From a spiritual standpoint, the holiday of Sukkot designates one of the critical turning points of spiritual evolution—the first entrance of Light into the soul. This Light is called “Torah,” and being filled with it yields joy. This is why the holiday following Sukkot, which marks the reception of the Torah, is called Simchat (joy of) Torah (Light).
The measurements and physical setup of the Sukkah, or huts that correspond to those used by our ancestors in Sinai Desert, were given to us, like all other Mitzvot , by Kabbalists. Mitzvot (commandments/precepts) are the laws of the Upper World passed on to us in this realm. Every Mitzva (singular for Mitzvot ) we keep in this world reflects a spiritual law from the Upper World. Kabbalists keep them in the spiritual realm of their souls and feel the holidays as a higher, eternal, and more complete form of existence.
A spiritual act can occur only after we have acquired a Masach (screen)—the ability to transcend our self-centered desires—and have achieved the ability to receive a unique kind of pleasure, called “the Creator ’s Light.” Each time we act with the pure intention of giving, we have committed a “spiritual act.” Conversely, when that same act is performed for self-gratification, it is considered corporeal and egoistic.
The Spiritual Sukkah
In spirituality, a Sukkah is the structure of the Kli that can receive spiritual Light. Put differently, the Sukkah symbolizes the soul. To receive the Upper Light, we must build a spiritual system within us, called Sukkah , reflecting our reciprocal relations with the Light.
As the soul goes through the correction process, it is unfit to receive the full measure of the Upper Light. Instead, this Light remains “around” it or outside it, hence its name, “Surrounding Light.” In order for the Light to enter and fill it, the soul must equalize its qualities with those of the Light. Because the quality of the Light is love, to equalize with it, one must transcend one’s egoism and become similar to the quality of the Light—loving and giving.
The laws for building a Sukkah represent the way the soul acquires qualities similar to those of the Light. If we wish to advance in spirituality, we ask for only two things: unity and love with the Creator. We do not ask for the pleasure emitted off Him. Building the thatch is symbolic of our work on building the screen that will shield us from the self-centered pleasure we receive when we sense the Creator’s Light.
To the extent that our request will focus only on our ability to love and bestow upon others, the Surrounding Light will correct our souls, granting us the power to transcend all egoistic desires. The power of the thatch enables us to receive the Upper Light into our souls. In such a state, our qualities become equal to those of the Creator and we can unite with the Creator in eternal love. This is the real joy—the joy of the Torah, Simchat Torah.
The Four Species
The four kinds represent four states that we experience along the path of spiritual growth. Each of these is distinguished by having a scent and a flavor, having only a scent, having only a flavor, or having none at all. The scent denotes the mind and the taste denotes the heart.
· Sometimes spirituality seems delightful to both mind (scent) and heart (taste). Kabbalists call this state Etrog (the citron).
· Sometimes one finds that spirituality is exciting but hard to understand. In that state, it is considered “tasty,” but scentless. Kabbalists call this state Lulav (palm branch).
· Sometimes, spirituality is fragrant but tasteless, or the state of Hadas (myrtle). Its importance is very clear, but while the heart cannot sense it, the mind is able to grasp it.
· Finally, when one cannot feel any flavor or fragrance in spirituality, this state is called Aravot (willow).
To advance in spirituality , we must persist toward the Creator even when our current state feels tasteless and scentless. Eventually, uniting all the states into a single aim will grant us the ability to receive true spiritual pleasure under any circumstances.