Contact Us

The Easy Mitzvah

The Easy Mitzvah

 Email

How [does one fulfill] the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah? One should eat, drink, and live in the sukkah, both day and night, as one lives in one’s house on the other days of the year: for seven days a person should make his home his temporary dwelling, and his sukkah his permanent dwelling

Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 639:1

G‑d says... “I have one easy mitzvah, and sukkah is its name”

Talmud, Avodah Zarah 3a

“In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days,” instructs the Torah, “...in order that your generations shall know that I made the children of Israel dwell in sukkot when I took them out of the land of Egypt.”

Our sages, noting the Torah’s use of the verb “to dwell” in the above verses, define the mitzvah of sukkah as a commandment that, for the duration of the festival of Sukkot (Tishrei 15 to 21), the sukkah is to become our primary dwelling place. Everything ordinarily done in the home should be done in the sukkah.

So every autumn, just as the weather is turning inhospitable, we move outdoors. For a full week, we exchange our regular home for a home which leaves us at the mercy of the elements, demonstrating our trust in G‑d’s providence and protection, as our ancestors did when “following Me in the wilderness, in an uncultivated land.”

Dwelling in the sukkah for seven days is a beautiful and inspiring experience; however, one would hardly describe it as “easy.” Yet this is the mitzvah singled out by the Talmud as G‑d’s “easy mitzvah”!

The Commanding Connection

“Mitzvah,” the Torah’s word for the divine precepts which guide and govern every aspect of our lives from the moment of birth to one’s last living breath, has a dual meaning: the word means both “commandment” and “connection.”

In commanding us the mitzvot, G‑d created the means through which we may establish a connection with Him. The hand that distributes charity, the mind that ponders the wisdom of Torah, the heart that soars in prayer, the throat that swallows the matzah eaten on the first night of Passover — all become instruments of the divine will. There are mitzvot for each limb, organ and faculty of man, and mitzvot governing every area of life, so that no part of us remains uninvolved in our relationship with the Creator.

Therein lies the uniqueness of the mitzvah of sukkah. While other mitzvot each address a certain aspect of our persona, the mitzvah of sukkah provides a medium by which the totality of man is engaged in the fulfillment of G‑d’s will. All of the person enters into and lives in the sukkah. “sukkah is the only mitzvah into which a person enters with his muddy boots,” goes the Chassidic saying. For the seven days of Sukkot, the sukkah is our home--the environment for our every endeavor and activity.

Man and Turf

The specialty of the sukkah as an all-embracing medium of connection with G‑d is best understood in light of the significance of the “home” to the human being.

Our sages point out how deeply rooted is man’s desire for a home. The desire for a home is much more than the need for shelter and security—the satisfaction of these needs alone, without a plot of land to call one’s own, does not satisfy the craving for a home. The Talmud goes so far as to say that “One who does not possess a homestead is not a man.” The need for a home is intrinsic to the soul of man and a defining aspect of the human state.

Thus, a person’s identification with his home is not confined to the hours he spends within its walls. Also when he is at work, visiting with friends or taking a stroll in the park, it is as the owner of this particular home that he works, visits or strolls. Since his very humanity is incomplete without it, it is part and parcel of everything he does.

For the seven days that we make the sukkah our home, it comes to form an integral part of our identity. Everything we do, including what we do outside of the sukkah, is included in the “connection” with G‑d achieved by this mitzvah.

Easy as Life

Now we might understand why the mitzvah of sukkah is G‑d’s “easy” mitzvah.

A person can approach the fulfillment of G‑d’s commandments in one of two ways:

a) As a duty. Such an individual sees the purpose of his life in the realization of his own personal ambitions. At the same time, he recognizes that G‑d is the master of the universe and is the one who created him, granted him life, and continues to sustain him in every moment of his existence. So he feels duty-bound to obey G‑d’s commandments.

b) As the purpose of his existence. This individual understands that “I was not created, but to serve my Creator.” He recognizes this as his true “I” and as the ultimate fulfillment and realization of who and what he is.

If we assume the first approach, regarding the observance of a mitzvah as a duty, there will be both “difficult” and “easy” mitzvot. We might fulfill them all, perhaps even willingly and joyfully, but some will be more pleasant and inspiring, others more tedious and toilsome. The expenditure of time, effort or money that a mitzvah requires will also affect the degree of difficulty we experience in its fulfillment.

But when we see the fulfillment of the divine will as the very stuff of our life, the concept of a difficult mitzvah is nonexistent. All mitzvot are “easy,” for they do not constitute an imposition on our life—they are our life. Indeed, there will be no division between the mitzvah and “non-mitzvah” areas of our life. When we live to implement G‑d’s purpose in creation, our entire life—including those activities which are not explicit mitzvah acts—becomes a single, seamless quest to connect to our Creator and serve His will.

If all mitzvot could be observed in either of the above ways, there is one mitzvah whose terms of observance call for nothing less than the second approach. The mitzvah of sukkah does not tell us to do something; it tells us to be something—a sukkah-dweller. The way to observe this mitzvah is to make the sukkah our home—our environment, our roots, our very identity—for seven days of each year of our life.

And when we apply the model of the mitzvah of sukkah to our observance of all of G‑d’s commandments, they, too, assume the all-embracing quality of the sukkah. They, too, become as “easy” as life.

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; adapted by Yanki Tauber.
Originally published in Week in Review.
Republished with the permission of MeaningfulLife.com. If you wish to republish this article in a periodical, book, or website, please email permissions@meaningfullife.com.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
2 Comments
1000 characters remaining
sheryl braum Novato October 1, 2017

I appreciated reading the difference between the "duty" of making the Sukkah your home and seeing the mitzvah of "dwelling in the Sukkah as "the purpose of his (her) existence." How one views the Sukkah mitzvah will determine the perception of "an easy mitzvah." Reply

Anonymous EHT, NJ September 30, 2010

Easy mitzvah Very Beautiful! Thank you for posting this article. Reply

Related Topics
Kids Zone
Find Services
Videos
Audio Classes
Recipes