Title: Building Sukkahs # 1
Major Focus: Sukkot
Minor Focus: Materialism
Abstract: Why do Jews build sukkahs?
Format: Rabbinic Argument
Purpose of Creation
"...in order that your generations may know that I made the
Children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of
Why do we build Sukkahs?
- Rashbam: God wants us to
remember that the Children of Israel lived in fragile tents for forty years in
the desert, and were given all they ever needed to eat. When they came to live
in the land of Israel, they were able to grow all the good things they would
need, such as grains, wine, and oil. God does not want us to think that all
these good things are from our own power or strength. All these good things are
a gift from God. When we build the Sukkah, we remember where all our blessings
of food came from. We should learn to be humble when we live in the
- Sefer HaChinuch: Well, that
is all true rabbi, but I think it is not so much to make us feel humble, as it
is to make us just plain grateful for all our blessings.
- Isaac Arama: I think the
Sukkah is to remind us that we really don't need a big house and fine furniture
to be happy. We can be just as happy if we live a simple life, as if we live
with riches. When we are in the Sukkah, we can look up and see the sky, and all
the heavenly bodies God put there. This is to remind us that God created the
world, God is perfect, there is nothing to be afraid of if we live by God's
- Malbim: I think the Sukkah
is to remind us of how fragile and precious our lives are. We should not think
that if we fill our houses with riches, we are really great people. Our lives
in this world are only temporary, and our riches don't mean very much unless we
are rich in other ways.
Teacher Study Guide
Text Background: The priests of Israel are given detailed instructions
regarding contact with the dead and who they can marry. They are told that they
may work in the Sanctuary only if they are in good physical, mental, and
spiritual health. Similar rules apply to animals used for the Sacrificial
services. Many of the annual holidays, including the festival of building
booths, the sukkah, are listed and rules for how they are to be
Objective: In the past several decades there has been a remarkable
resurgence of interest in the holiday of Sukkot, and in particular, in the
construction of the fragile "booths" which God commanded the Israelites to
dwell in (Leviticus 23:43) during the week long celebration.
as 1969, when the Editor of Torah Productions first decided to put up one of
these fragile dwellings, while living in a major metropolitan center, an
elderly lady with a European accent stopped by. With tears in her eyes, she
said, "I have not seen a Sukkah since I was six years old!"
Why we do it is easy -- just ask anyone who has ever fulfilled the
joy of this mitzvah. The more difficult question, and object of this exercise,
is to ask why God made the commandment in the
Suggestion: Have students first read a comment, explain its meaning in
their own words, defend or attack the argument from their personal perspective,
and challenge them to think.
- Why would God think it a good thing for us to feel humble
when we realize where all our blessings come from?
- How would remembering the hardships our ancestors faced in
the wilderness make us feel more humble?
- Why do we still celebrate the festival of Thanksgiving when
there are no more Pilgrims to share their crops with native Americans? Where do
you think the Pilgrims got the idea for such a holiday in the fall of the year,
rather than the spring, when most agricultural festivals are held? (They knew
their Old Testament!)
- What is the difference between feeling humble and feeling
- Have you ever helped build a Sukkah? Did it make you feel
more humble or more grateful? What else did you
- Do you believe that you can be just as happy in a big house
with fine furniture, as in a modest house and a simple life?
- If the Sukkah is to remind us that riches aren't all that
important, then what is?
- How do you feel when you look up at the clear night
- How does the Sukkah remind us that our lives are "fragile
- Why aren't rich people necessarily great people? Aren't you
a very important person when you are rich?
- In what other ways do you think we can be