One year, before Sukkos, there was no esrog to be found in the city of Berditchev or in any of the neighboring villages. As the holiday approached, the villagers began to be worried: Could it be that the holiday of Sukkos would come and the holy Rebbe, Reb Levi Yitzchak would not be able to fulfill the mitzvah? They sent emissaries all over, looking for someone who had one of those cherished fruits.

Several days before the holiday, a wealthy man was found traveling home from a business fair and he had an esrog!

“What can we give you for the esrog?” the chassidim asked. “Reb Levi Yitzchak needs to perform the mitzvah.”

“But so do I,” the rich man answered.

After much insistence, the chassidim persuaded him to speak to Reb Levi Yitzchak.

“Will you stay here for the holiday, so that we can fulfill the mitzvah with your esrog?” the Rebbe asked him.

“My family are expecting me?” he replied.

“We will compensate you generously.”

“Thank G‑d, I am in no need of money.”

“Is there anything that would convince you to stay?”

“Well, if the Rebbe would give me his portion in the World to Come, I would be willing to stay.”

Without the slightest hesitation, the Rebbe drew up a contract, signing over his share in the World to Come for the right for him and the Jews of Berditchev to use the esrog. The rich man was welcomed warmly in the village and given brotherly hospitality.

On the day before Sukkos, Reb Levi Yitzchak sent a note forbidding any of the villagers to allow the rich man to enter their sukkah. He asked for hospitality at several homes, but from all received the same reply: “We’d love to have you, but the Rebbe forbade us against letting you come in.” With a certain amount of anger, he asked the Rebbe for the reason for his conduct.

“If you give me back the contract, I’ll have them let you into the sukkah.

“That’s not fair. I already gave you my esrog.

“And I gave you the contract. But just like I was willing to give up my share in the World to Come for an esrog, you should be willing to give up the same share for a sukkah.

After seeing that Reb Levi Yitzchak was serious, the man returned to the inn where he was staying and brought the contract. This time, Reb Levi Yitzchak greeted him warmly. “Now, you have earned my share in the World to Come,” he told the man. “Before it came to you too easy, but now, since you were prepared to sacrifice it for a mitzvah, it is yours by right.”

Sukkos is a time for all of us to fulfill the mitzvah of lulav and esrog and to celebrate in our sukkos as befits “the season of our rejoicing.”

LeChaim. May the happiness of Sukkos lead to the ultimate happiness that will accompany the coming of Mashiach.


On Friday night, Jews world over will leave their homes and go out and dwell in small huts with branches as roofs. These huts, called Sukkos, serve as our dwellings for seven days, a full cycle of time.

For children, it’s a welcome diversion, but for adults, it may be somewhat disconcerting. After all, it means leaving the comforts of home and subjecting oneself to the elements. But that is precisely the message of the mitzvah — that we cannot protect ourselves against fate. No matter how strong we build our homes and fortify our lives, we are not masters of our environment and are subject to the forces of providence.

This is a very basic level of adult awareness. A child thinks he can do everything and anything. As we mature, we learn that the world is bigger than ourselves and our success comes in aligning ourselves with the order G‑d has established, finding our niche in the greater picture instead of trying to “do things our way,” and forcing our desires to prevail against the world outside. To highlight this message, we leave our homes and dwell in the sukkah.

The holiday of Sukkos is called “the season our rejoicing.” In the time of the Temple, it was marked by celebrations so great that our Sages said that “anyone who has not seen those celebrations has never witnessed happiness in his life.”

Now we said that the message of the holiday is that we must live within the context of fate. There are some who speak of having to “resign” themselves to fate, implying that the word fate has a negative meaning. Although we need not take on such a negative perception of fate, can we say that it is actually a cause to rejoice?

Judaism resolves this issue by focusing on the source for the mitzvah of sukkah. We are commanded to dwell in sukkos “so that your [future] generations will know that I [G‑d] caused the children of Israel to dwell in sukkos when I took them out of the land of Egypt.”

What were these sukkos? Our Sages explain that this refers to the Clouds of Glory, a cloud cover which protected the Jews on their journey through the desert, shielding them from the sun and sheltering them from cold.

Going out to the sukkah is not an existential experience, resigning ourselves to fate. It is a religious experience in which we commit ourselves to G‑d’s care. We acknowledge that He — not nature and not our own selves — are the masters of our existence and we willingly leave our homes to dwell under His shade.

This explains why Sukkos is “the season of our rejoicing.” For there is no greater source of happiness than the knowledge that at every moment G‑d is watching over us and determining our future. Dwelling in a sukkah is a celebration of the fact that we are living in G‑d’s world and an expression of our trust and confidence that He is controlling our existence.