Succot 17

During the process of gathering the harvest (around the month of Tishrei in the land of Israel) farmers must leave their homes, their gathered produce, and their material wealth to dwell in the sukkah. In doing so, it is hoped that they remember the time when they had nothing and were entirely dependent on God for their sustenance – the time that their ancestors lived in sukkot in the wilderness and ate manna from heaven; their entire survival directly dependent upon God’s providence. But after they were settled in the land and it started to yield fruit in abundance as a result of their hard work, the danger of their forgetting that God is the source of all blessing and success became a likelihood. There was a probable chance for them to become haughty and say to themselves, “My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me” [Deut. 8: 17].

Even though most of us are no longer farmers, we are still instructed to leave our homes and to enter temporary booths, in order to put our material possessions into proper perspective.  The hope is that we give thanks to God in recognition of the fact that God is the source of all blessings, not just when we have no natural source of sustenance, but even when it appears that we have everything we need without God’s assistance. According to this view, Sukkot is not about remembering miracles in the past; rather, it is meant to remind us of our source of well being in the present. By reliving the sukkah of our humble origins, we gain perspective about our good lives in the here and now. Excessive pride and arrogance are inappropriate reactions to our material wealth considering that we once had nothing and survived only by the grace of God. We should realize that just as God was responsible for our survival in the desert, God is responsible for the good life in our land as well.