According to Chazal, the essence of Sukkot is in making a break with the permanent and placing ourselves in a state of transience: " 'You shall dwell in sukkot for seven days' – for seven days leave your permanent dwelling place and live in a temporary dwelling place."
This is suggestive of deeper ideas. Thinkers through the ages have spoken of Sukkot as being a time for recognizing our own ephemerality that we ourselves will not be here forever. Clearly, the purpose of Sukkot is not just to come to terms with our own "impermanence", but rather to try to understand its nature. The Torah itself says as much: "… so that your generations will know that I (Hashem) caused the children of Israel to dwell in sukkot." Hashem is behind the mitzvah of sitting in the sukkah and Hashem is the key to working out the permanence-impermanence of our personal experience. When we see ourselves on the time-line of eternity, with Hashem accompanying us on our journey in this world through to the world to come, questions of permanence and impermanence come into clearer perspective.
Covid-19 has deeply shaken humanity as we know it. From financial insecurity, to financial loss and collapse, from isolation, to sickness and death, millions of people have been badly hurt by the world's modern day plague. Our instinctive response to such insecurity is to do all that is in our power to achieve relative security in the midst of the turmoil. Such is the requirement of hishtadlut as we know it. At the same time, perhaps the lesson of Sukkot is to reflect on what is behind the turmoil, who is behind the events of our existence big and small, that Hashem is both dayan hachessed and dayan ha'emet, and that it is never too late to re-cement our bond with Hashem.
To all our Orot friends the world over, my best wishes for a good and healthy New Year, tichleh shana vekileloteha, tachel shana uvirkoteha.
On a more personal note to all of our Orot Bogrot in Israel and abroad. I hope that this challenging time finds you and your families well. May this be a year of blessing for us all. May our hopes be fulfilled and our dreams realized. May we all be granted the strength to overcome whatever obstacles we may encounter this year. May you and yours be inscribed in the Book of Life, for health, happiness and Torah fulfillment.
Warm regards mi'tzion.
Rabbi Avi Weiss
Former Director of Bat Zion
Current chair Dept. of Toshba, Orot Israel College Elkana