Ask The Rabbi

Succot Significance

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Armageddon

Carol from Port Orchard, Washington wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I am wondering about Succot. Why is it important? What is the present significance? How does this relate to the mashiach (messiah)?


Dear Carol,

Succot celebrates the super-natural protection we, the Jewish People, enjoyed when G-d took us out of Egypt. In this sense, Succot is like Passover. While Passover celebrates our rescue from the Egyptians, Succot goes a step farther, celebrating our miraculous existence in the desert for forty years after that.

Thus, the major significance of Succot is a message of gratitude. If not for the food, water, and shelter G-d gave us in the desert thousands of years ago, we wouldn't be here today. Our gratitude to G-d never fades, just like you never stop being grateful to your parents for giving birth to you. So, for the seven days of Succot, Jews leave the protection of their roofed homes and live in huts covered only with branches, recalling the fact that it is not our homes, but G-d who protects us.

Regarding the connections between Succot and messianic times: According to the Prophet Zacharia, the nations who survive the final "War of Gog and Magog" will come to Jerusalem every year "to prostrate themselves to the King, Hashem...and to celebrate the Succot festival." (Zecharia 14:16)

The Prophet Ezekiel describes the Jewish People prior to the "War of Gog and Magog" as living in an almost-messianic state, having been recently gathered from amongst the nations and living in prosperity in their own land. Then, the world's nations - led by "Gog" from the land of "Magog" - will attack Israel in an attempt to put a final end to the Jewish People.

Magog is identified by the Talmud as "Gothia," the land of the Goths. The Goths were a Germanic people, in keeping with the midrashic rendering of Magog as "Germamia" or "Germania."

Our miraculous victory against Gog is to occur during the Succot season, and those of our enemies who repent and survive will come to Jerusalem each Succot to celebrate the anniversary of our victory.

Rabbi S.R. Hirsch notes that "Gog" is related to the Hebrew word for roof. A roof, with its ability to shut out the heavenly influences of rain and sun, symbolizes man's imagined independence from G-d. The symbol of the roof stands in diametric opposition to the weak succah-booth. A succah, covered only by some meager branches, symbolizes our dependence on G-d. Thus, Gog's struggle is the battle of the "roof" against the "succah," in which those who believe only in man's ability to manipulate nature try to eradicate the Jews, whose very existence loudly nullifies this world-view.

The universal nature of Succot is also alluded to in the special Succot offerings, which were seventy in number. This corresponds to the number of primary nations of the world; i.e., the seventy nations descended from Noah (see Genesis Chapter 10). Seventy is also the numerical value of the Hebrew phrase "Gog and Magog."

Sources:

  • Book of Ezekiel 38
  • Ibid. Commentary by Rabbi Moshe Eisemann, Mesorah Publications
  • Yerushalmi Megillah 3:9
  • Targum Yonatan 10:2, Bereishet Rabbah 37:1


 
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