This Dvar Torah is adapted from the sefer דרש משה, by R’ Moshe Feinstein.
“כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל” I had Bnei Yisrael live in Succahs” (Vayikra 23:43). This pasuk is referring to that when the Jews were traveling in the desert, Hashem built Succahs for them to live in all forty years. There is a machlokes in Maseches Sukkah (11b) between R’ Akiva and R’ Eliezer if they were made of the ענני כבוד (clouds of glory) or if they were actual wooden Succahs. According to the opinion that they were actual Succahs, why would the pasuk have to mention them? If they were made out of clouds, I could understand why the pasuk would make a big deal out of it, but plain wooden huts? Why?
There is a gemarah in Maseches Avoda Zara (3a) that Hashem will in the future judge the nations of the world for their ability to do mitzvos with a Succah. Since there is very little financial obligations with a Succah, it is considered an easier mitzvah to undertake. The gemarah continues that Hashem will make it very hot until they will finally leave the Succah, kicking it as they leave. There are two questions with this. First of all, Rava holds that if you are pained by sitting in the Succah (by cold, heat, rain, etc.), you are allowed to sit inside. Secondly, why use specifically a Succah?
The answer to these questions lies in the meaning of Succos. Succos comes at the time of year when all the grain has been collected and a person’s storehouses are full. It is very easy for a person to sit back and revel in his accomplishments. Therefore, Hashem commanded us that for a week we should leave our houses and brave the elements outside. This shows that He is control of everything; our accomplishments are only as a result of his help and blessings. Also, to show that this world isn’t permanent so too our accomplishments in this world are worthless unless we are receiving reward for them in Olam Habah.
This principle can help us understand the gemarah in Succah. Most people live their lives thinking that this world is permanent; the Succah serves as a reminder to them of the true purpose of this world. For these people, we tell them about the Succah made of ענני כבוד which were pieces of Hashem’s glory on Earth and which serve as a symbol to us nowadays of what we can have with living a life of Torah, that even while they sit in their houses doing chores, it is for the sake of heaven. However, people who have already achieved this level in this world and do not need this reminder, we still remind them that this world is only preparation for the next. We do this by having them sit in the Succah, even if it is only made of wood.
So both R’ Akiva and R’ Eliezer agree that the B’nei Yisrael, who had gotten to the level where they received the Torah directly from Hashem, lived in Succahs made of the ענני כבוד in the desert, they are not arguing what they lived in. They are merely explaining this idea. R’ Eliezer says that it is possible for every person to reach the level of the Jews in the desert who were worthy of Succahs made of ענני כבוד. R’ Akiva adds that even someone who has reached this level can still use the reminder and live in a Succah of wood. Therefore, if it will be uncomfortable for you to sit in the Succah, you are not obligated to, because this lesson cannot be learned if you cannot accept living in the Succah. May we all be zoche this Succos to absorb the lesson of the Succah and get all the enjoyment that comes with this chag. As it says in the pasuk, “וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם שִׁבְעַת יָמִים” “and you shall rejoice Hashem your God, for a seven day period” (Vayikra 23:40).
Click here for last year's Dvar Torah on Succos
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