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Succot // So Now What?

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The Torah commands that following the Days of Awe we celebrate our new closeness to G-d by leaving our permanent dwellings and live in temporary houses called Succot. The laws concerning the construction of the Succah give parameters for size, height and materials for the "roof" that stress the temporary nature of the structure.


     The High Holy Days are spent in the synagogue praying and fasting in order to achieve a renewed closeness to our Maker. This beautiful state, however, is not the norm. People don't live in shuls. People live in the real world of houses and offices, schools and shopping malls. Traffic, media and business occupy the majority of our day. The spiritual prescription for maintaining closeness to G-d while living in the material world is to spend a week living in a Succah. It is a place to eat, drink and sleep. It is a place to have company and sing. It's a place to sanctify the things of this world. It is the place to take the Yom Kippur spirituality and transform it into something we can take with us the rest of the year as we return to business as usual.


      While contemplating the important aspects of life on the High Holy days a person sees the truth --a person is not defined by what one owns but who one is. Everything we "own" is only temporary. Our possessions are on loan for survival and happiness in this temporary life of 80 -- 90 -- 120 years. But it is important for a Jew not to totally negate the beautiful world Hashem has created for one's enjoyment. The trick is to incorporate the material possessions into the spiritual by putting them in the proper perspective and sanctifying the pleasures G-d provides to His service.


     Children like lollypops. If one were to give a child one as a treat the child would probably be very appreciative. The problem arises when one has several lollypops and several children. The youngest, let's say a two year old, would be very happy with any color --until he sees the color his 6 year old brother gets. Then the color he has --no matter what color that is-- becomes unacceptable. The 9 year old doesn't care what color he gets so long as he gets a lollypop. The 17 year old doesn't want a lollypop --he wants the keys to the car.


    The lesson is that it's o.k. to want a treat. But if one must have it a certain way and will compare what he or she has to what others have then the treat, instead of being a source of joy will prompt nothing but misery. The more things you need to make you happy the more miserable you will be. Focus on what you do have and not on what you feel you are missing.


    The goal of our week living in a temporary dwelling is freedom. The freedom to enjoy our material possessions while at the same time feeling that we do not NEED them. We enjoy while at the same time we learn that our happiness is not dependent on external things. That is why the holiday of Succot is dubbed the "time of our happiness" -- z'man simhatenu. When external pleasures cease to control us and when we see the world as a rental car which we use while out of town with intention to return when we go back to our real home, then we are able to direct our thoughts to the lasting values we have acquired on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Our relationship with G-d, our eternal soul our spiritual achievements are the only permanent things that we possess and they are the true sources of lasting happiness. Hag Sameah--Happy Holy Days.




DID YOU KNOW THAT
 The intermediate days of Succot, known as Hol Hamoed, take on aspects of "hol"-- i.e. weekdays, and "moed"--holidays? Therefore, one may not cut his hair or shave on Hol Hamoed. Shopping is forbidden on Hol Hamoed except for items like food and flowers that are specifically for the purpose of enjoying the holiday. Shopping for clothing is forbidden. These restrictions were established so that one would attend to their needs before the holiday so that one would be free to fully enjoy the holiday. [Source Yalkut Yosef volume 5]



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