Closing the Season of Repentance
Hoshanah Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot, marks the thematic end of the High Holiday period.
The other connection is perhaps even more important. It is that we are bidden to begin building our sukkah--at least to drive in the first nail‑-upon returning home from the Ne'ilah service. There is no greater contrast in religious feeling than that between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Yom Kippur is all deprivation, asceticism, and spirituality; Sukkot is all joy, festivity, dancing, singing, and feasting. On Yom Kippur we are in heaven; on Sukkot we are very much on earth‑to our great pleasure. We cannot and should not stay very long in the rarified atmosphere of Yom Kippur. We have to return to earth, to begin to build and make life happy and fruitful, not only for ourselves but for others. If that is the outcome of the Days of Awe, they have been worthwhile.
The call to connect Sukkot with Yom Kippur in this way is symbolic of what Judaism wants us to take away from the Days of Awe. They are not to be isolated, but are to be integrated into a total Jewish life, one that includes celebration and a full relationship with God and with other human beings. In this way, we actualize the Torah's command, "choose life."
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