Oh, the brilliance of the Jewish calendar! Can you imagine what life would be like if right after Yom Kippur, right after we reach such an exalted state of closeness to the Almighty, right after we turn ourselves completely inside-out and reach that most incredible state of consciousness and awareness, if right after all that we would just jump right back into our regular life and daily grind? What a crash landing that would be!

But instead, the moment the curtain closes on Yom Kippur, a new door opens, a new incredible opportunity to grow spiritually but in an entirely different way.

What more could we achieve after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? We’ve woken up to the sound of the Shofar and invited God into our lives. We’ve immersed ourselves in His love, beseeching Him to remove all of the blockages that separate our hearts from feeling His presence. We’ve put our bodies on hold and let our souls be enraptured in the energy of these days. What is the next step?

Jewish tradition teaches us that we are supposed to serve God out of awe and out of love, with love obviously being the greater level of the two. That being said, if Rosh Hashanah, the 10 Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur are referred to as the “Days of Awe,” clearly the next step would have to be the “Days of Love.”

The Sukkah is A hug from God
And that is the most accurate way to describe Sukkot: one big, warm, fuzzy hug from our Beloved in Heaven. Sitting in the Sukkah requires us to leave our regular state – living a life of expansion – and enter into a much smaller, intimate space. This space represents the loving embrace of the Almighty. The basic requirements of a Sukkah are two long, perpendicular walls and one short extending wall, which represents an arm reaching over to bring another closer. We are literally being hugged by God, being sheltered in the Divine embrace. The roof, known as schach, requires us to be able to see the sky, to remind us that God is looking down on us and rejoicing with us. Through the filter of the schach, God sees only the best in us, and not our flaws and faults.

The Four Species: Unifying our Hearts and Bodies

It is well known that the various species that we shake on Sukkot resemble various parts of the human body. The lulav resembles the spine. The leaves of the hadasim and aravot resemble the eyes and lips, respectively. And the etrog resembles the heart. The deeper sources expound on this idea and how it connects to the theme of the day.

The lulav is bound together with the hadasim and aravot creating a single unit, portraying that our bodies and desires (alluded to by the spine) are constantly being affected by the stimuli we take in through our eyes and mouth. By binding them together, we are showing that we are taking complete control of our physical desires. The etrog, on the other hand, reflects the heart, the seat of our emotions. It is by taking control of our physical desires that we can channel our emotions towards loftier goals.

The Wedding Celebration

The Kabbalists further explain that the Sukkah is supposed to resemble a Chuppah, a wedding canopy! This is because we are celebrating the closeness that we are feeling with the Almighty like a wedding ceremony between God and mankind.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that the second half of the holiday of Sukkot, known as Simchat Torah, closely resembles the part of the wedding that comes right after the chuppah: the celebration! We sing and dance until we drop celebrating this new union. By the time the holiday is over we have gone through the complete “wedding experience” and are ready to begin our new life. And as we enter the dark days of winter that immediately follow, we are confident that the vows that we made over these special days will be etched in our hearts and that we will experience a year like we have never had before.

For the next week and a half, we experience a time referred to in the Torah, as “the Time of our Joy.” We sing, we dance and we celebrate all that we achieved during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is that final celebration, the hug that follows the intensity and captures the moment, that really allows those feelings to penetrate our hearts in the deepest way, escorting our new and improved selves into the brand new year!