Our Kabalistic Masters teach us that one of the sublime reasons for leaving our plush homes and dwelling in an outdoor hut with a simple roof covering during Succot is so that it be considered as if we are exiling ourselves. In case our judgment on Yom Kippur required us to go through some type of banishment, by fulfilling the beautiful Mitzvah of Succah, it preempts any such a decree.
Observing Succos during a Covid situation with many people quarantining due to the illness, or for having been exposed, or for self-protection has added another dimension to this mitzvah.
The Hebrew word for quarantine is Bidud. It is interesting that the in the last two Parshas of the Torah, Haazinu and V’zos Habrocha the word Badad – alone – appears in each portion.
In both instances G-d speaks of how He protected His nation Israel from the nations during their travels in the desert and through His protection they lived comfortably in their individual space – without needing to huddle together as is done when in fear of attack.
The primary protective source for the Jews was the clouds of Glory with which G-d surrounded them. These spiritual clouds hid them from the view of the surrounding nations. Our Succos symbolize these protective clouds.
When the non-Jewish prophet, Bilaam, was hired to curse the Jews in the desert, not only wasn’t he able to curse them, he actually became compelled to bless them and state, “This is a nation that dwells “Livadad” alone.”
How true it is that because we stayed alone in our spiritual space with a firm commitment to G-d’s Torah, we have withstood and survived all these years.
During the course of the holiday of Succos, the Torah mandates that 70 bulls be offered on the Temple Altar. These 70 bulls represent the nations of world and infuse them with the ability to have prosperity in the coming year.
Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah is a private holiday between us and the Almighty to the exclusion of the nations of the world. We need not demonstrate a physical relocation into the spiritual realm of the Succah.
Says Reb Tzodok Hakohain, on Shemini Ateres we have elevated ourselves to the realization that we are ‘Badad’ alone with G-d without needing the reminder of the surroundings of the Succah.
Praying at home during the holidays – has certainly minimized the external stimuli that add excitement when praying and singing together and witnessing the beauty of all the Lulavim and Esrogim and the circuits around the Bimah when the Hoshana prayers are recited.
I came across the commentary of the Ben Ish Chai where he addresses if one is at home on Succos due to illness. “One may take a printed Torah book and place it on a chair and walk around it while reciting the Hoshanos similar to how it is done in Shul when someone holds a Torah scroll at the Bimah and the congregation encircles it.”
I may add, if we find ourselves at home on Simchas Torah, let us take a Torah book, embrace it and sing and dance with it as a display of our love towards Hashem’s Torah.
G-d will certainly see that no matter how compromised we are due to the virus situation – we are not giving up, we stand alone with Him forever, and we trust He will bring a true and speedy deliverance for us, Amain!