On Sukkos, we perform the mitzvah of living in the Sukkah, to remember the miracle of the Clouds of Glory that surrounded the Jews when they left Egypt, and protected them during the forty years during which they wandered in the Midbar(desert).
Why does the holiday of Sukkos need to be seven days long?
There is a story told about the Rambam (Maimonides), who was the personal physician of the Sultan of Egypt, and was renowned for his secular wisdom in addition to his Torah greatness.
An Egyptian philosopher once asked the Rambam how it is possible that such a great scientist believes so positively in the existence of God, without God proving His existence to the world? The Rambam answered by showing him a page, of a medical journal, that he wrote. He told him, “Do you know where this came from? The inkwell spilled on this paper and these words just came out”. The philosopher exclaimed, “That’s impossible”. The Rambam said “you believe that such a small event cannot take place by accident, yet you can imagine that the whole world happened by accident? Does that make sense?”
This story proves how simple it is to accept that there must be a Higher Power Who created the World out of nothing. Even non-Jews realize this, and throughout the generations they have always pondered the purpose of life. The answer to this was given to us by Hashem in His Holy Torah. This is the reason why the Yetzer Hara tries to bring new theories of heresy, atheism, and agnosticism to every generation, trying to endorse and spread these ideas as “Scientific Reality”. People are ready to accept these ideas with blind faith, as ridiculous and unscientific as this is. The Satan also seeks to elicit general hatred toward religion by publicizing isolated negative stories about some religious people, and this has succeeded in leading that many places over the world have a lot of anti-religious sentiment.
The way to improve this problematic issue is to constantly talk about pure faith in Hashem. The more we speak about this, the more this faith becomes rooted in our minds and hearts, because talking with our voice makes our kavanah stronger, and helps us concentrate on Hashem. This is the meaning of the passuk “I believe, because I speak” (Tehillim/Psalms 116:10), that the more one speaks about faith, the more one believes. The opposite is also true. If someone stops talking about emunah, he loses his faith, as the passuk says “faith is lost, it is removed from their mouths” (Yirmiah/Jeremiah 7:28), that by failing to talk about faith, faith is lost.
The Yetzer HaRa focuses on the children, to get them to hear and learn words of heresy. Most Jewish children who are currently in heretical schools, are a direct result from this. Heresy is slowly finding its way into religious Jewish schools as well, since the Sitra Achara seeks to snatch up the children, in order that they should not grow up to keep Torah, since “if there are no kids, there are no grown goats”. This all the more so behooves parents and teachers to speak as much as possible aboutEmunahto children, at every opportunity, all the time.
There are some who think it is sufficient to talk about faith matters on Shabbos only, since Shabbos is the day to remember the Creation, because Hashem made the world in six days and rested on the Seventh. Since people have the day off from work they have time to speak aboutEmunah to their children. However, to think that this is enough is a big mistake, because children mainly learn about faith by seeing their parents live with faith in day-to-day life. It is not enough to believe that Hashem created the world as a mere article of faith, but we also must believe that Hashem runs the world and our lives, even in difficult times. Therefore, we have to talk about faith specifically during the work week, when we are surrounded with material issues. Parents need to make sure to avoid saying words that make it seem that our material success is based on our own physical work or on other people. Rather, we must always mention that Hashem is in control, and thank only Him for the past and beseech Him for the future. Children should frequently hear the words “Baruch Hashem” (“Thank God”), “Im Yirtze Hashem” (God willing), “Hashem Yaazor” (God will help), “Gam Zu L’Tovah” (This is also for the good), etc. They will learn to speak this way, and grow strong in their faith in Hashem.
This is a tremendous fundament in protecting our children, and ensuring that they will stay on the Torah Path, not only when they are at home with their parents, but also when they go out into the real world of business. Many people begin to abandon mitzvah observance because they think they will lose money on account of keeping mitzvos, either because they spend their money on expensive mitzvos such as Tefillin, Mezuzos, Lulav and Esrog, Tzedakah, and the like, or that it is more expensive to live in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood near synagogues and yeshivos. They might think that modest clothing is more expensive, or they feel that taking time off from work for Torah study, davening, Shabbos, Holidays, and the like, will affect their income. However, if someone was raised by their parents and teachers to understand that everything is hashgachah pratis (Divine Providence), and knows that Hashem is in control of how much money each person makes, then he believes that it is impossible to lose money by following the mitzvos that Hashem commanded. Although it may sometimes seem that one has monetary gain from a sin such as breaking Shabbos, this gain is only temporary, because in the end he will lose the money someplace else.
It is well known that from all the Jewish families who came to America in the pre-war era, only those who kept Shabbos with joy were able to keep their children on the Torah path, saying that you never lose by keeping mitzvos, and their children stayed Shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos. However, those who kept Shabbos while constantly complaining about how hard it is to be Jewish, saw their children abandon Judaism.
This faith was learned when the Jews left Egypt. When Hashem said that He is bringing the Jews out of Egypt in order to give them the Torah, they knew they were going into a desolate wilderness, a barren desert filled with snakes and scorpions, strong winds, hot days and cold night. Despite all this, they went into the desert without hesitation and withmesirus nefesh, because they believed in the hashgachah of the Creator, and they knew that one never loses out by following Hashem’s commands. This is why Hashem told us live in Sukkahs, which were the Clouds of Glory where every family lived separately, and all of their other needs were supplied by Hashem through the clouds, like laundering their clothes and the like, in a miraculous and supernatural way.
This is the primary reason why Hashem commanded us to commemorate this every year by dwelling in sukkahs outside of our homes, so the children should learn from this tremendous change that we do by leaving our homes and living in temporary dwellings. The parents then teach that the reason for the mitzvah of living in the Sukkah memorializes the miracle of the Clouds of Glory, and then we continue to speak aboutEmunah, the existence of Hashem and His Providence which is revealed through nature for the sake of those who keep His Mitzvos. The children should know that one never loses by keeping Hashem’s Commands, but rather only gains, and they will then continue the family tradition of keeping mitzvos in future generations.
The Torah tells this to us clearly, when we received the mitzvah of Sukkah it says “You shall live in Sukkahs for seven days, so that your future generations should know that I made the Children of Israel dwell in Sukkahs when I brought them out of the Land of Egypt, I am Hashem your God” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:43). “so that your future generations should know” is “L’maan Yeid’u Doroseichem” , which stands for“YeLeD” (child), to hint that the main reason for this mitzvah is for the children to learn and pass this faith on to the future generations. The foundations of faith are learned from Sukkos, and they should know that Hashem is God, the Creator and Maker of all of Creation.
Perhaps this is why we live in Sukkahs for seven days, just like there are seven days of the week, to teach that we need to speak about the concept of the mitzvah of Sukkah, which is Faith, to us and our children all week long, every week of the year, and not only on Shabbos and Holidays. In the merit of parents planting this faith into the hearts and minds of their children, both during the coming holiday and every day of the year, may we be blessed with upright and blessed generations with joy and nachas.