In addition to living in the sukkah and waving the four species, it is customary on Sukkot to read the Book of Ecclesiastes written by King Solomon. Our sages tell us that King Solomon was inspired to write this book when he realized in a psychic way that the Temple that he built would be destroyed. Lamenting over that excruciating truth he wrote, “Futile of futilities, of what worth is the work of man under the sun.” It seems odd to read this apparently depressing book on the holiday of our happiness. However, King Solomon’s brutal confrontation with the transience of life and our temporary accomplishments on earth actually reveals the key to true happiness and security. He concludes, “In the end, obey the word of God and do His Command because this is everything.”
Sukkot teaches us to how to find security and permanence in the transient. We embrace our perishable four species and dwell in a transient hut covered by perishables and we acknowledge that happiness and security are not based on what you have nor what you can hold on to but who you are in your relationship to God. When you serve God here and now, you infuse the finite world with infinite meaning and the fleeting moment with eternal meaning. When you understand this truth, you will never be in a rush to get to some other place and get to some future time because you realize that the joy of life is to serve God and there is no better time than now, and no better place then here—so what’s the rush? If not now, when?
We often do wrong and sacrifice our integrity in the present because we are anxious over securing our future. Sukkot, however, teaches us that we can find security even in the temporal and transient, when we focus our attention on serving God here and now.
Adam and Eve also sinned because they were anxious and impatient to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. They intuited that this type of knowledge was essential to fulfilling their purpose on earth. And they were right, but their timing was wrong. According to Jewish mysticism, God wanted them to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, but on Shabbat. Had they patiently waited, trusted God and ate the fruit as a humble service to God, rather than as a rebellious act in defiance of God, they would have accomplished their ultimate goals. They would have actualized their godliness through experiencing God’s love and their oneness with God.
Sukkot set us off on the right foot into the New Year by teaching us how to protect ourselves from sadness and sin: trust in God, humble yourself before Him and only concern yourself with fulfilling the Commandments –serving God here and now.