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    “The” Festival

    Rabbinic works place Sukkot on a pedestal.

    Sukkah meal, by Bernard Picart, 1722

    Sukkah meal, by Bernard Picart, 1722

    They don’t call it a but the festival – he-chag, adopting a phrase from I Kings 8:2.

    One reason is that whilst the Torah commands us to rejoice (Deut. 16:15) it was not until the extreme joy of Sukkot in Second Temple times that there arose a saying that whoever has never seen the Sukkot celebrations has never experienced real joy.

    Perhaps the supreme joy of Sukkot derives from the fact that it falls just after the holiness of Yom Kippur, and the Kotzker Rebbe used to say, “Joyfulness is the outcome of holiness”.

    Another possibility is that this festival stresses universal peace, in contrast to Pesach, which stands for freedom, and Shavu’ot, the symbol of moral law.

    In time to come, the redemption of the whole of mankind will be symbolised by every nation and individual assembling under the sukkah of peace. This ultimate aspiration gives Sukkot a unique purpose and flavor.

    From the psychological point of view, the sukkah represents the frailty of life but also the certainty of God’s protection, which is the greatest lesson of faith.

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