Thursday, October 08, 2009

Succos 5632 First Ma'amar

On Rosh HaShanah God gives life for the coming year.  Succos and Shemini Atzeres are the mechanism through which that life spreads out to the Creation.  This is the reason for the special water libation (nisuch hamayim) that is poured in the Beis HaMikdash only on Succos.  Water symbolizes life.

The seven days of Succos represent the physical life of this world.  The nations of the world are also an intrinsic part of the natural order.  Because of this the nations of the world have a part in Succos as well. The seventy cows that are sacrificed during Succos represent the seventy nations.[1]   

The physical world owes its continued existence to the spiritual life-force that is hidden within it.  This spirituality is embodied by the Torah.  The very nature of the physical world is fraught with pitfalls and obstacles that prevent us from discovering the spiritual and leading spiritual lives.  In order to avoid the pitfalls and to overcome the obstacles we need protection.  The Succah symbolizes the protection that God affords us in the physical world.  It is God’s testimony that our primary existence is not the physical but rather the spiritual – the Torah and the spiritual life of the next world.  That we need protection at all is an indication that physical existence is not the main thing.  The Zohar[2] calls the Succah “tzila demehemnusa/shade of faith.”  It is a shade which protects us from the physical world allowing us to cultivate and nurture our spirit.

Shemini Atzeres, on the other hand, represents the spiritual life of the next world.  For this reason the nations of the world, who are part of the physical natural order, have no part in Shemini Atzeres.  In a sense, Shemini Atzeres is similar to the Succah itself.  Shemini Atzeres represents the Torah and the spiritual life of the next world and the Succah is a spiritual place that protects us from the physical.  This is why the mitzvah of Succah does not extend to Shemini Azteres.   There is no need for protection on Shemini Atzeres since the day itself is like the Succah.  If Succos is the culmination of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeres is the culmination of Succos.  It is a day dedicated to the special relationship between the nation of Israel and God.

[1] Succah 55b
[2] Zohar 3:103a

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