bechagecha – Rejoicing on Sukkos

How we rejoice?

And you shall rejoice on your festival – this teaches that one is required to rejoice on all Jewish Yomim Tovim. Naturally, we are forbidden to give a eulogy for the dead or to fast on a holiday, but we are even commanded to be especially happy.

Our sages teach that different activities generate feelings of happiness for different people, and we should engage in those activities on Jewish holidays. Thus, we give out sweets to children, and women wear new clothing on the holidays. Men are required to eat meat and drink wine because these things bring joy.

Yet, we are cautioned not to allow the revelry of the day to lead us to wrong places. Thus, we are commanded to feed the orphan, the widow, and other poor and underprivileged people. In fact, if one locks his door and includes only his immediate family, he is not considered to have fulfilled the Mitzvah.

Another important point is that the happiness we are commanded to attain on Jewish holidays should be one that involves serving our Creator. Thus, one who gets intoxicated, overeats, or engages in frivolous behavior is not using these days as intended by the Torah. Rather, one should channel the happiness that these days engender toward higher levels of Divine service.

On a higher level

While the Torah requires happiness on all holidays, Sukkos is on a level all its own. When describing the holiday of Sukkos, the Torah states “…and you will be only joyous”. Thus, we learn that on Sukkos we must be completely happy, and that it not include any form of sadness or depression.

Coming off the heels of Yom Kippur, having been cleansed from our sins, we certainly can understand the grounds for complete happiness. Furthermore, in the days of the Temple the celebrations of the Nisuch Hamayim and the Simchas Beis Hashoeva were very great indeed. The unique commandments of Sukkah and the Arbah Minim are also great opportunities. And finally, after Sukkos is over, we complete the holiday season with the happiness of Simchas Torah. Thus, it is on these days that we have the opportunity to reach levels of happiness that will remain with us for the rest of the year.

As we and our families rejoice this Sukkos there are many families in Israel
who are unable to feel happiness. But we can do something to help them!

Sukkos in the Beis Hamikdash

When the Temple stood, Jewish adult males were required to spend the holidays of Pesach, Shavous and Sukkos in Yerushalayim. Everyone would congregate at the Temple, where offerings were slaughtered and great ceremonies were conducted. These times of year were exceptionally joyous for the Jewish nation.

Korbanos

The Torah requires more Korbanos on Sukkos than any other Holiday. Another unique aspect of Sukkos is that fewer sacrifices are bought on each successive day. Thus, on the first day of the Chag thirteen cows were offered, along with many other korbanos. On the second day, they offered twelve. On the third day eleven, and so it continued until the seventh day when they brought just seven.

All together seventy cows were sacrificed on the Alter throughout Sukkos. (13+12+11+10+9+8+7=70) The Talmud teaches that these seventy cows represented the seventy nations of the world. During the time that the Temple stood, the nations of the world merited forgiveness due to these sacrifices.

Nisach Hamayim

While the Simchas Beis Hashoava lasted throughout the night, the Pouring of the Water took place each morning, at the time that the daily morning sacrifice was brought. Like the night before, Nisach Hamayim was accompanied with great rejoicing, as scripture states “And you shall draw water with joy”.

Amid great celebrations, water was poured out atop the alter, into one of two holes situated near a corner of the Alter. This act was part of the Temple service, but it was also a form of prayer. Our sages teach that on Sukkos the world is judged for water. Thus, the Water Offering was a plea to G-d that the coming year be filled with life giving rain waters.

Simchas beis hashoava

While the Torah commands us to rejoice on all Jewish holidays, on Sukkos it states and you shall be glad in front of Hashem your G-d seven days. It was because of this command that a special event known as Simchas Beis Hashoava took place over Sukkos in the Temple.

Starting after sundown on the first day of Sukkkos, as well as on every Chal Hamoed weekday after nightfall, there were great festivities in the Temple Courtyard. Huge golden candelabras were lit that spread light throughout the city. An orchestra would play and the great and wise men would dance throughout the night. The celebrations went on so long that the dancers would fall asleep on each other’s shoulders as they circled around and around.

The happiness was so intense that our sages commented “Whoever did not see the Simchas Beis Hashoava never saw real happiness in his days”.

Arava

The Hoshanos prayer at the end of Shachris is patterned after a unique custom that existed in the times of the Beis Hamikdash. When the Temple stood, Jews would go down to a nearby valley and pick huge sized Arava branches. They would bring them to the Beis Hamikdash and place them upright on the base of the Alter, on all sides. Then, they would enter the Courtyard joyously and circle the Mizbeach one time on each of the first six days of Sukkos. On the seventh and final fay of Sukkos, known as Hoshanah Rabbah, they would circle the Alter seven times. They would pray as they made their rounds, crying out Please, Hashem bring salvation now! Please, Hashem bring success now! (Psalms 118:25).

This all ended when the Temple was destroyed, but later it was revived as a zecher l’mikdash – a remembrance of the Temple. Today, communities everywhere copy this procedure on Sukkos, walking around the Bimah in the center of the Shul, as if it were the Alter in the Beis Hamikdash. At this procedure, the Torah scrolls are removed and held by the Bimah, and the congregation circles around once while holding the Arbah Minim. On Hoshanah Rabbah they circle around seven times. Additionally, a special bundle of Aravos are taken on Hoshanah Rabbah and waived. At the end of a lenghty prayer, the Aravos are beaten on the ground and tossed on top of the Aron Hakodesh, where they remain until Pesach when they will be burned with the Chometz.

Children’s Video

Sukkos in Belz

Take a journey to Belz with a collection of images from some of the most memorable moments with the Rebbe during the days of Sukkos.
  • Laying the Schach

    The custom is to begin working on building the sukkah as soon as Yom kippur is over. The Rebbe will come into the sukkah in his home to lay some of the schach and to prepare it for the upcoming yomtov. In the Rebbe’s home the all year round dining room is converted into a sukkah which is used by the Rebbe and his family.

    Laying Schach
  • Tzedakah on Erev Sukkos

    There is a special segulah of giving tzedakah on Erev Sukkos. In the hours before Sukkos begins hundreds and chassidim come to the Rebbe home and to pass the Rebbe and give tzedakah which will then be distributed to many needy families so that they too can have an enjoyable Yom Tov.

    Tzedakah on Erev Sukkos
  • Davening on Sukkos

    The tefillos in Belz during Sukkos have a special beauty to them. There is a feeling of joy in the air as the thousand of people come join the Rebbe for these special days. Every morning on Sukkos, before coming into shul for davening hundreds of yeshiva students and guest go into the big sukkah to make a brachah and shake one of the many sets of Lulav and Esrog which belong to the Rebbe.

    Davening on Sukkos
  • Reciting Hallel

    The highlight of the davening on Sukkos is reciting the Hallel while holding the Lulav and Esrog. The Rebbe leads the Hallel every day with great emotion, and the huge shul is filled with joy as the thousands praise and thank Hashem.

    Reciting Hallel
  • Hakofos with Lulav and Esrog

    After Hallel comes Hoshanos. The Aron Kodesh is opened and a Torah is taken to the Bimah by one of the chassidim, while the Rebbe leads the crowd in a Hafokah (circle) around the Bimah while holding the Lulav and Esrog in their hands.

    Hakofos with Lulav and Esrog
  • The Hoshanos

    The teffilos said during Hoshanos are said with great intensity as they are about asking Hashem to Help us and bless us with all we need. The Rebbe leads the tefillos and sheds many tears at this time for the salvation of Klal Yisroel, while all the others gathered also pray their own personal prayers.

    The Hoshanos
  • Har Tzofim

    On one of the days of Chal Hamoed the Rebbe goes to Har Tzofim (Mount Scopus) which overlooks the Har Habayis where the Beis Hamikdash once stood. The Rebbe recite a special tefillah and the many gathered sing together about our waiting for the Geula and the Rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash.

    Har Tzofim
  • The Big Sukkah

    In the courtyard of the Shul stands the huge Sukkah where the Rebbe leads the Tishen every night of Sukkos. The roof of the Sukkah is beautifully decorated with huge chandeliers of fruits, wine and oil. The Sukkah also has sophisticated air conditioning, lighting and speaker systems.

    The Big Sukkah
  • Lighting the Candles

    Before the Tish begins the Rebbe lights Seven candles on a menorah in honor of the Ushpizin, the seven special guests that join us during Sukos. During the Tish the Rebbe’s gabbai will call out the names of those present who have the same name as the Ushpzin of that night.

    Lighting the Candles
  • The​ ​Tish

    During the Tish niggunim (songs) of Simcha (happiness) are sung and the Rebbe says Torah which is usually about the Ushpizin of that night. The customary Yom Tov foods are brought out to the Rebbe, who will the proceed to give it out to those present.

    The​ ​Tish
  • The Yosef Tish

    The sixth night of Sukkos is the Ushpizin of Yosef. In chassidus and kabbalah this day is a great segulah for Shefa (prosperity). The minhag in Belz is that the Rebbe gives out Dark Bread (whole wheat) to the chassidim and blesses them with a year of great success.

    The Yosef Tish
  • “Vesomachto Bechagecha”

    On Sukkos there is a mitzvah of “Vesomachto Bechagecha” to rejoice and be happy. Each night after the Tish the Rebbe and the crowd gathered dance before leaving the Sukkah. The Tish usually end in the late hours of the night, but it leaves everyone uplifted and inspired.

    “Vesomachto Bechagecha”

A Priceless Esrog

Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov, also known as the Maggid of Zlotchov owned a precious pair of tfillin that he inherited from his saintly and holy father, Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohovitch. The pair of tfillin was more precious to him than anything, and he refused to sell it, despite its fantastic worth. Wealthy Chasidim offered the Maggid fifty rynesh – a fantastic sum of money – but he refused to hear about it. This was even though he was extremely poor and his wife pressured him greatly. Despite everything, the Maggid remained steadfast. He would never sell his father’s pair of tfillin.
One year, Sukkos drew near but there was no esrog to be found in the city of Zlotchov. People waited for esrogim to arrive from different places, but none came. Finally, a man arrived in town the day before Sukkos with a beautiful esrog, but he demanded fifty rynesh for the esrog. The man knew what it was worth and he wouldn’t charge any less.
Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov considered the matter and decided to sell the precious pair of tfillin as it was worth the exact same amount of money that the esrog cost. As soon as he had the money, the Maggid purchased the beautiful esrog, and the city of Zlotchov was finally possessed a complete set of Arba Minim.
When the Maggid’s wife found out that he had purchased the esrog, she demanded to know from where he had gotten hold of so much money. The Maggid refused to answer her, but she became very insistent. Finally, Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov informed his wife that he had sold his father’s pair of tfillin to purchase the esrog.
When the Maggid’s wife heard this, she became furious. She yelled at her husband saying that she had begged him many times to sell the tfillin to put food on the table, something he wouldn’t do, but now he sold it for an esrog! In a fit of rage, she grabbed the esrog off the table and sunk her teeth into the pitum and spit it out on the ground. Now the expensive esrog was worthless.
Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov watched what happened in shock but he did not say a word. He maintained complete control and exclaimed: “If the Master of the World wanted my esrog to be pasul, I accept it with love!”
Later, Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohovitch, the Maggid’s father, appeared to him in a dream and said that in heaven the self-control that he maintained when his wife destroyed his Esrog created a bigger impact than when he spent a fortune on its purchase.