A central feature of the sukka -- indeed, the feature that gives the sukka
its name -- is the sekhach (the materials used to make the roof of the
sukka). The Sfas Emes begins by showing us something that is totally
obvious once he has pointed it out; but was totally non-obvious until he
did so. The Sfas Emes notes that the sukka resembles a chupa (wedding
canopy). And just as the wedding ceremony under the chupa completes the
binding of a wife and her husband together, so, too, the sukka completed
the sanctification (the kiddushin) of our special relationship with
HaShem. For, continues the Sfas Emes, HaShem's taking us out of Egypt was
in the nature of a marriage. Thus, HaShem says (Vayikra, 22:32-33):
"Ani HaShem me'kadish'chem, ha'motzi es'chem meiEretz
Mitzrayim ... ". (ArtScroll: "I am HaShem Who sanctifies you, Who took
you out of the land of Egypt ...")
As you see, faithful to its mission of presenting the pshat pashut -- the
simple rendering of the text -- ArtScroll reads the word "me'kadish'chem"
as "sanctifies". By contrast, faithful to his mission -- giving us
access to new, mind-stretching insights -- the Sfas Emes is reading
"me'kadish'chem" as "Who has taken you as His wife." This
is standard usage for the word "me'kadesh"; for example, in the
expression "chupa ve'kiddushin". And with the Sfas Emes's reading of
me'kadish'chem, the sekhach on top of the sukka becomes the chupa of Bnei
Yisroel with HaShem.
But in the Heavenly Court, kitrug (criticism) is heard: Why should Bnei
Yisroel be selected over all other nations for this special relationship
with HaShem? Looking objectively at the proposed shidduch, one might
conclude that it was unfair. Even worse, the shidduch did not seem to make
sense as a viable long-term relationship. Note that the issue of Klal
Yisroel's special relationship with HaShem -- our being the "chosen
people" -- continues to bother some people to this very day.
The Sfas Emes draws our attention to the way HaShem -- the presumptive
choson (bridegroom) -- dealt with this criticism concerning His singling
out Bnei Yisroel to be His kallah (bride) The Choson reacted not with
words or with reasoning. Rather, recognizing that what was involved love -
- which can be impervious to words or to reasoning -- the Choson reacted
by proceeding swiftly to the wedding ceremony. That is, by having us come
forward immediately to the chupa! Thus, recounting what happened soon
after the Exodus, HaShem tells us (VaYikra 23, 43): "Ki ba'sukkos
ho'shavti es Bnei Yisroel behotzi'i o'sam MeiEretz Mitzrayim."
("For when I took Bnei Yisroel from the Land of Egypt, I had them dwell
The Sfas Emes has given us a powerful "take-home" lesson to deepen our
understanding and enjoyment of the Yom Tov. The message is simple: when
we enter the Sukka, we should feel the sentiments that a choson (or a
kallah) feels when he/she stands under the chupa.
What might those sentiments be? Three possibilities come to mind. One
possibility is a feeling of great joy. That state of mind comes from
being next to one's beloved, with whom he/she is about to commit for a
Another possibility -- these are not mutually exclusive -- involves one's
relationship with HaShem. That is, standing under the chupa, a person may
feel great gratitude to the One Who made the shidduch . In turn, this
sense of gratitude can bring the person extraordinarily close to HaShem.
Indeed, so close that this is a very favorable time to daven for any
A third possibility for a person's feelings under the chupa also comes to
mind. He/she may be quivering with doubts about the wisdom of the step
that he/she are taking. This case resembles the experience of HaShem and
Bnei Yisroel -- the case that the Sfas Emes discussed earlier in this
ma'amar. There, too, there was cause for much uncertainty about the
suitability of the marriage.. Chazal tell us that bringing a couple
together in marriage is similar to the miracle of splitting Yam Suf. As we
know, that miracle had to be triggered by a leap of faith: "Nachshon
kofatz le'soch hayam". So, too, recall how the choson and kallah
discussed earlier in this ma'mar dealt with their uncertainty and doubts
about the shidduch. They have questions and doubts. They plunged
forward, committing to a deeper, more solid relationship, one which --
history has shown -- could be made to last forever.
A Post Script.
As we have seen, the Sfas Emes views the choson and kalla coming together
under a canopy as a symbol that concludes acquiring something. In the
present case, he has in mind HaShem's kinyan of Bnei Yisroel. But to
conclude his discussion of this issue, he cites another case in which
someone completed a kinyan by providing sukkos.
The context in that other case is Ya'akov Avinu's return from Lavan to
Eretz Yisroel. The Sfas Emes quotes the pasuk in Bereishis (33:17):
"... u'lemik'neihu ahsa Sukkos." (ArtScroll: "... and for his
cattle, he made shelters.") The Sfas Emes notes the "sound-alikes"
("mi'kneihu" = "his cattle"; "kinyan" = "an
acquisition "). Accordingly, he makes the obvious word-associations.
Thus he reads this phrase as saying: " ... he made sukkos for what he
had acquired." The Sfas Emes offers us this non-pshat in support of
his idea that a sukka can complete and solidify a relationship. Truly a
thought to bear in mind when we dwell in our Sukka this Yom Tov.