Sukkot, which begins Sunday, is called by our sages, “The season of our rejoicing.” But why should we rejoice?
Just this week, we beat our chests, repented of our wrongs and begged for forgiveness. We reviewed the sins in which we wallowed for the last year, and promised to try to do better. On Yom Kippur, we read Isaiah and were reminded that although we “seek God daily,” what we are really doing is a pretense. God is not fooled when we ask, “Why, when we fasted, did You not see? When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?” and answers, “Because on your fast day you see to your business and oppress all your laborers!” when what God wants of us is “to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him.”
On Yom Kippur, we fast, and perhaps some few of us leave the fast and go to do these things — but how many of us?
Rabbi Shemuel Ben Meir, a French rabbi of the 12th century known as the Rashbam, explains:
Why do I command you to [live in a sukkah]? Do not say in your hearts, “My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me. Remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you the power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:17-18). Therefore, the people leave houses filled with good at the harvest season and they dwell in sukkot as a reminder that they had no property in the desert or homes to inhabit. This is why God designated Sukkot at the harvest season, so that a person’s heart should not grow haughty because of houses filled with everything good, lest they say: “Our hands made all of this wealth for us.”