Scaling Back - A Sukkot Conversation Starter

Living in a sukkah - eating meals, perhaps sleeping - is the main aspect of the holiday of Sukkot.

  • What do we learn from leaving our homes and living in a sukkah?
  • What do you think about when you sit in the sukkah?
  • What emotions do you experience while spending time in a sukkah?
  • What was your favorite or most memorable sukkah experience?

The mitzvah of living in a sukkah during the holiday of Sukkot is found in the book of Leviticus. As you look at some of the sources describing the mitzvah, can you think of a reason for this mitzvah? What are we supposed to gain from the experience?

(מב) בַּסֻּכֹּ֥ת תֵּשְׁב֖וּ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים כָּל־הָֽאֶזְרָח֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל יֵשְׁב֖וּ בַּסֻּכֹּֽת׃

(42) You shall live in booths [sukkot] seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths,

From reading the verse above, why do you think we live in sukkot during the holiday of Sukkot?

The following verse provides more information about the mitzvah.

(מג) לְמַעַן֮ יֵדְע֣וּ דֹרֹֽתֵיכֶם֒ כִּ֣י בַסֻּכּ֗וֹת הוֹשַׁ֙בְתִּי֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּהוֹצִיאִ֥י אוֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃
(43) in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the LORD your God.

This verse still doesn't answer the question. Why should future generations remember that the Israelites lived in sukkot when they traveled in the desert?

Rashi's grandson, the Rashbam (c.1085-c.1158) provides an answer.

... ומתוך כך תתנו הודאה למי שנתן לכם נחלה ובתים מלאים כל טוב ואל תאמרו בלבבכם כחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה...

... Remembering all this [living in sukkot in the desert] you will have ample reason to be grateful to the One Who has provided you with all of your present wealth and comfort. You must not fall into the trap of thinking that all this success is due to your own efforts. ...

  1. According to Rashbam, what is the danger of living a life of comfort?
  2. How does living in a sukkah encourage you to appreciate? What do you appreciate? Who do you appreciate?
  3. Sitting in a sukkah can help develop empathy. Who do you empathize with when you eat meals or sleep outside in a sukkah?
  4. How can you turn the appreciation and empathy that was developed during Sukkot into action?

Happy Sukkot!