The Day Following Yom Kippur, 5711 [1950]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Fulfilling1 the mitzvah of the sukkah has a distinguishing characteristic- knowledge. The Torah writes,2 למען ידעו דורותיכם כי בסכות הושבתי את בני ישראל בהוציאי אותם מארץ מצרים - “[You shall dwell in sukkos for seven days…], in order that your generations shall know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in sukkos when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” Accordingly, the mitzvah of the sukkah has not been properly fulfilled if one did not know its intent- that G‑d commanded us to dwell in a sukkah in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.3

As is explained in various places,4 “the essence of knowledge is not merely knowing alone…, from authors and books, but the essential thing is to immerse one’s own mind deeply…, and fix one’s thought… with strength and vigor of the heart and mind, until his thought shall be bound… with a strong and mighty bond.”

In this case, it is required that a person know that “I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in sukkos” and that this took place “when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.”5

Now, every single day, morning and evening, a man is obliged to regard himself as if he is now at the moment of the Exodus from Egypt. “This refers to the release of the divine soul from the confinement of the body…, by engaging in the Torah and the commandments in general, and in particular through accepting the Sovereignty of Heaven [during the recital of the Shema].”6

As this concept was expressed by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], (May I serve as an atonement for his resting place!):7

The first thing to be done is to get out of one’s straits8 and bounds. In terms of avodah in general, these constitute the lifestyle that a person chooses for himself. The particular straits and bounds grow out of the life situation in which he chooses to set himself up. First of all, there has to be an Exodus from this spiritual Egypt, from all these confinements and constrictions.

For example, a person’s plans must include fixed daily periods for Torah study, and his prayers should be attended to conscientiously, not by the minimal discharge of his formal obligations.

After the Exodus from Egypt comes the Splitting of the Red Sea. As soon as a person begins to tackle the task of avodah, obstacles arise, each of them tough and formidable- just as, when the Children of Israel were on their way out of Egypt, behind them was the enemy, before them lay the sea, and they themselves were in the wilderness. The Splitting of the Sea was wrought from Above.

G‑d made a road there for the Children of Israel, just like a road on the dry land- except that there first had to be one man of self-sacrifice who was prepared to leap into the sea. That done, G‑d transformed it into dry land.

[…G‑d then caused them to dwell in sukkos.] By way of analogy: A newborn infant is bathed and swaddled not only to protect him from uncleanliness from without, but also to straighten and strengthen his limbs- albeit temporarily, but this stands him in good stead throughout the time in which he grows to be a man. So, too, in avodah: When a person brings himself to the point at which he has freed himself from the constrictions of his own mindset, so that he is now disburdened of his former life-plans, the evil of his natural soul and the material and fleshly needs of his life become more refined.

It is now time for the next step- “and the Children of Israel journeyed… to Sukkos.”9 [The mitzvah of] sukkah is a makkif, a transcendent light, but it is a transcendent light that becomes integrated within oneself, just as swaddling an infant lends strength to his limbs even when he is a man.

This, then, is the inner meaning of the words, “I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in sukkos when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

Assistance and strength in accomplishing all the above, throughout all the days of the year, may be borrowed from the festival of Sukkos in general, and in particular from the mitzvah of living in a sukkah.

Moreover, making mention of our Rebbeim and their activities and their teachings helps further. As my revered father-in-law used to say, there are chassidic Ushpizin:10 the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid [of Mezritch], the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash and the Rebbe Rashab.

And let us add: My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], (May I serve as an atonement for his resting place!)

Menachem Schneerson