Scach/Succah Covering: Its Material and its Purpose – Sukkos 5778

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”

Chag HaSuccos

Scach/Succah Covering: Its Material and its Purpose

The Torah writes in Parshas Re’eh “חג הסוכות תעשה לך… באספך ומיקבך” / “You shall make for yourself Chag HaSuccos… from your gathering from your storehouse of grains and from your winery” (Devorim 16:13). Rashi explains that from here we learn that to cover the Succah with the branches and residue which remain from the preparation of grains and wine.

Now, these laws only apply to the scach, whereas the walls of the Succah may be made of any material. This needs explanation, for the walls as well are a necessary part of the Succah!?

In answer of the above question, we can suggest, with G-d’s help, that the four walls of the Succah represent the four sides of this world, while the scach placed on top of the Succah represents the upper, spiritual world. The idea behind Succos is creating a mind-set and as much of a physical reality as possible of leaving the confines of this world, with its imperfections, its spiritual defilement and its temporality, and to connect with a higher, more spiritual world, one embossed with holiness, purpose and permanence. Therefore, no importance is given to the walls of the Succah and thus they can be made of any material one desires. On the other hand, because the scach represents the higher world and this is our focus on Succos, it can only be made of materials which can help man connect to his Creator above.

This is the meaning of the word Succah – to look towards an upper world. And so we find that the Torah calls Sarah Imeinu “יסכה” / “Yisca” (Bereishis 11:29) and Rashi explains, that she was called so because she was blessed with the ability to see (סוכה) with great spiritual awareness!

Now, from the fact that the Torah instructs us to bring scach from leftover branches and residue from the field we learn that even the scach itself lacks importance. The reason for this is that the purpose of the Succah is to separate us from the lackings of this world, as mentioned above, as one’s soul which has just been purified on Yom Kippur desires to reconnect with its Creator and Master above without the interfering dividers found in this world, and even the scach, which has the most minimal connection to this world, stands between one’s soul and Hashem above. However, the scach is necessary, for all the while the soul is trapped in a body it cannot completely disconnect from this world. Therefore, although the scach is necessary, its material is limited to the simplest and most insignificant of materials found in this world.

From the above, we can better understand the three main conditions the Torah made for permissible scach: (1) that it should not be from a man-made vessel (2) that it should be made of that which grows from the earth, and (3) that it should not be used while it is still connected to the ground. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Siman 629:1). The reasons for the above limitations are as follows: (1) a man-made vessel is restricted for it has the possibility of becoming impure and this is in direct contradiction with the world above which is and can only be completely pure. In addition, a vessel is a product of man and Succos represents man’s complete submission to the Will of the upper world, (2) the scach needs to be from vegetation, so that one’s uprooting of the vegetation from the ground shows an uprooting of the influences of this world, (3) the scach must not be connected to the ground while it rests on the Succah for it signifies a connection with this lower world.

We still need to understand why the Torah specified to bring the scach from the residue of the preparation of bread and wine?

It appears that we can explain as follows: Grains and especially wheat add intelligence to a person as the sages explain (Brachos 40a) that a child does not know how to call his parents by name until he tastes a dish made from grains. And regarding the drinking of wine the posuk states ויין ישמח לבב אנוש”” / “and wine makes a person happy” (Tehillim 104:15). That is, the Torah specified these two materials to teach us that the mitzvah of Succos fills a person with intelligence or wisdom and happiness. (The truth is that wisdom and happiness go together, for a person who has wisdom has happiness, as the posuk states פיקודי הי ישרים משמחי לב”” / “The laws of Hashem are straight and bring happiness to one’s heart” (ibid 19:9).

The addition of wisdom a person receives on Succos is expressed in the posuk “למען ידעו דורותיכם כי בסוכות הושבת את בני ישראל בהוציאי אותם מארץ מצרים” / “So that your generations will know that I housed Bnei Yisrael in succos when I took them out of the land of Egypt” (Vayikra 23:43). And regarding the addition of simcha in Succos the posuk states “ושמחת בחגיך” / “And you shall rejoice in your holiday” (Devorim 16:14) and it adds “והיית אך שמח” / “and you shall be happy” (ibid 16:15) which teaches us that Hashem has imbued the holiday of Succos with great simcha to which a person merits when he fulfills the mitzvah of Succah as required!

Elul 5777

May we merit to fulfill the mitzvah of Succah as required and thereby merit to the additional wisdom and happiness which Hashem has prepared for all those who do so! And by doing so we merit as well to internalize the great achievements and purity of Yom Kippur.

Wishing you an enjoyable and inspiring Yom Tov!

Yona Vogel

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