Succot Exercises I
Day One: Abraham and Chesed/Lifeforce:
1. Everything we do today should be done with extra attention to beauty. We should extend the beauty to how we act in the Succah, how we serve the meals in the Succah, the way we extend ourselves to our guests, even the way we extend courtesies to other people in the synagogue.
2. Pray with the intention that your prayers are a gift to God and the form of your prayer is the gift-wrap. Present a beautiful prayer to God.
3. Discuss how you have benefited from other people over the past year.
4. Plan how you will develop your Chesed (kindness/life force sharing) over the coming year.
5. Study Jonah, chapter 4 at the festival meals. Jonah’s succah was a place for him to wait and see what would happen to Nineveh. Discuss your expectations for the coming year.
6. Pay extra attention whenever you say God’s name in prayers or blessing.
7. Concentrate on extending God’s presence in the world as you shake your Lulav in all directions.
8. What were your happiest moments in the past year? Drink an L’chaim to each one.
9. Discuss if and how your Shabbat changed over the past year.
10. Use your creativity to develop new insights into the meaning of all the Mitzvoth of Shabbat and Succot. Each person at the Shabbat/Festival meal should choose a specific assignment for preparing or enhancing each Shabbat of the year.
11. Choose your favorite Shabbat AND Succot prayer and focus on them while praying.
12. Describe the special life force of each person at your Shabbat table.
1. Articulate what you are about to do before each Mitzvah: I am about to fulfill the Mitzvah of Succah. I am about to fulfill the Mitzvah of the Four Species. Be specific minded when acting.
2. Study Numbers 35:22-29 and Deuteronomy 19:1-10, which are the laws of exile for someone who killed without intention. Discuss or consider mistakes made without intention over the past year such as unintentionally hurting the feelings of another. Accept the week in the Succah as exile for those mistakes.
3. Take the time to visit someone who is alone or ill. Bring healing with you; soften their circumstances.
4. Focus on the specific representations of the Four Species before shaking and discuss during the meals.
Different Types of Jews
The Esrog has both a good taste and smell. This symbolizes Jews who have both learning, good taste, and good deeds, good smell. The Lulav is the branch of a date palm. It has good taste in its fruit, the date. It does not have a good smell. This symbolizes those Jews who have wisdom, but are lacking in good deeds. The Hadassim, or myrtle branches, have good smell, but have not taste. This refers to those Jews who have good deeds, good smell, but do not posses wisdom. The willow has no taste and no smell, just as there are those Jews who lack both wisdom and good deeds.
What does God do with all these different Jews? It is impossible to destroy them. The Holy One, Blessed is He, says, “Bind them all together, and they will bring atonement one for the other. If you do this, then you will raise Me.” This is what it means when it says; “Who builds His strata in the Heavens,” when, “His group is bound together on the earth.
The Lulav is not kosher unless all four species are included in the bundle. This teaches us that it is not kosher unless it represents all Jews. It is not kosher if any Jews are excluded. We derive a law from this; a group of Jews who are gathered for prayer but exclude someone because he is not a good Jew, will not have their prayers accepted by God. Prayers must include all Jews.
The atonement of Yom Kippur allows us to break barriers that exist between us and other Jews. Succot is a time when we must repair relationships and reconnect with all other Jews. Our Succah must be open to all others. There is a special Mitzvah to invite other people to our Succah. All of this is derived from the bundle of the Four Species.
5. Study the Hoshana of the day: “L’Ma’an Amitach”, “For The Sake of Your Truth” and all the descriptions of the Temple in Jerusalem. How many of the terms can be applied to the Succah.
6. When marching in the circle around the Bima during Hoshanot focus on what you honor in the person walking in front of you. If you are not walking in the circle focus on honoring the person standing in front of or next to you.
7. Examine if there have been times over the past year when you have been judgmental. This is especially important in an election year when we disagree with other voters. Discuss ways to avoid being judgmental over the coming year.
8. See everything you have as the fulfillment of a specific wish.
1. Spend some time during the day recapturing the most beautiful moments of the past year.
2. Go out of your way to give Tzedaka to a poor person in a beautiful manner, either focusing on what is beautiful about the person or finding a way to get money to him and preserving his dignity.
3. Find out if there are people who need help with the expenses of the festival and find a way to help them have a beautiful Holiday.
4. Have a festival meal in the Succah even if abridged. Dress in festival clothes for the meal.
5. Concentrate on the power of prayer during Hoshanot.
6. Study Genesis 33:16-17, which is the story of Jacob’s sojourn in Succot. Use the Succah to plan for your spiritual goals for the year.
7. Describe something that you are doing in life with great joy.
1. Picture yourself holding a spear high as a symbol of victory when holding the Lulav. Rejoice in the accomplishments of Yom Kippur.
2. Study Exodus 33:17-23, when God made a Succah for Moses. Recapture moments of transcendence of the past year, moments that you had difficulty maintaining. Imagine the Succah as a place that can protect such experiences.
3. Use the moment when you cover your eyes while saying Shema to reenact the above story.
4. Is there a situation from the past year that was difficult, challenging and confusing that you can better understand in hindsight?
5. Use the above when reciting the Hoshanot.
6. Think about unpleasant experiences of the past year and rejoice in how you grew from them.
1. Study Exodus 40:34-38 and 1Kings 8:1-10, which are stories of how we successfully can bring God’s presence into our lives and the world. Discuss ways to use Shabbat to achieve what Moses and Solomon accomplished.
2. Use the joy of this day to forgive someone who hurt you over the past year.
3. Ask forgiveness from someone you may have hurt, with the intention to nurture the relationship over the coming year.
4. Describe what is special or glorious about each person in your immediate family.
5. When reciting the Hoshanot: “Eil L’moshaot” – “O God! Bring About Salvation” – consider small ways and large that you experienced salvation.
6. Find a new Succah decoration that you will add to your Succah next year.
1. Go out of your way to thank someone who was an important influence on your life when you were younger.
2. Review, what is for you, your favorite part of the Torah.
3. Freshen your Four Species. Refocus on this Mitzvah: Reconnect to its representations:
Each one of the Four Species represents another part of the body. The Esrog symbolizes the heart, to bring us forgiveness for sins of the heart, such as doubts about God’s existence. The Lulav is the spine, to bring us atonement for the sin of arrogance. The Hadassim are the eyes and bring us forgiveness for looking at things that are forbidden or for looking at other people with jealousy. The willow is the mouth, and brings us atonement for sins committed with speech.
4. Make a commitment to be meticulous with your speech in the Succah. Do not speak in anger. Do not insult or even criticize anyone in the Succah. Do not speak Lishon Harah while in the Succah. Concentrate on blessings you recite while in the Succah. Do not discuss inappropriate subjects such as sports, movies or politics while in the Succah.
5. Use the Hoshanot to focus on what you love about God.
6. Review the story of the Garden in Eden. Compare your Succah to the Garden. Have a large variety of fruit in your Succah to remember the first commandment God gave to Adam; “You must eat from all the trees in the Garden.”
7. Have a special meal in the Succah to celebrate all everyone has gained from the holiday. Turn it into an actual celebration with music, singing and dancing. Invite people who do not have as much as you to the meal. Present each guest with a Succot gift.
King David and Malchut/Kingship
This day is in a category all of its own and will be discussed in a separate essay.