The Sukka and Torah Commitment
The verse in Yeshayahu (4:6) foresees the time when there will be a Sukka to provide “shade by day [to protect] from heat, and for protection and shelter from torrents and rain.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that this verse alludes to us the function that the Sukka is intended to serve already now. We observe Sukkot immediately following the High Holiday period, the experience of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the ultimate purpose of which is for us to recommit ourselves to the Torah’s laws. Indeed, we conclude the Yom Kippur service by repeating several times the verse in Tehillim (119:145), “Karati Be’chol Leb Aneni Hashem Hukecha Esora” – “I have called with all my heart; answer me, O G-d, I shall keep Your statutes.” We leave Yom Kippur and the High Holiday period with a renewed commitment to “Hukecha Esora,” to carefully and scrupulously observe each and every law of the Torah. The message of the Sukka, the Rebbe explained, is that we must commit ourselves to G-d wholeheartedly, with all our beings, just as our entire bodies are situated in the Sukka. The Sukka symbolizes our complete subjugation and subservience to the Almighty’s word, our placing ourselves entirely and unconditionally at His service.
Returning to the verse in Yeshayahu, the Rebbe noted that the prophet speaks of the Sukka protecting us from “Zerem” (“torrent”), which has the numerical value of 247, and from “Matar” (“rain”), which has the numerical value of 249. These two numbers are, respectively, one lower and one higher than the number of affirmative commands in the Torah (248). The purpose of the Misva of Sukka is to protect us from the tendency to add to or diminish from the Misvot of the Torah. When people take the liberty to tamper with the Torah’s laws, by either disregarding laws which they find unappealing or objectionable, or by adding new ideas that the Torah does not teach, they do so because they are not fully subservient to G-d’s Torah. The message of the Sukka, coming on the heels of Yom Kippur, is to commit and subjugate ourselves unconditionally to G-d’s laws, so that we feel no inclination at all to add or diminish from the Torah.
It is told that Rav Shach was once talking with a certain wealthy physician, who told him that he purchases a new Mercedes every few years. He explained that Mercedes, like other auto companies, is constantly upgrading its product, and always enhancing its various models.
Rav Shach turned to the man and said, “You’re a cardiologist, so let me ask you, is there any way to upgrade the human heart, just like they’re always upgrading Mercedes?”
“No,” the doctor said. “The human heart is designed perfectly. It was made the first time the best possible way.”
Rav Shach observed how when human beings make something, it will, by definition, be imperfect, and thus subject to change and enhancement. When G-d makes something, however, it is perfect and flawless. The Torah, therefore, never needs to be changed. It is perfect just the way it is, and we need to preserve it this way and transmit it in its pristine, perfect form to the next generation, without ever trying to “upgrade” it. Of course, changing realities require our Torah Sages to determine how the timeless laws and principles of the Torah practically apply under the new circumstances. But those laws and principles themselves never change.
This is the message of the Sukka – that we leave Yom Kippur with a renewed commitment to the 248 Misvot, without any thoughts whatsoever of trying to enhance the Torah or tamper with it in any way.