Reb Pinchas of Koritz was beloved by all the inhabitants of his city. People would seek out his sage counsel on a variety of matters, involve him in their family affairs, and look to him for guidance in their Divine service. As a result, Reb Pinchas’ schedule became overburdened. He no longer had the time to study and pray as he desired.

Turning to G‑d in prayer, he petitioned: “Make people hate me. Let them flee my company so I will have time to pray and study.”

Reb Pinchas’ prayer was accepted and people began to shun him. They would not speak to him or do favors for him. Reb Pinchas, however, was happy. He was able to focus on his Divine service without distraction.

Then came Sukkos. Reb Pinchas wanted to invite guests, but no one desired to come to his house. He was displeased, for on the festival it is a mitzvah to have guests grace one’s table. Ultimately, however, he accepted the fact. It was better to lack guests for the holiday than to be disturbed the entire year.

On Sukkos, our Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, together with Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and King David, visit the sukkos of the Jewish people. As Reb Pinchas was about to enter his sukkah, he saw our father Abraham waiting outside.

“Welcome to my sukkah,” Reb Pinchas told him.

“Sorry, I will not enter,” Abraham replied.


“Well, if none of my descendants feel at home as guests here, I don’t think I will either.”

That was enough for Reb Pinchas. He prayed for his original good graces to be restored and for him to find favor in people’s eyes again.

Being Surrounded by a Mitzvah: The Mitzvah of Sukkos

The Torah commands: “For seven days you shall dwell in sukkos.” In defining this mitzvah, our Sages explain that for the duration of the Sukkos holiday, these small huts with roofs of branches and leaves must be considered as our homes. All of our daily routines should be carried out within them. As our Sages explain: “A person should eat, drink, relax... and study in the sukkah.”

Proverbs tells us to “Know Him in all your ways”; and our Sages comment, “This is a short verse upon which all the fundamentals of the Torah depend.”

For G‑dliness is present not merely in the synagogue or in the house of study, but in every dimension and corner of our lives. This concept becomes manifest through dwelling in a sukkah. The sukkah teaches us that every aspect of our conduct can serve as a means to relate to Him and become linked with His oneness.

The unity established by this mitzvah resolves the differences that exist between spirituality and material existence. Usually, we see the two as opposite. Spirituality, we often think, is otherworldly in contrast to physicality which is tangible and real. From G‑d’s perspective, however, both the material and the spiritual are expressions of Himself and can be fused harmoniously. Living in a sukkah helps us adopt this mind frame and attune ourselves to this inner unity.

Genuine Unity: The Mitzvah of Lulav and Esrog

The mitzvah of lulav and esrog requires us to take branches or fruit from four different species of trees (these two and the myrtle and the willow) and combine them in the performance of this mitzvah. Our Sages explain that each of the species used for this mitzvah refers to a different type of person, from the most spiritually developed to the least refined.

Therein is an obvious lesson. The mitzvah cannot be fulfilled with only the esrog, the most elevated of the species. The willow — which in the analogy to people refers to those on the lowest levels — is also necessary. So, too, no person can attain fulfillment by remaining isolated, out of touch with others. Even the realization of his individual potential cannot be complete without him reaching out to others and joining together with them.

Our Sages explain that the lulav and the esrog are a victory symbol, indicating our vindication in the judgment of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. When we stand bound together in unity, as the lulav and esrog teach, we can be assured of positive blessings in the year to come.

Looking to the Horizon

In our prayers, we describe Sukkos as “The Season of Our Rejoicing.” This theme will reach its ultimate fulfillment in the era of Mashiach, when, as the Prophet relates, our people will return to Eretz Yisrael “crowned with eternal joy.” And as it says in Psalms: “Then [ — as opposed to now — ] our mouths will be filled with laughter.”

In previous generations, Jews did not need explanations why happiness was associated specifically with Mashiach’s time. It was quite obvious. By and large, they did not live in happy times. But they knew that this sadness was not forever. At one point, the trials and tribulations of the exile would end and they would enjoy happiness and joy.

Today, however, when a person can enjoy all the comforts that a free and affluent society has to offer, we are able to ask: What is so special about the happiness that Mashiach will provide?

Some will offer somber explanations. The freedom and prosperity of the present age may only be temporary. In Spain and in Germany, for example, the Jews enjoyed wealth, acceptance, and freedom of expression, and look what happened. In the personal sphere, they will say, there is the possibility of sudden illness and/or death.

Without arguing the truth of these explanations, we don’t want Mashiach only because he is a good insurance policy to prevent all these negative factors from happening and assure us of continued prosperity and well-being. Yes he will, but that is not what Mashiach is about.

Peace, prosperity, and well-being are not the essence of the era of the Redemption. They are merely the backdrop and the setting that will allow the message of the Redemption to be communicated more effectively.

In the present age, we’re happy because things — good food, good people, good times — make us happy. In the era of Mashiach, we won’t need external factors to make us feel happy. We will feel happy because we’re alive — because we have a soul and because we’re living in G‑d’s world. This awareness will be as real to us as material reality is today.

We have the potential to appreciate a foretaste of this happiness in the present era. It is true that at present our knowledge of spirituality is merely intellectual, and only in the future era will we have firsthand experience of the spiritual core in our own being and in the world at large. Nevertheless, even today, knowing that this is the truth and focusing on it intensely can grant us a glimmer of this awareness and thus a sampling of the happiness that will result from it.

Tasting this happiness and sharing it with others will anticipate and precipitate the time when this mindset will spread throughout all existence and “our mouths will be filled with laughter.”