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Succoth (The Tabernacles Feast) In Spirituality


Why do we sit in the Sukkah (Tabernacles Feast booth)? What do the four varieties mean? What is the connection between Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Torah)?
The wisdom of the Kabbalah describes the sequence of situations the creature experiences in the complex relationship between him and the Creator. These situations evolve one after the other because they lead the creature from one degree to the next, just like a chemical or a physical process that must evolve gradually, step by step.

The Creator-creature relationship is experienced by man in a very tangible manner, no less than the reality we live in. It is not about fantasy or delusions, but about the discovery of a beautiful world where the changes that occur follow strict and well-defined laws. These laws are discovered by anyone who climbs the spiritual ladder, and he knows it because he can read in the holy books that his predecessors came to the exact same places that he sees before him right now.

There is nothing new under the sun. Each of us is different and unique, but we all comply with the same rules, and advance from darkness and confusion to clarity and vision through the same degrees. These degrees are described by the great kabbalists in the holy books and it is by them that they set the sequence of holidays in our world.

We must point out that the names of all the holidays that will be mentioned in this article describe internal situations that a person undergoes in the process of correction, and that the holidays we celebrate simply mark the sequence of corrections. This means that a kabbalist can experience the holidays internally on a regular day as well.

Let us remember for a minute the order of the holidays: the Jewish New Year starts the holidays of Israel. After ten days we come to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and after that we celebrate Succoth for seven days. Finally we come to Simchat Torah.

If you ask yourself what is the meaning of these holidays, the Kabbalah explains that they describe the sequence of revelation and correction of one complete degree.

At the beginning of the spiritual revelation the creature feels that the Creator gives him perfect bliss, but he is incapable of giving anything back. More than anything, the creature wants to overcome the shame that he feels toward the Creator, and bring Him some sort of pleasure.

It is like a person who is suffering from an illness. First he must discover how ill he is and that he cannot heal himself but by turning to a physician. Once he has done that, he is given a medicine and begins to heal, until he attains health and happiness. Only then can he appreciate the greatness and the kindness of the physician.

On the Jewish New Year
the creature begins to understand his situation as opposed to the Creator. Over the course of the next ten days, until the Day of Atonement he realizes more and more how incapable he is of equalizing with His degree and bringing Him delight (that is his illness).

The process lasts ten days because each spiritual vessel is revealed in ten degrees called Sefirot.

On the Day of Atonement, which is the tenth day of the inquiries, when it is clear to the creature that he hasn’t any power of bestowal toward the Creator, he can pray, fast and ask from the bottom of his heart to be endowed with life. The meaning of spiritual life is the ability to resemble the Creator and delight Him, but in order to receive that life he needs to be corrected.

At that point the creature begins to receive the lights that are called the ”surrounding lights”. These lights enable him to gradually correct his vessel and acquire the ability to bestow. During the four days between the Day of Atonement and Succoth the creature gets a chance to begin the correction.

The building of the sukkah is a crucial stage in the correction because the sukkah symbolizes one’s faith. Its thatch defends from the heat of the sun, but it is made of waste, of leaves and stalks that have no other use to man. The meaning is that precisely those desires that man has decided that are superfluous and useless now form his shield from the intensity of the pleasure that comes to him. By giving up those wishes he defends himself from excessive greed for self-indulgence. After he has discovered his inability to bestow, he now receives the strength to protect himself from his egoistical desires. The danger is that if he is enslaved by those desires, he will forget who gives them and will take the pleasure for himself. The defense that he gets renders him the strength to believe in the Creator and see His greatness, despite the tempting pleasures he is faced with. For that reason we try to be as much as possible inside the sukkah during the holiday and even sleep in it.

The fact that he built and decorated the sukkah by himself gives him the confidence that he can protect himself from his excessive desires. That defense is the light of faith that fills him with endless bliss.

But that defense is not enough to bring contentment to his Maker. We must not forget that the Creator loves him and wants to render him with pleasure and not prevent it from him. Therefore he needs to learn how to receive pleasure, in order to please the Creator. Now he needs a means by which he can receive the pleasure. That means is the connection that he makes between the citron, the palm branch, the myrtle and the willow.

The four varieties mark the four degrees of the will that one discovers in the course of his spiritual work. Sometimes he finds in it a good taste and a good scent, and he calls it a citron; sometimes it has taste, but no scent, so he calls it a palm branch; sometimes it is fragrant but tasteless and is thus called myrtle, and when it has no taste and no scent he calls it willow.

The ability to join all types of work in one direction, in order to delight the Creator, gives the creature the ability to receive genuine delight under any condition and under any circumstances, because under any situation he remembers what he lives and whom he works for. It is marked in Succoth by rocking the palm branch and the encircling of the altar.

The seven days of Succoth mark the correction of his seven lower sefirot, which must be unified and connected, until on the eighth day the corrections are finished. That is why that that day is called Shmini Atzeret (the stopping eighth).

On that day, after he has completed the corrections, the creature gets to unite with his Creator and receive from Him the true pleasure called Torah. The Torah is a means that gives the creature the ability to bring endless delight to his Maker, just as his Maker delights him, and unite with Him in everlasting love.

 

Author: G. Shadmon
Translator: C. Ratz
Proofreading: J. Kersen

 

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