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Home » Sukkot

Sukkot: The Holiday of Clouds and Huts

Submitted by on November 2, 2005 – 3:37 amNo Comment | 2,278 views

A Charming Celebration

Since my earliest childhood, the holiday of Sukkot held a special place in my heart. Sukkot equaled festivity, joy, celebration and of course an ad hoc family gathering of amateur Sukkah builders. My father would erect the walls of our little Sukkah hut and for eight days we would take all our meals in this hut. To me, as a child, this was all very exciting, there was a magnetism about it that captivated me; it drew me in with a tangible force

Indeed, there are neighborhoods in Toronto, New York and many other centers of Jewish population that are dotted with hundreds of little Sukkah huts. They line the streets and store fronts and adorn the front or back yards of homes and Synagogues. A popular pastime during my youth was “Sukkah hopping”, i.e. to hop from Sukkah to Sukkah as we visited with neighbors and friends in celebration of this unique festival.

Today, as an adult, I look back on those memories and somehow the magic of this holiday hasn’t faded. The cheerful Sukkah huts, the sweet aroma of freshly cut pine, the crisp cold sunshine filtering through the overhead foliage and the festive Sukkah decorations continue to create a charming atmosphere with a sense of enchantment and appeal.

Today, my children, nieces and nephews experience the same fascination and enthusiasm as I did at their age. I watch them marvel over the holiday and anticipate its arrival. As the allure begins anew the miracle of my childhood unfolds once more.

The Meaning of the Hut

But what is the reason for this holiday? What stands behind the beauty of this wonderful tradition? What was it that impelled G-d to command the Jewish people to eat, sleep and reside in outdoor huts for eight full days during the autumn season as the temperature drops and the rain begins to fall?

Much has been written about the holiday of Sukkot as a traditional celebration of the harvest. However, the tradition of Sukkot predates our agrarian history. The Sukkah commemorates something far greater and far more ancient then the relatively recent tradition of harvest celebration.

The Sukkah is rooted in a miraculous phenomenon that took place thousands of years ago. According to Jewish tradition, the original Hebrews, who broke out of their enslavement in Egypt, were led by G-d on a miraculous forty-year journey.

He led them through oceans and desserts, mountains and valleys, across narrow straits and broad planes, hostile countries and perilous battles but in the end they succeeded in reaching their biblically promised land, the land of Israel.

Have you ever stopped to ponder the following question: how did an ancient primitive people survive a dangerous, uninhabited dessert, infested by snakes and-wild-animals? We know that G-d provided them with Manna from heaven for food, but what of clothing, shelter and protection from the raw, forceful elements? Did the heat not sear them, did the climate not dehydrate them, did the humidity not soak them did the rain not drench them? Did the unsheltered valley floors and ravines not flood with water?

How did they avoid lightening, thunder, flash floods, fire and all other dangers that still plague travelers today in a world filled with the technology to avoid it?’

Clouds of Glory

The answer my dear friends is the mystery that lies at the heart of the holiday of Sukkot. A Rabbinic tradition has it that G-d created a protective canopy of clouds that traveled alongside the Jewish people and protected them from all harm. clouds and huts - innerstreamPreying animals, ravaging diseases, scorching heat, driving rain and unimaginable frost could not harm them within their security bubble. Within this protective cloud cover, Jews were safe. The weather was always regulated, the climate was always modulated, air was always circulated so that everything (even their clothing) remained fresh, laundered and clean.

Furthermore, these clouds went out of their way to provide the absolute best level of comfort possible. A cloud traveled ahead of the people and miraculously flattened all hills and filled all valleys so that they would not have to endure any more hardship than absolutely necessary.

These miraculous clouds saved our people from certain death. A nomadic tribe, two million strong, would have perished in that dessert and fallen prey to the elements, wild animals and vultures. If not for those clouds the Jewish people would not have survived . These are the clouds that we commemorate with our outdoor huts during Sukkot, the festival of clouds and huts.

A Secure Atmosphere of Joy

The huts symbolize the protective canopy, shielding us from the intensity of the wind, cold and rain. It is purposely not built in a permanent manner and is purposely built when the climate is cold. It is designed to remind those sitting within that they are indeed vulnerable to the prevailing weather conditions. But that in the end the Sukkah hut, which represents the protective arm of G-d, will always be there to shelter them from harm.

Another beautiful element of this holiday is that we celebrate it in unity and joy. Most families invite friends and relatives and celebrate late into the night. It is a holiday that emphasizes friendship, togetherness and camaraderie. It is a holiday that extols joy, happiness and celebration Last but not least it is a holiday that hopes to teach us a lesson that can be incorporated into the routine mundanes of every day life.

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