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Weekly D'var

D’var Torah for Shabbat Sukkot by Judah Rosenstein


As we begin the holiday of Sukkot, what better time is there to talk about Passover?


Each year, we gather around the Seder table and ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Interestingly, we never ask that question on Sukkot, even while eating outdoors, in a temporary structure with a porous roof and thin walls. In actuality, the reasons for both traditions are connected; on Passover, we have a seder to celebrate that, “we were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt (‘Avadeem Hayenu’) and G-d took us out from there”. The Torah reading for Sukkot makes clear that we eat in a sukkah “so that your generation may know that in booths did I make the children of Israel dwell when I brought them out from the land of Egypt.”


The Haftarah for the first day of Sukkot provides a more forward-looking perspective regarding the holiday. According to the text, the people were instructed to “go up from year to year… and to celebrate the festival of Sukkot.” With regard to that specific directive, it is understandable that we celebrate our actual exodus from Egypt (on Passover) each year, but what is the basis for the call to celebrate that our ancestors were forced to live in temporary booths for forty years rather than being allowed to enter the land of Israel? I believe that one answer may be as follows.


Each generation, from those who experienced the Exodus and dwelled in the desert up through our own, has been forced to deal with the inherent vulnerabilities and constant uncertainties that life entails. In recognition of that fact, the Torah instructs us to observe time each year dedicated to looking back on our history as a means to sustain our faith in G-d’s protective and redemptive powers. But having a tangible trust that is future focused, a trust that provides the strength to survive the day-to-day going forward (until a more positive future is actualized), requires “sitting” in the present situation / current space, and mindfully looking around to appreciate the protective elements that already surround us. Then, together with being present in the current space and appreciating the protection around us, we must also work to better and beautify our surroundings. The sukkah, therefore, is an allegory for life, and the tangible practices associated with the holiday are conduits to the good yet to come. Understanding and appreciating that fact provides the basis for the Haftarah’s call to not just remember the past, but also to “celebrate the festival of Sukkot” going forward. Chag Sameach!


Mon, October 2 2023 17 Tishrei 5784