We live in two realms simultaneously – the physical world that we can see, hear and touch and the spiritual world of the neshama which is connected to Hashem and is accessible through thoughtful contemplation. The Succah is the extraordinary instrumentality that allows us to make a smooth transition from the see – hear – smell touch world of the physical to the place of our neshama-consciousness. In the Succah, we can actually experience the transformation; Whether we have carefully observed and absorbed this process as it was occurring or do so now in retrospect, we can take this special consciousness with us into the rest of the year so that what happens on the neshama level does not remain hidden from us. What is the nature of this transformation?
The perception of change in the physical world is accomplished by enhancing our intellect through the acquisition of knowledge, by physical growth and sometimes by adorning ourselves and by changing or improving our environments and is accompanied by signs that we can perceive with our senses. Thus a baby is weaned. A child begins cheder. A youth learns a new masechta. A young woman becomes a kallah. A family moves into a new home. However, when it comes to spiritual growth, unless we are paying attention to the subtle changes inside of ourselves we can pass through various stages of spiritual growth without marking the event consciously. We see the results when eventually they manifest themselves as changes in our temperament and in our reactions, but that can take a very long time and sometimes by the time we “notice” the change we are not able to consciously work on it to enhance it or, r’l if it be a change down the ladder, to uproot it.
To rebalance this, Hashem has given us Chodesh Tishrei in which we are encouraged to participate in the spiritual rectifications necessary to meeting the challenges of the new year. The Holy days of Tishrei which precede Succos teach us how to use in-sight and search our hearts with our inner eyes to root out those negative attributes that diminish our holiness. We are then prepared to enter the spiritual realm called Succah. In this realm we encounter the Divinely inspired influences of the Ushpizin –the special guests we invite into our Succahs.
These, our Shepherds, aid us in the rectification and renewal of the seven principal character traits that form the infra-structure of our personalities: Under the influence of our forefather Avraham we are aided in the development of the trait of Chesed– the exercise of loving- kindness for the sake of Heaven. Under the influence of our forefather Yitzchak we are aided in the development of the trait of Gevurah which is the use of discipline to direct and channel kindness so that it can be constructive rather than destructive. Under the influence of Yaakov Avinu we are shown how to use Torah to develop Teferes which is the trait that harmonizes loving kindness and discipline. Our next guest, Our Teacher Moshe Rabbeinu helps us understand Netzach that eternal component within us that connects us to Hashem and makes it possible for us to fulfill the Creator’s will. Under the tutelage of Aaron HaKohan we experience Hod, splendor in service of Hashem. Yosef HaTzadik – Yesod inspires us and encourages us to cleave to moral purity in righteousness. David HaMelech – Malchus demonstrates the power of royalty to orchestrate and combine all of these attributes and implant in us those aspirations and decisions that will enhance our holiness and our ability to come closer to Hashem in the upcoming year.
David Hamelech sings “ V’Ani tefilasi lecha Hashem . . .” In a certain spiritual sense our Succahs are a form of concretized prayer which embodies those crucial elements that form us. Like ourselves, the Succah is composed of earthly and heavenly components. That combination of body and soul; of the material and the spiritual is epitomized by the s’chach – the thatched roof of our Succahs — because the s’chach represents the quintessential form of Divine protection and blessing.
Thus by understanding the connection between the halachas of the s’chach and ourselves we can direct our lives throughout the whole year: 1) the s’chach must be made from material which originally grew from the ground—mechubar l’karka. We too are connected to this physical world through our bodies and our senses which create a strong psychological bond to this world. 2) The material used for the s’chach must be detached from the ground. Perhaps the Torah is thus declaring to us that in order to be elevated and reconnected to the Heavenly realm even while we are still living in this world we need to uproot our psychological, emotional and intellectual attachment to the nonessential pulls of this world 3) The s’chach must not be a keli (vessel) which is capable of receiving tumah—spiritual impurity. Although the halachas, laws, of spiritual impurity are very complex and we thus are unable to cover them here, we can say that most kelim that have import and value are susceptible to spiritual impurity. Perhaps this third halacha of the s’chach is therefore coming to teach us that we need to be extremely diligent in annulling those prideful and self righteous parts of our egos, replacing them with a humble but sturdy sense of self respect.
A halacha that directs the placement of the s’chach offers an additional illuminating insight. The roof of the succah must be sufficiently porous to allow rain to fall through it and ideally have openings large enough to allow us to see the stars. We can learn a profound lesson from this halacha. Even when we live in a permanent dwelling, with its impermeable ceilings, covered by a solid roof, we can look up and see right through this illusory protection to the true Protector, Aveinu Shebashamayim.
This means that as we mature and become less dependent upon others and less enamored of the lures of this world, we can step up to a level of self nullification that allows us to acknowledge the true Source of all security and sustenance in life. This is a great lesson for us. Our submission (bittel) to the will of Hashem’s Torah keeps us protected from the powers of tumah as symbolized through the s’chach which is the conduit for Divine protection and revelation. May we merit to take the message of the s’chach back into to our homes opening our doors and our hearts to the will of Hashem.
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