First, we had to daven outside. Then we had to meet our grandkids outside. And now they’re making us put our Sukkah outside?? This is crazy! Enough is enough!
Oh, wait a second… a Sukkah is supposed to be outside.
Finally, we can do something the way it was designed! Hooray!!
But why is that? If Sukkot commemorates the exodus from Egypt, why is only that holiday outdoors? When we received the Torah on Shavuot, was Mount Sinai indoors? When we crossed the sea on the 7th day of Pesach was it in one of those fancy indoor water parks? When the Manna fell in a double portion on Friday was it inside the tents? How about when the Nation of Israel brought korbanot (sacrifices) in the Bet Ha’Mikdash… inside or outside? When the King read the Torah during “Hakhel” was it in a domed stadium? Even the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah menorah – what is the authentic way to do it; in or out?
The answer to all of the above is one word: Outside! If that’s true (and it is) why have we been doing everything inside all these years? Simple… because we haven’t! Huh?
Years ago, when the Jewish world was living almost exclusively in Eretz Yisrael, things were observed much differently than they are today. The center of Jewish life was the Bet Ha’Mikdash, not the Bet Knesset and the major point of all three holidays was the massive pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Everyone came; men, women and children. The celebrations were indeed outdoors. Where do you think all those people from outside Jerusalem stayed… in the King David Hotel? These non-Jerusalemites numbered well over 1,000,000 people and they camped in the streets! The overwhelming majority of Pesach seders – with the roasted korban Pesach – was held out of the homes! Close your eyes and imagine the scene. Well over a million Jews in Jerusalem singing, telling the story of Pesach to their children and praising Hashem… all outdoors. And then, less than 2 months later, once again outdoors to celebrate Shavuot. And then, a few months afterwards, the entire nation standing outside to get a glimpse of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. A few days after that, and here we are again – in the Bet Ha’Mikdash (yes, outdoors…) dancing in the “Simchat Bet Ha’Shoevah” and the list goes on.
It is important to stress that when we sit on the floor and cry on Tisha b’Av, it is not just because of the destruction of the two Temples. It is also because we were exiled from our Land and everything changed. In one sentence: We went from being an outdoor nation to becoming indoor communities. The Jews went to Poland, Yemen, Russia, Morocco, Greece, Lithuania, Hungary, Iraq and much more and what was the first thing they did? They brought the Torah inside and locked the door.
Each community built its own shul. Each Chassidic group built its own yeshiva. Each Rabbi had his own students and, while – to some degree – this was true back in Eretz Yisrael as well, there was one major difference: The communities outside Israel kept themselves separated (in quarantine – ???) from each other at all times. Seder night was still a great, holy event but for family and friends only and entry to shuls on Rosh Ha’Shana and Yom Kippur came via prepaid tickets only. The open, public, and outdoor world of Torah became shut and closed… all of it, except for Sukkot!
Fast forward to 2020. Everyone agrees that the days of Moshiach are coming closer. We can’t explain why, when or how, but we all feel that something out of our control is going on. Maybe this is the reason why Hashem has been moving us back outdoors. While our private lives have gone inside, the Torah world is definitely returning to the way it was… under the heavens, together as one nation. Davening outside, blowing shofar outside and reading the Torah outside – very similar to the way it was – and will be – in the outdoor Bet Ha’Mikdash.
So, enjoy Sukkot everybody. Enjoy the great outdoors with the only holiday that never went into exile! These special days have been celebrated beneath the stars for the last 3,333 years (exactly!) and will get us ready to – once again – be a unified, outdoor nation in Eretz Yisrael.