Why is Sukkot called “Our Feast of Joy”? -J-Wire
CS Lewis wrote a book about his youth called “Surprised by Joy”. The name comes from a sonnet by Wordsworth mourning the death of his daughter Catherine in 1812. Lewis said that joy was “almost as different from security or prosperity as from agony.” It jumps under the ribs and tickles the back and makes you forget about meals and keeps you from (delightfully) sleepless nights”.
* A sukkah should not be too high. A person should not be too tall and powerful.
* A sukkah should not be too small. A person should not belittle himself.
* The walls must be able to withstand ordinary gusts of wind. A person must stand up for his principles.
* The stars must be visible through the foliage of the roof. A person must always see and strive for the divine light.
* One of the four species used on Sukkot is the etrog. He is the odd man, the only plant that is not linked with the others.
* The etrog is called in the Torah “the fruit of a beautiful (beautiful) tree” (Lev. 23:40). Each of the four plants symbolizes a part of the human body. The etrog is the heart, which operates the body. It also represents the Jewish people, a distinct small group that exemplifies ethics. The four plants symbolize four biblical figures: the etrog is Abraham.
* The name etrog comes from a Persian root “tarag” and the original name could be “torange”. The etrog was known for its aroma and medicinal properties.
* In size, the etrog should not be smaller than an egg, although eggs today are considered smaller than those of Talmudic times.
* Etrogim was once rare and expensive. The question arose, “If one has to choose between visiting a city that has a sukkah and one that has an etrog, which should one choose?” The answer is: “The one with the etrog!”
* Can an etrog belonging to the synagogue be used? The members of the shule are associates who own the properties of the synagogue in common.
IN YOUR OWN GARDEN
Each festival has its theme. Sometimes it’s the individual and their soul. Sometimes it is the family and its future, sometimes the nation and its quality, sometimes the people and their philosophy. With Sukkot, it is God’s nature and goodness.
Perhaps if you live in a rural setting you already have Nature as your neighbor, but if you are a city dweller there is a special dimension to be found when building your annual sukkah, however small it may be if its nook is hemmed and its corner is precious.
So many of our streets are concrete jungles, so many houses are brick blocks, so many apartments are anonymous lockers.
Living in Jerusalem, I constantly wonder why ubiquitous construction projects rarely have sukkah balconies. In our case, there is a sukkah balcony which is one of the jewels of our house. Having a sukkah ensures that at least once in a while you encounter some fresh air and greenery. Even if it’s only for eight days, you can get a little taste of nature.
In the cramped conditions of city life, not all of us have the opportunity to build our own sukkah, so we try to get by by being invited to someone else’s home or spending time in the synagogue sukkah. . Some of us can do both.
I well remember, even after many decades, the scent of a certain synagogue sukkah I attended as a child; I still vividly remember the greenery around the walls and I inhale the air and can taste the kiddush-time sponge cake. This synagogue had its sukkah in an open space outside the shule and nothing could compete with it.
Until recently, living in the city was rather rare. The Torah makes it a point of Cain to build a city (Gen. 4:17). This “town”, however, was probably only a camp of two or three houses. In biblical times the only city with urban status was probably Jerusalem, although in modern terms Jerusalem was little more than a village. The Mishnah Megillah speaks of villages, towns, and cities, but none of them had any claim to city status in modern terms.
Until recently, most people lived in relatively small settlements, and until 200 years ago no more than one in fifty people lived in what today we would call a city. Only recently, then, was the sukkah desperately needed as a fleeting contact with nature. How they managed to build Sukkot in Eastern Europe, I have no idea.
Switch to today and you see how difficult it is to find a corner open to the sky and how important it is to have a festival that gives us a taste of branches, greenery and fresh air. Thanks to the sukkah, the Jewish people have always had a sense of Nature and given thanks to the Creator. And through the Arba’ah Minim used at Sukkot, we Jews have seen, held, and celebrated samples of God’s Creation.