Up for Debate

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This module contains one key debate amongst the various classical commentaries of Chumash. Background information about these commentators can be found here.


One of the more noticeable holiday traditions found in Judaism is the mitzva to spend the holiday of Sukkot eating and sleeping in a temporary booth, called a sukkah. The Torah explains the rationale behind this commandment as follows

לְמַעַן֮ יֵדְע֣וּ דֹרֹֽתֵיכֶם֒ כִּ֣י בַסֻּכּ֗וֹת הוֹשַׁ֙בְתִּי֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּהוֹצִיאִ֥י אוֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם

So  that future generations will know that I made the Jewsish people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt


Two questions could be asked on this explanation

  1. Who cares that the Jews lived in booths when they left Egypt?
  2. Why is this holiday celebrated in the fall, 6 months after the Jews left Egypt?


The Talmud offers two answers to these questions


The first  answer is that the “booths” in the verse were actually miraculous clouds that sheltered and protected the Jews in the desert. This is the miracle we are celebrating on Sukkot.

We celebrate this miracle in the fall because these special clouds left  following the sin of the Golden Calf. However, they returned on Yom Kippur when the sin of the Jews was forgiven. We celebrate Sukkot just a few days later in celebration of the clouds returning

Alternatively, the Talmud suggests that the Jews literally built booths and lived in them in the wilderness. Ramban suggests they would have only needed them once it became cold so we celebrate in the fall.

Ramban continues and says the reason these booths are worth celebrating is because they emphasize how inhospitable the desert was. The Jews were far away from civilization yet God still protected them and provided all their needs