June 14, 2024
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Sukkot: A Foundation of Love

As we transition from the intense Yomim Noraim to the joyful Sukkot, excitement is in the air. Yet we must consider a fundamental question: what is Sukkot doing here?

The Tur raises this question. He notes that Sukkot commemorates both the Clouds of Glory that surrounded Am Yisrael throughout the desert, and the actual huts they lived in while in the desert. Both took place right after the Exodus; shouldn’t we therefore celebrate Sukkot right after Pesach? Why celebrate it instead many months later?

Some commentaries suggest that Sukkot specifically comes right after the Yomim Noraim, to juxtapose Sukkot with Yom Kippur. Why? What is the connection? Perhaps we can suggest the following.

The Yomim Noraim represent a personal renewal and spiritual transformation—climaxing with Yom Kippur. Through a combination of the day itself, our sincere repentance and an elevated level of spirituality, we achieve a spiritual cleansing not possible at other points of the year. After Yom Kippur we are like a new being, our slate wiped clean. Immediately after we encounter Chag HaSukkot—as if the Torah is moving us from Yom Kippur directly into Sukkot. What does Sukkot represent, and why is it the appropriate continuation of Yom Kippur?

I have long felt that at its core, the sukkah itself represents the loving embrace of God. It commemorates the Clouds of Glory that protected the fledgling nation in the desert from all dangers and threats. God lovingly embraced them, guarding them from all sides to ensure their safety and security. As we sit in the sukkah each year and commemorate that protection, we are also meant to feel that embrace in our own lives—remembering that ultimately our lives, everything we have, are from Hashem alone. We should feel enveloped and surrounded by the affection and warmth of God, and to bask in that warmth.

Perhaps this is why Sukkot immediately follows Yom Kippur. As we emerge from Yom Kippur spiritually reborn, we begin to re-encounter the world. Yet before doing so, we go through a period of incubation—spending seven days in our sukkah, basking in the loving embrace of God. We celebrate our relationship with Him and the opportunities such a relationship affords us. Only once that foundation of love and warmth has been established are we prepared to confront the world.

Perhaps our most important job as parents is to give our children a foundation of love in their lives. From the day they’re born and throughout their lives children need to feel that no matter what happens in the world around them, their parents love them unconditionally. The home must be a place of profound comfort and warmth—felt each time the child walks into the house. Each time we speak to or interact with our kids, the undertones of that encounter must be the affection we have for them.

Rav Wolbe, in Zria U’Binyan B’Chinuch, quotes a biologist who compared the capabilities of human babies to those from the animal kingdom. Notably, many animal babies walk upon birth and become quickly independent. In contrast, human babies do very little for the first nine to 12 months; at around one year, human babies have the same capabilities as animals at birth. Based on this, this biologist posited that human babies really need another nine months of incubation in the mother’s womb. Instead, however, the baby goes through a second incubation period outside the mother’s womb—as the baby is enveloped by the “cradle of the home,” by the love and warmth of its parents and family. As the baby experiences the loving embrace of his parents during these months, a deep foundation of love and belonging is instilled within the child—setting the framework for the rest of the child’s life.

While this initial foundation of love is developed during a child’s early years, love must be the basis for the parent-child relationship at all ages. Our relationship with our kids shifts over time, but the one constant must be our overarching love for them. There may be moments of great disagreement and perhaps intense friction, but if love is the basis for the relationship, they can be ultimately overcome.

Thankfully, loving our children comes naturally to us. The challenge, however, is in ensuring that this love is properly conveyed to them. We should develop the habit of verbally expressing this love consistently and often. One can never say “I love you” too often to your child. And words alone aren’t enough. We must show through our actions how much we care about them. If we put real time and effort into conveying our genuine love for our children, they will sense it and feel it profoundly.

The proximity of Sukkot to Yom Kippur is intentional. As we exit Yom Kippur as new people, we immediately enter our sukkah. That temporary dwelling, an incubator reflecting the love and warmth of God, lays the foundation for our re-entry into the world and refines our ability to confront it head on. As parents, we must ensure that the basis for our relationship with our kids is one of deep love and affection—established from the moment they are born, and ever-present throughout their lives. It is that love that, come what may, will ensure a continued deep and meaningful relationship for years to come.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!


Rav Yossi Goldin is the menahel tichon at Yeshivas Pe’er HaTorah, rebbe at Midreshet Tehilla, and placement advisor/internship coordinator for the YU/RIETS Kollel. He lives with his family in Shaalvim and can be reached at [email protected].

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