Every Shabbos Chol Hamoed Succos we read the Haftorah (Yechezkel, Chapter 38) about the final confrontation at the end of days between Gog and the nation of Israel. How does Succos connect with Gog, Magog and the end of days? It is ironic to note that after the exodus from Egypt, while travelling in the desert, a place that offers absolutely no natural security or protection, the Jewish people experienced their greatest sense of true security, protected from their enemies and entirely provided for by G-d. Every year, when theJew leaves his home for a week to eat, sleep and live in a succah; an often flimsy structure with a roof made of bits of wood, reed, bamboo, etc., he actualizes this idea that ultimate care and protection come only from G-d. By virtue of the closeness to G-d he has achieved during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, he can now experience a sense of true security. The word “Gog” in Hebrew means roof. Modern man, divorced from a belief in G-d, deeply believes that a good job, a big bank account, a solid economy, a high tech army, in short, a strong solid “roof over his head,” is the source of true security. These two world views cannot co-exist forever. We are told by the prophets that armageddon is inevitable, a final confrontation that will witness the destruction of mankind’s false faith. Succos teaches us that our apparently flimsy roofs will ultimately be triumphant over modern man’s misguided sense of security.
Hidden and Revealed
The essence of Rosh Hashanah is our crowning of G-d as our “king.” A coronation, explain the Chassidic masters, is effected by two things — unity and joy: a people joyously unite to select, accept and submit to an exalted figure who embodies their collective identity and innermost strivings (if the coronation lacks either joy or unity, chassidic teaching explains, it results not in a true king, but merely in a “ruler”). But there is also a third element without which the coronation could not happen — awe. And the nature of awe is that it eclipses and mutes the joy. Sukkot, then, is simply the revelation of Rosh Hashanah. The joy and unity that are the essence of our commitment to G-d, and which were “concealed” by the awe that characterizes the first days of Tishrei, erupt on the 15th of the month in the form of the festival of Sukkot.
In the words of the Psalmist, “Sound the shofar on the new moon, in concealment to the day of our festival.” Our crowning G-d king with the sounding of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei (“the new moon”) remains in concealment until “the day of our festival,” the full moon of Sukkot, when it manifests itself in a seven-day feast of joy.
The holiday of Sukkot is an exercise in faith. True faith is not the belief that because God runs the world, everything will turn out the way we would like it to. True faith is the belief that because God runs the world, however things turn out is an expression of His love for us and is for our ultimate good.
When we leave our houses to dwell in the sukkah, we leave behind the illusion of security fostered by our cozy homes. After all, our houses may be invulnerable to rain, but they are vulnerable to the bank’s foreclosure. All physical security is an illusion. In this sense, Sukkot is a week of reality therapy.
Instead, the sukkah offers the comfort (and joy) of dwelling within the Divine Presence. The mystical Clouds of Glory surround the sukkah, creating a place of Divine immanence. The nature of spiritual reality is that it is eternal, imperishable, and invincible.