SALT - Thursday, 11 Tishrei 5777 - October 13, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Rama (O.C. 624) records the well-known custom to begin constructing the sukka immediately after the conclusion of Yom Kippur.  This custom perhaps challenges us to analyze the relationship between these two holidays that might account for the practice to begin preparing for one immediately following the other.

            One of the themes of Yom Kippur is expressed by the verse in Sefer Vayikra (16:16) which describes the sprinkling of the blood of Am Yisrael’s national sin-offering on Yom Kippur: “ha-shokhein itam be-tokh tum’otam” (“which dwells among them, amidst their impurity”).  The altar and the Temple are cleansed so that God can continue residing within it, among His nation, despite our mistakes and wrongdoing.  On Yom Kippur, we come before the Almighty as King David did after his sin with Batsheva, crying, “Al tashlikheini milefanekha” (Tehillim 51:13) – imploring Him to remain with us despite our sins.  We acknowledge that we are unworthy of His continued presence among us, and so we beg for forgiveness and compassion, and commit ourselves to try to improve ourselves, so that God will remain with us in spite of our sins.  In short, we ask God to maintain His close relationship with us despite our “impurity,” even though we do not always act as He wants us to.

            After Yom Kippur, we immediately and eagerly proceed to preparing the sukka, which represents the flipside of our Yom Kippur plea.  The experience of living in a sukka symbolizes our desire to live in intimate closeness with God irrespective of the physical conditions.  We specifically leave our comfortable, secure and stable homes and move into a crude, temporary structure to demonstrate that we value our relationship with God far more than material comforts and luxuries.  On Sukkot, “zeman simchateinu,” we show that ultimate joy comes from our bond with the Almighty, not from our material possessions.  Immediately after Yom Kippur, when we beseech God to reside with us even though we do not always fulfill His wishes, we rush to construct the sukka, expressing our desire to reside with Him even though He does not always fulfill our wishes.  In order for us to justify our demand that God desire a relationship with us despite the imperfect conditions we create through our occasional wrongdoing, we must show our desire to cultivate a relationship with Him despite the imperfect conditions that He creates for us.  Just as He accepts us as we are, with all our deficiencies, we, too, must remain committed to Him and cherish our relationship with Him despite the deficiencies in our lives, and the many unfulfilled wishes which He has, in His infinite wisdom and for reasons we cannot know, chosen not to grant us.