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Why Do We Read Kohelet on Sukkot?

Why Do We Read Kohelet on Sukkot?

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Question:

In our synagogue, we read the book of Kohelet on Sukkot. I believe it’s called “Ecclesiastes” in English. What is the reason for this custom?

Response:

A major theme of Kohelet is the futility of mundane pursuits and pleasures, and the search for deeper meaning to life. Sukkot is also known as Chag ha-Asif—the Festival of Ingathering. It’s the time of year when the harvest has ended, and the crops are gathered and stored for the coming year. It’s a moment of great satisfaction, as one can see the fruits of his labor before him.

Kohelet shakes our contentment with the reminder that mundane accomplishments are fleeting and empty. Even at the close of the harvest, we must seek real achievement and fulfillment.

Sukkot itself demonstrates this theme by the commandment to live in temporary dwellings. We move outside our home, which provides a sense of permanence and comfort, and instead dwell in a flimsy hut. This recalls the transience of physicality, as does the book of Kohelet.

Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi team.
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Anonymous May 6, 2014

Intellectual Cannibalism doesn't actually pay for provisions when living modestly Wether transitory or simply a nagging habit, some of the grudges we hold on to we eventually need to wake up on, let go or (else). I think and so I act some 'saying sayers' say, and yet many times we don't think & we act anyway. lol Letting go of superficial ambition is one of the mightiest endeavers we could undertake because we can start from today with our ownselves. What is driving what we are chasing? If Hashem isn't what we actually are seeking first then what exactly comes first on Sukkot? When traveling light & standing ready and waiting to return home, It's a vigilance which welcomes an adventure? The feeling is both exciting as it is magical the chance to start fresh each & everyday under G-d's eye. To focus on what matters best suddenly includes all that we didn't think we'd have. If our homes were suddenly threatened by a fire in a canyon, suddenly people would press past the fire line to go back to get something forgotten? What keeps us humble is fair, ready, and secure. Reply

Will September 23, 2013

Your explanation is against my view of why we read the torah portions we do on the two days of Rosh Hashana and the custom of kapparot.. In order to understand what we study, we must be grounded by living life and applying what we learn. Not living vicariously through others. Reply

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