Torah Thoughts on Sukkos by Rabbi Eli Smith
There is a strong connection between the Yamim Nora'im – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – and Sukkos. During the Yamim Nora'im we are developing and improving our relationship with Hashem primarily through the means of Yir'ah. However, for the general masses our judgement isn’t truly finished on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The finality comes only at the end of Sukkos when the judgement will really be delivered. But why? How does this make sense? Rosh Hashanah is a time of judgement and Yom Kippur is a time of forgiveness that has ended the auspicious time of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva. We therefore can understand our judgement being decided then. But why is the judgement being delivered for most people at the end of Sukkos?
Sukkos is the continuation of the Yamim Nora'im. After hopefully growing closer to Hashem through the framework of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, on Sukkos we are able to greatly work on our Ahavas Hashem. The two main mitzvos of Sukkos are the Daled Minim and the sukkah. The Torah interestingly describes the esrog as a "פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר" – a beautiful fruit, without specifying every precise detail. Granted that several laws are derived from these words, but it is described as such to teach that even though it will be kosher on a simple level, Hashem is providing us a clear opportunity to do hiddur mitzvah and make it nicer and nicer (an expression of Ahavas Hashem). Similarly regarding a sukkah: The Torah teaches us that it should be like our dwelling – which leaves room for it to be implemented in many different ways. These two mitzvos can be observed simply and be acceptable, but they also are amazing opportunities to convey our value of mitzvah observance not just by how we act when scared of a judgement, but rather how much we cherish mitzvos and want to do them as well as possible. After accomplishing this – now it's time for judgement to be handed down.
Rabbi Eli Smith graduated from FYHS (Class of 2000), then learned in Yeshivas Bais Yisroel for 5 years while also completing a Masters in educational administration. He then learned in Mir Jerusalem, Aish HaTorah's Kollel, and with Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz. He received Semichah from Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, זצ"ל. He also taught in Aish HaTorah and Yeshivas Ruach Chaim, and worked in Yeshivas Imrei Bina. He then moved back to Chicago for a year, working for REACH at HTC. He currently lives in Israel with his family, where he is a Rebbi in Yeshivas Bais Yisrael.