“And ye shall keep it a feast unto HaShem seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever in your generations; ye shall keep it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in sukkot seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in sukkot; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in sukkot, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am HaShem your G-d.”
Our sages disagree as to the meaning of the verse, “that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in sukkot.” According to Rabbi Eliezer, the word sukkot refers to the Clouds of Glory with which God protected the Jews. Rabbi Akiva teaches that it refers to the actual booths that they lived in during their time in the wilderness.
The understood principle in all such disagreements is “these and these are the words of living Torah.”
What then is the core of their disagreement?
Sukkot is the culmination and fulfillment of the redemptive process which began in the month of Elul an, as noted previously, it should have been celebrated in the month of Nisan when Israel departed from Egypt. Instead, it is celebrated in Tishrei. The Vilna Gaon writes that the heavenly Clouds of Glory that protected the people were restored on the 15th of Tishrei after having been removed following the sin of the golden calf in the month of Nisan. Such forgiveness by our Beloved can only engender in us a feeling of gratefulness. We then become engaged and preoccupied with our greatest source of joy, giving our Beloved what he truly desires.
Throughout Jerusalem and throughout the country, Jews spend energy and shekels to find the perfect gift for their Beloved. One of the salesmen that I deal with in our Old City shop represents a large Judaica company. He told me that in recent years he witnessed a heightened desire for Sukkot Judaica all over the country and not just in Jerusalem or in religious towns like Bnei Brak. It is happening all across Israel. He said there is something new in the air; it is palpable.
He is right. The feeling is real and powerful. There is a great stirring in the land. Despite the dangers from without and the decay within, the stirring is blossoming like a tender root. It is that stirring that will bring the great stirring in the Heavens as well.
This then explains the debate between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva. They disagreed as to which stirring must come first? Which is the most critical? Did the Israelites first build sukkot in the wilderness and then trust G-d to protect them from the barren desert? Or did the Clouds of Glory surround the people and empower them to trust?
In Israel today, we see that a great stirring has begun here amidst us. It mirrors a great stirring in the Heavens. It is that stirring that brings a clear melding between our earthly sukkot and the heavenly clouds of glory. We clearly see the melding of the views of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer…“these and these are the words of living Torah.”