Succot: Commemorating the Clouds of Glory
The Misva to reside in a Succa for seven days and nights serves to commemorate the Ananeh Ha’kabod, the “clouds of glory” that encircled Beneh Yisrael as they traveled through the wilderness and provided miraculous protection from the harsh elements. (This follows the view of Rabbi Eliezer; Rabbi Akiba maintained that the Succa commemorates actual huts in which Beneh Yisrael dwelled during their sojourn through the wilderness.)
The question is asked, why is specifically the miracle of the Ananeh Ha’kabod deemed worthy of commemoration? During the period of desert travel, God sustained Beneh Yisrael with manna that fell from the heavens each morning, and with a supernatural well that accompanied them throughout their journeys and supplied water. Curiously, there is no Misva commemorating the miracles of the Manna and the well. Out of all the miracles that God performed for our ancestors in the desert, only the Ananeh Ha’kabod are commemorated through a special Misva. Why was this miracle singled out for commemoration?
One answer is that there is no Misva to commemorate the manna or the well because these miracles were the cause of sins. At various points during their travels, Beneh Yisrael complained about the manna and also about the shortage of water. It would not be appropriate to observe Misvot that bring to mind these unfortunate incidents when Beneh Yisrael acted improperly, as the Sages teach, “En Kategor Na’aseh Sanegor” – “A prosecutor cannot become an advocate.” Just as we do not blow on Rosh Hashanah the horn of a cow, which would bring to mind the sin of the golden calf, similarly, we do not have Misvot to commemorate the manna or the well, which would bring to mind our ancestors’ inappropriate complaints against God in the desert.
Secondly, we do not have a Misva to commemorate the manna and well because these were the basic necessities that God was obliged, as it were, to provide our ancestors. Parents have certain basic obligations to their children, which include providing food and water, and thus it was to be expected that God, our Father, would provide our ancestors with food and water. The clouds of glory, by contrast, were a “luxury,” something special and beyond God’s strict “obligations” toward us, and thus they in particular are worthy of a special commemoration.
Finally, the manna and the well sustained not only Beneh Yisrael, but also the Ereb Rab – the people from other nations that joined Beneh Yisrael when they left Egypt. The Ananeh Ha’hakabod, however, were given as a special gift to Beneh Yisrael, and not to the Ereb Rab, and we thus commemorate this special expression of love through the Misva of Succa.
Another question that arises is why this commemoration is held in Tishri. Seemingly, if the Succot commemorate the miracle of the Ananeh Ha’kabod, this Misva should be observed in Nissan, the time when we left Egypt into the desert, whereupon we received the miraculous clouds.
One well-known answer is that in ancient times, it was customary for people to construct outdoor huts and spend time in them during the spring and summer. As such, if we would live in Succot in Nissan, it would not be evident that we do so for the purpose of commemorating the miracle God performed for our ancestors. We are therefore commanded to observe this Misva in Tishri, the time when the rainy season begins and people start bringing their outdoor furniture inside. By moving into the Succa specifically now, when it was customary to do just the opposite, we demonstrate that we reside in the Succa not for leisure, but rather for the sake of the Misva.
The Zohar refers to the Succa as “the shade of faith.” The Succa has the capacity to inspire us with its sanctity and bolster our faith in the Almighty. May we all be blessed with the privilege of experiencing the special Kedusha of the Succa and being inspired to rise to greater levels of Emuna.