OU Torah Insights Project
September 25, 1999
Rabbi Ephriam H. Sturm
Mankind, recognizing the frailties of life, seeks security. In the state of Israel, diplomats, politicians and citizens demand secure borders. On these shores, we seek economic stability. Our parents and grandparents drummed into us the need to save for the "elterer yurin." Airlines, government buildingseven some elementary schoolshave security checks.
We seek medical security through insurance plans (which in some cases are like hospital gownsgiving one only the illusion of being covered.) Old timers look back with nostalgia at an earlier age when people did not need deadbolt locks and alarm systems to feel secure in their own homes.
To appreciate the message of Succos in our age of insecurity we turn to two themes: the joy of the harvest and the acknowledgment of the clouds of glory that shielded the Jewish nation in the wilderness.
In an agricultural society the farmer plows the land, seeds it, tends it, fertilizes it and weeds it to achieve fiscal security. His fellow men do the same in other endeavors and through other methods.
But after all human efforts have been expended, the crops and their profits, which represent security, are only achieved through the beneficence of the Creator who controls the rain, the sun and the world market. Succos tells us that after doing all that is expected of us, real security remains a special gift from Above.
"Not with strength and not with power, but with My Spirit," G-d tells us through the prophet: Physical security cannot be achieved exclusively through might. In addition to courage, sacrifice, and sophisticated weaponry we need the catalytic factor of G-ds Spirit.
Succos addresses this issue by reminding us that for forty years of desert wandering amid hostile nations and marauding bands we were protected and given physical security by the annanei hakavod, the clouds of glory.
Today, though we are not privileged to physically perceive these clouds of glory, we see them through the eyes of faith and belief. When a chassid told the Kotzker Rebbe that another Rebbe is visited in his Succah by the seven giants of Jewish history known as the Ushpizen, the Kotzker told him that he, too, clearly sees these guest in his Succahthrough eyes of faith.
King David attests to the protective powers of the invisible clouds of glory: "Let all the nations praise Hashem, let all the people laud Him, for His kindness to us." The sweet singer of Israel tells the nations of the world that they and they alone know all the secret plans that they made to destroy us which were frustrated and aborted by G-ds interventionby the hidden clouds of glory.
Therein lies the secret of Succos. A festival attesting to the Jewish faith in Hashem to provide a comprehensive package of security which we symbolize by leaving our homes, our citadels of security, to live under the stars and the protection of the invisible clouds of glory.
Rabbi Ephriam H. Sturm
Rabbi Sturm, Executive Vice President Emeritus, National Council of Young Israel.