After the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, the most serious days of the Jewish Calendar, we celebrate Sukkot, which is called “Zman Simchateinu,” “the time of our joy.” What is the connection between the serious days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, on the one hand, and Sukkot on the other? Furthermore, what do our Sukkot and the Arba Minim, the four species, have to do with Yom Kippur?
One famous answer to the connection between Yom Kippur and Sukkot is that we want to start off our new year with as many Mitzvot as possible. After receiving atonement from Hashem on Yom Kippur, we want to add to our clean slates by celebrating a Chag which has more Mitzvot than any other. In addition to the Mitzvah of the Arba Minim, we receive a Mitzvah for every second we sit in our Sukkot, a concept which is not found by any other holiday! What better way to start off the new year than by celebrating Sukkot?
The Chatam Sofer offers a similar answer. He says that our Lulavim symbolize the military flags which are carried back by a victorious army. Similarly, we carry with us the Arba Minim to show that we defeated the Yeitzer HaRa on Yom Kippur by purifying ourselves before Hashem. Thus, the Lulavim on Sukkot symbolize what we achieved just a few days before: receiving complete atonement from Hashem.
Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, who served as Mashgiach in both the Ponovezh and Mir Yeshivot, explains the connection between Yom Kippur and Sukkot in a different light. Rav Chatzkel asks why Chazal tell us that on Chag Sukkot our houses become temporary while our Sukkot become our permanent homes. He answers that after accepting Hashem’s Malchut on Rosh HaShanah and purifying ourselves on Yom Kippur, we come to the realization that our Ruchniyut, our spiritual affairs, are so much more important than our Gashmiyut, our material affairs. Therefore, on Sukkot we continue to stress this point by making our physical homes temporary while our Sukkot become our “real” homes, the ones that are used solely for Avodat Hashem.
Like all other holidays, Sukkot has its exact date for a specific reason. However, unlike other Chagim, Sukkot is placed in the same month as two other holidays, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Despite the fact that Sukkot seems to be out of place next to such serious holidays, its placement teaches us a great lesson. Right after Yom Kippur, Sukkot gives us pride that we have become spiritually pure while also serving as a reminder that it is our spiritual matters, not our practical matters, which are the most important things in our lives.