Parshas Emor discussed all of the Jewish holidays. It is important to understand that each holiday has a specific day or span upon which it is celebrated on the calendar but also has relevancy throughout the entire year. For example, Pesach is celebrated on the 15thof Nissan for seven days, but the lessons of emunah, faith, and inspiration for service of God remain strong and relevant throughout the entire year. This essay will discuss the holiday of Succos and its timely message for all days of the year.
The verse tells us that on the 15th of Tishrei after celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we are to celebrate seven days of Succos followed by one day of Shemini Atezres (Vayikra 23:39). We know that the holiday has us outside sitting in a Succah, hut, commemorating the Jew’s sojourn in the desert and Hashem’s protection of them through huts and a cloud of glory. The verse also requires us to take the Four Species that are made up of the lulav, esrog, hadasim and aravos. What are they for? The Talmud tells us that these items need large amounts of water in order to make them grow and therefore since this time of year begins the rainy season they are brought. When we shake the lulav bunch we are praying to Hashem to send good rains and helpful winds so that our produce will blossom and agriculture and humans, who depend on food for survival, should receive what they need.
Rabbeinu Bechaya explains based on the Zohar that the Four Species represents the most primary aspects of the human body. The lulav is long and represents the human spine. The esrog represents the heart, the central part of the human body. The hadasim represents the eyes; the aravos represent the lips. Put together, these four items make up the human body. What is the meaning here? Succos comes right after the Jewish Days of Awe and Judgment. A person is inspired to serve Hashem to his fullest. The 4 Species remind him how to focus on bringing his body and efforts together to fully serve Hashem. More so, when one sits in a Succah he performs a mitzvah simply by sitting, eating and evening sleeping there. He elevates even the most mundane acts to methods for achieving mitzvos and closeness with Hashem. So too, we work on elevating our body for His service.
Rabbeinu Bechaya adds that the esrog hints to Avraham as it is called, a “hadar, honorable and beautiful fruit” and Avraham was one who gave great honor to Hashem. Kapos temarim, the lulav refers to Yitzchok who was kafus, tied up, upon the altar for God. The hadasim represent Yaakov. Just as the myrtle branch is covered with leaves, so too his 12 children living in harmony surrounded Yaakov. Arvey nachal, the aravos represent Yosef. Just as they wilt, refresh, wilt and refresh very easily, so too Yosef’s life had many ups and downs with an ultimate victory at the end. We see that the holiday of Sukkos hints to very deep concepts teaches a vital lesson about what we strive for as Jews. May we succeed in dedicating ourselves to the true service of Hashem all year long.