David Elcott reflects on Succot:
Sukkot commemorates no single event. Rather, it attempts to capture the feeling of fragility and pain which our people endured as they wandered through the desert. The sukkah we build, a temporary and inadequate dwelling place, allows us to experience a life buffeted by rain and cold or unbearable heat.
The rabbis asked, 'Why retain a memory of painful moments?' Rashbam tells us that Sukkot is fixed during the ingathering of the corn and wine, "that people should not be guilty of pride in their well-stocked houses."
Ecclesiastes explores the inherent contradiction that is man -- a finite being with a limited life span who, by his very nature, seeks to produce and create. Is that creativity meaningful and does it have lasting effect? On the other hand, the idea of a man living only for the present, to eat, drink and be merry (Ecc. 8:15) strikes a negative chord for we are accustomed to living for a purpose. The resolution of this apparent conflict is the life of a G-d-fearing person, a person who lives to obey G-d's commandments with the understanding that there is more to life than what is apparent "under the sun."
. . . [The succah] is a structure with flimsy walls and no roof -- only palm branches or bamboo poles or mats for a covering. It provides only a poor shade from the sun and no protection from rain or cold. . . . The lesson of Succot each year is that regardless of how comfortable and permanent our homes may seem to us, in actuality we are still at the mercy of G-d's protection.
Two years ago, I suddenly felt the message of Succot in a more direct way. As we sat in our Succah, we hung a picture of Gush Katif in its glory, side by side with a picture of Gush Katif in its destruction. That year, thousands of Jews had been forced to leave their homes, not just for the holiday of Succot, but forever. Today, two years later, they are still living in temporary dwellings, albeit with proper roofs, but temporary and flimsy just the same. . . .
On Succot we learn to surrender to G-d's will and recognize our lives as temporary and vulnerable. Through the Disengagement, we also learned that we can't always be sure that what we believe should happen will happen. But, ultimately, the only way we can make sense of any of it is to realize that G-d is in charge: "When all is said and done: Fear G-d, and keep his commandments for that is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.