There is a well-known tradition that connects Yom Kippur and Sukkot recorded by Rabbi Moshe Isserles (Rama, 1520-1572):
Those who are meticulous begin building the sukkah immediately after the conclusion of Yom Kippur in order to go from mitzvah to mitzvah.
Rabbi Isserles, while teaching about the specific tradition, provides his own explanation of the reason to start erecting the sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur: the rapid construction of the sukkah gives us the opportunity to bond with God on a continuum from one order to next one (from the observance of the laws of Yom Kippur to those of Sukkot), thereby affirming our status as God’s servants.
As always at the immeasurable sea of Jewish exegesis, we can find other routes to explain why we must begin with the construction of the sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur. This route goes from the central themes that characterize both Festivities:
Yom Kippur is somber reflection, introspection, harsh judgment, need for change. It is shocked, trembling souls – even anguish and tears. Yom Kippur, honored as such, is a plaintiff, aware and committed hard-examination; when we impose a course of improvement in our lives. It is the pivot of change, the trigger agent to a fuller, more meaningful life – a life more deeply lived. Yom Kippur is a demand towards ourselves; an action plan for future goals we have set.
Sukkot, on the other hand, is HeChag, the Feast of Joy – vesamachtah bechagecha, “And you shall rejoice in your Festival”, say our sources. It is celebration, joyous action, construction (with the sukkah), embellishment (in the sukkah), celebration of natural life (with Arbaat Haminim, the four species), hospitality (in the reception of guests in the Sukkah and the Ushpizin), our relationship with nature in its magnitude (the sukkah’s ceiling permeable to light and rain). Sukkot is resolution of hands and arms, implementing decisions, life – life in action .
|From these meanings, then, the tradition of building the sukkah immediately after the end of Yom Kippur can be understood from two different perspectives:
• Implement the intentions collected and developed in Yom Kippur into concrete actions during Sukkot: many times we set goals that we eternally procrastinate, deceiving ourselves and our loved ones. On Yom Kippur we put together a plan of life… and Sukkot encourages us to accomplish it, to build it as the sukkah itself.
• Build a sustainable positive future based on the joy of life: the dense atmosphere of Yom Kippur was created to reflect, to evaluate, not to perform. Life fater Yom Kipur and its resolutions, can be held and conducted in the framework of the joy and the positive work demanded – demanded, required, imposed – by the Festivity of Sukkot. The real changes in life – those which are here to really stay – are the product of the most vital in us: that sustains our full strength and creative energy.
The construction of the sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur, urges us to leave that contrite environment of the atoning day to return to the joy of a better life, sustained precisely in the outcome of Yom Kippur – which should start to be immediately implemented and constructed (as the sukkah) in the first minutes driving from one Festivity to the other. We cannot mend the world – ours or that of those around us – in the concern, in the anguish, in the oppressing demand for introspection. To achieve that mending, Yom Kipur’s significant reflections and evaluations must turn into happy actions – personal, group, social, national positive actions. We will aim our energy of life towards a plan from a more pleasant and desired standpoint which will precisely provide the means to arrive at the desired objectives.
Sukkot, then, and from this perspective, is closure and beginning: the closure of a program of action (to be reopened again and again, every Yom Kippur), and the beginning of its implementation. It is the rush after the pause; arms and bodies to hold souls and spirits.
May God grant that we celebrate the joy of Sukkot in our action;
a joy to translate goals into achievements, dreams into realities.
May God inspire us to realize that joy is a constructive force
capable of transforming the world, beginning with our nearest and dearest, then spreading and multiplying the joy of all our People.
And May God find us on this Succot
happier and more complete because richer in achievements,
joyously celebrating the countless opportunities of our daily lives.
With best wishes,
Chag Succot Sameach!