What is the meaning of the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot?
Sukkot is a harvest festival, but it is also a holiday that marks the Exodus from Egypt. Many of you may be thinking “isn’t Passover the holiday that marks the Exodus from Egypt?” And indeed it is. However, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is such a seminal moment in the history of the Jewish people that there are many moments throughout the year (and even on a daily basis) during which we can commemorate this important event. In fact, whenever I teach a Basic Judaism class, I always joke with my students: “Anytime I ask you a question and you don’t know the answer, just say ‘To remember the Exodus from Egypt,’ because 9 times out of 10 you’ll probably be right.”
Sukkot marks the Exodus from Egypt just as Passover does, but Sukkot marks it in a slightly different way. With Passover we are concerned with every aspect of the Exodus story, but with Sukkot we are specifically marking the journey from Egypt to the land of Israel, when the Jews traveled through the desert. We celebrate this journey on Sukkot and we reenact it, by eating and sleeping in the Sukkah, the little hut that becomes our makeshift home during the holiday of Sukkot. As it says in Vayikrah/Leviticus 23:42-43, “You shall live in Sukkot seven days; all citizens of Israel shall live in Sukkot, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in Sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.”
Therefore, part of what Sukkot is really about is the journey. Not just the physical journey from Egypt to Israel, but a metaphorical journey, a spiritual journey. A journey to transform ourselves as people, to find where we need to be in life, to find what our goals in life should be, be they professional, spiritual, or family goals. So on this holiday of Sukkot, I bless you that you embark on that journey and achieve those goals.
Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday)