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Secret of the Sukkah





Our Sukkah is up and we have celebrated the last few days and nights with friends and family, enjoying the cool nights and warm days of Fall. This cosmic window of time that has opened and the rituals we do have very profound and deep meaning. It is through the Kabbalah of the Torah that we can begin to understand what is really happening during this festival.


As I sit in the Sukkah, I am reading Rabbi's teachings and contemplating the depth of what I am sitting in, what is surrounding me and the inner transformation that is taking place in me and around me in a most subtle way. When I come to this particular part in Rabbi's teaching, about being surrounded by the Divine Mother, I pause.


I am nested in this beautiful Sukkah like a fledgling, the Divine Mother softly and gently surrounding me. Through the ritual building of the vessel/sukkah, the light of the Divine Mother has come.


This light is called the "Ohr Makif" or surrounding light. Ohr Makif, as the Kabbalist's teach, is the transcendent, encompassing light or energy of the Divine manifest in this world. Unlike the light/energy of the Divine called "Ohr Penimi" which pervades us and is absorbed into our body or "vessel", this energy of the Divine comes to surround her fledglings and impart her covering and her consciousness to those who sit in the Sukkah.


The 'sechah' or covering/roof of the Sukkah represents this energy of Ohr Makif. This light surrounds all of those in the Sukkah in equanimity. We have prepared this sukkah or this 'vessel' to commune and have union with the Divine, literally (mamash!).


The 'simcha' or joy, that we are to have is in the knowledge of that secret. For we can be asked to have 'simcha' during this time, but we may not, it is through knowing what is happening during this time, through the teachings of the Master's of Kabbalah and deeper understanding, that we walk into the Sukkah this year with knowing what is really happening and in that knowing we can truly be joyful on this most auspicious chag!


Below is an excerpt from Rabbi's teachings on the Cosmology of the Holy Days


"The canopy of the sukka is the surrounding light of the Divine Mother. This is the “supernal female” -- from whom the “lower female” continues to receive from as she had on Yom Kippur in the mystery of Kol Nidrei (“All Vows” which are rooted in the sefira of bina, the Divine Mother) and the five physical deprivations (the five gevurot which are also rooted in “Imma”).


This is the significance of the Talmud’s statement that the Sukkot we dwell in today are reflecting the actual Clouds of Glory the Nation of Israel were surrounded by in the dessert for 40 years. Our physical Sukkot are a concretized microcosm of those “clouds” – an actual temporal gateway into a higher dimension, the dimension of the Shechina, the Supernal Mother.


When we enter and dwell within the sukka, once again we become a container and vehicle for the feminine mode of divinity to affect its tikkun of completion upon the feminine aspect of creation which resides within the collective soul of Israel. The inner mechanism behind the hakafot/circuits is now also evident. A Sefer Torah is held in the middle while encircled by the participants holding the Lulav structure. The Sefer Torah is the straight, upright light of Divinity – the masculine aspect that is radiating out to the feminine in the mystery of “The female surrounds the male”.


The energy is traveling through the conduit of the numerous Lulavs into the feminine circular energy in order to generate a state of spiritual arousal that is a prerequisite to prepare the supernal Eve for the union with Adam that will take place on Shemini Atzeret.

The modus operandi of both the ritual of the na’anuyim (taking the Lulav) and the hakafot (procession around the Torah) are based on the principle that “There is no arousal (or stimulation) above without [initial] arousal from below”. Specifically, this is the period of the hibuk and nishuk – the embracing and kissing that precedes the union.

As the supernal Adam and Eve are brought closer and closer together the process reaches a pinnacle on the morning of Hoshana Rabba. After circling the bima where all the scrolls of the Torah are now being held five different Aravot are taken. At the end of a long recitation of verses and mystical poetry they are beaten five times on the ground. This ritual has no pshat explanation what so ever.

Yet, recently some explanation and a translation of the kabbalistic meditation that follows this act is available in the Art Scroll commentary on the Hoshanas.

May it be favorable before You, HaShem, our God and God of our fathers, He Who opts for good prophets and their good customs [7], that You accept with mercy and favor our prayers and our hakafah- circuits. Remember for our sake the merit of Your seven perfect ones [8]. Remove the iron partition [9] separating us from You. Hearken to our pleas and grant us the good seal [10] - He Who suspends the earth upon silence. Seal us in the Book of Good Life.- Today may You place, with the manifestation of Your strength, five strict powers [11] which have been sweetened through the beating of willows, the custom ordained by Your holy prophets. May You awaken love among them and kiss us with the kisses of Your mouth [12], which sweeten all the strict powers and all the harsh judgments. May You illuminate the manifestation of Your strength with the Name Yud-Kei-Vav- which corresponds to the dew - Your dew is the dew of lights.- From there endow Your servant, who prostrates himself before You, with forgiveness, that my days may be lengthened. Forgive me my sins, my iniquities, and my transgressions. Spread wide Your right arm and Your hand to accept me, with my whole-hearted repentance before You. Open Your goodly treasure trove to satisfy with water a thirsty soul- as it is written: May HaShem open for you His goodly treasure trove, the heavens, to give your land rain in its season and to bless all of your handiwork.' Amen.

The reason why the intention behind this brief mitzvah has been so hidden will now be evident. There is a well-known midrash that corresponds, based upon their shape, the four species to four parts of the body. The Lulav as explained above is the spine. The hadasim are shaped like eyes, the Etrog has a form akin to the heart and the Aravot are shaped like human lips. The anatomical correspondence of the Aravot, however, take on additional significance when we decode the mitzvah of the beating of the Aravot.

Even with this translation and explanation there is much more going on. The Ari zal explains that there are three distinct intentions converging in this act. As explained, Hoshanah Rabba is a miniature Yom Kippur.


This moment recapitulates the very essence of N’iela – the final closing of the gates. Just as during n’iela with this act we are putting the true final “touches” on the malchut of Eve, the divine female, as she reaches sublime completion.


This is the “seal” within the “seal” (“hotem b’toch hotem”) the gate within the gate. Secondly, the beating is also sweetening her five gevurot, mitigating the otherwise harsh fires of the feminine to prepare her for the union and thirdly, as the Aravot are raised upwards five times this act is directing her potent energy to her male counterpart – the supernal Adam – to arouse and draw him to begin the union.

The only thing unique to the Eight Day/Shemini Atzeret is the request for rain in the morning musaf prayer. This rain is the culmination of the divine union. The original Adam of Genesis has united once again with original Eve.


Each year another level of the tikkun is being made all leading to the great and final tikkun for the fall of Adam. It is this union with its initial acts of embracing and kissing that is the source for the unique joy the “zman simchatainu” that permeates the period of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret.


This dimension of reality, our access to it and our ability to participate in it occurs at not other time of the year. This joy is also the secret behind the juxtaposition of Simchas Torah aside from the simple logistics of completing and beginning the reading f the Torah over again. As explained the Sefer Torah reflects the masculine aspect of Divinity. “Torah”, the Ari zal explains, is another appellation for tifferet or z’air anpin, the male counterpart to the Shechina. It is the joy of his union that he is sharing with us and that we share with him that is also being celebrated.


It is Simchas Torah –the joy of Torah, literally the Torah’s personal joy. And when it rains it pours!

Notes/Sources [1] Sukkah 35a [2] The Vilna Gaon does offer a homelitic explanation. Talmud (Sukkah 11b) states that the Sukkah we build also represents the Clouds of Glory, Ananei HaKavod. These clouds surrounded the entire nation of Israel, and acted as a protective barrier. (See vol. I: 46 for further information.) The nation of Israel first became protected by the Ananai HaKavod, in the month of Nissan. Why then, the Gaon asks, do we commemorate this gift of protection in the month of Tishrey? He answers that when the nation of Israel sinned by constructing the Egel HaZahav, the Golden Calf, the protective clouds were removed. The clouds did not return until after Moshe had secured the complete atonement of the nation of Israel, and the nation began to construct the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The date Moshe returned to the camp of Israel was Yom Kippur, the 10th of Tishrey, and the nation began the construction of the Mishkan on the 15th of Tishrey. For this reason, the Gaon writes, we celebrate Sukkot on the 15th of Tishrey. [3] In the Diaspora it is 23 days because 2 days of Yom Tov are always kept instead of just one in Israel. In Israel both Simchas Torah and Shemini Atzeret coincide on the same 22nd day. [4] Genesis 1-27 [5] Genesis 2-21,22 [6] Iyov (Job) [7] And their good customs. The beating of the willow is a custom ordained by the prophets [8] Your seven perfect ones. This is an allusion to the seven patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. [9] The iron partition. Sinful acts build and maintains partitions between the sinner and the spark of holiness which is his source of spiritual life. As one gets deeper and deeper into the ways of evil the partition built by his actions is strengthened until it has the strength of iron, while the prison in which his spark of holiness is confined becomes more and more impermeable. Only repentance can breach the partition and extricate that spark of holiness (see Tanya 1:17). [10] The ... seal. On Hoshana Rabbah the final seal is placed on the verdict issued n Rosh HaShana and tentatively sealed on Yom Kippur. [11] Five strict powers. Five of the twenty-two letters of the aleph-beis have two forms:, bent, and -. straight. They are the letters . Their straight forms are usually called, concluding [letters], because they are used at the end of a word. Since these letters are in a sense restraining forces which force a halt in speaking they are called strict powers. These letters are the within which are contained that minute portion of God's infinite being which can be conceived by finite people (Tanya 2:4). The five-time beating of the aravah branches symbolizes the breaking of the five vessels which restrain the revelation of the full force of holiness. The beating of the branches thus causes a 'sweetening' of the strict powers. [12] The kisses of Your mouth. God's love for Israel is expressed in terms of embrace (Song of Songs 2:6) and kisses (ibid. 1:2). Embrace is an action and refers to the coupling of acts of man with acts of God through the performance of mitzvos and deeds of kindness. Such action brings God to embrace Israel. Kissing brings mouth to mouth - the word of man unites with the word of God through the study of the holy Torah (Tanya 1:45). Torah study is the superior method by which the vessels containing the contracted Divine manifestation may be broken, that the full glory of the Shechinah may be revealed.


Joel David Bakst © All Rights Reserved 2004

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All this from building our small 'hut' in the wilderness... 💗

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