A close look at the Torah’s description of Chag HaSukkot, both in Parashat Emor and Parashat Re’eih, reveals that the Torah reserves a unique verb just for Sukkot. “VeChagotem” and “Tachogu,” usually translated as commands to celebrate, are in fact not found by the Torah’s discussions of Pesach and Shavuot. Furthermore, while the Torah refers to all three of the Shalosh Regalim as Chagim, festivals, Sukkot is singled out throughout Torah SheBe’al Peh as “HeChag” or simply “Chag.” Why should this be so? Why should such a seemingly universal term belong entirely to Sukkot?
One can answer this question by arguing that Sukkot is on a higher level than Pesach and Shavuot. Indeed, as the Alshich explains, Sukkot is called “Chag Hashem” (VaYikra 23:39) rather than just “Chag LaShem” because it is a celebration of the closest connection to Hashem we experienced as a nascent nation in the Midbar. Only after rising out of the depths of Mitzrayim’s impurity at Matan Torah, and after overcoming the Cheit HaEigel on the first Yom HaKipurim, were we able to continuously remain on a high level of Kedushah, holiness, and fully celebrate our close and strong relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. This is what we celebrate on Chag HaSukkot, Zeman Simchateinu, and what we commemorate by sitting in the Sukkah, which symbolizes the Tzila DeMeheimnuta, The Faithful One’s protective shade, which was with us throughout our travels in the Midbar.
Still, perhaps the Torah’s use of Chag-related words regarding Sukkot means even more. The word “Chag” itself is derived from “Chug,” connoting anything circular and/or cyclical. This explains why the Shalosh Regalim are called “Chagim” — they constitute an annual cycle of Yamim Tovim. Sukkot, being Chag HaAsif, the harvest festival, completes this cycle from a seasonal perspective. As explained earlier, though, Zeman Simchateinu (an alternate name for Sukkot) is also the culmination and pinnacle of a different cycle — our relationship with Hashem, which undergoes ups and downs throughout the year. It is thus fitting that Chazal call Sukkot the Chag, because it is the epitome of celebration with God and the final piece in establishing a connection with Him.
Yet Sukkot completes more than just an annual cycle; it consummates our Teshuvah. As the Rav, Rav Yosef Dov HaLeivi Soloveitchik, explains in his monumental work Al HaTeshuvah, our relationship with Hashem is essentially circular, such that a Jew, even as he/she is distanced from Hashem, is always in a state of return. The act of Teshuvah, therefore, can be understood as our “coming full circle” as we return to our Creator. As Chassidut teaches, however, our active Teshuvah does not end immediately after Yom Kippur, because Hashem’s Gezeirot concerning our lives over the course of the new year are not finalized until at least Hoshana Rabba, or perhaps even later. We need the intense joy of Sukkot, replete with myriad Mitzvah opportunities and exemplified by the Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah, to consummate our return to Hashem, who wants us to serve Him BeSimcha. This, perhaps, is why God commands us “VeChagotem” and “Tachogu” only by Sukkot — because He is charging us to actively complete the Chug, circuit, of our Teshuvah by fulfilling the Mitzvah of “USemachtem Lifnei Hashem” (VaYikra 23:40).
An incredible opportunity awaits us. Let us seize every moment of the upcoming Chag to joyfully restore our relationship with Hashem, so that we may be Zocheh to a complete Teshuvah and the rebuilding of the Sukkat David HaNofalet, BiMheirah VeYameinu.