In the Kabbalah, the sukkah is called tzilah demehemnutah – the shelter of faith. In the Talmud, we are told that the sukkah is symbolic of the clouds of glory that watched over the Children of Israel in the desert. True faith shelters and protects us as we travel through the desert of this physical world.
There is a strange passage in the Talmud Avodah Zara 3A. In this passage, God comes to greet the people of the world in the Messianic era. Carrying a Torah under his arm, He proclaims: “Whoever has kept My Torah; let him come and get his reward.”
The people come forward for their reward, including many who have not really kept the Torah. When the Lord sees them, He glares at them and declares: “Only those who prepared on the Sabbath eve; can eat on the Sabbath.” But when He sees their downcast faces, He relents and tells them: “I have any easy commandment for you to fulfill. Go and build a sukkah on the roof of your homes.”
The people happily follow God’s command and construct their sukkot. Immediately, the Lord bears down on them the powerful rays of the sun, the blazing sun of midsummer in Israel. The people swelter and squirm in the heat and intense light. Finally, they get fed up, kick the walls of the sukkah and go running out.
To have faith is both the easiest of the easy and the hardest of the hard. Most of us will say that we believe in God, but how deep does our faith reach? How does our faith hold up when God directs His gaze upon us? When the Divine Light highlights our imperfections and puts us through trial and tribulation? Will we collapse under the pressure of our suffering and turn away from God, or will we persevere through the difficulties and continue along the path?
The prophet Habakuk 2:4 states: “a righteous man lives by his faith.” Yet, such profound faith cannot be reached all at once; it needs to be developed gradually. Faith is experienced in various ways and on many different levels. If we hold on to God and strive to live the life of the Spirit, then we will steadily advance from level to level, and our faith will become real and alive.
The process of attaining true faith is intimately linked with the development of our centers and our state of consciousness. This spiritual connection is expressed in the structure of the holyday of Sukkot. Each of the seven days of the festival is associated with one of the seven sefirot or chakras.  And each sefirah embodies a different level of faith. The first day is malkhut – sovereignty.
The first step in our journey of faith is to recognize that there is a directing Hand that guides the world – a royal sovereign for whom the world is His or Her realm. This belief animates us with the desire to set out upon the spiritual path. It gives us the courage to forsake the ordinary values of our material society, to search for greater meaning in our lives.
The second day is yesod – foundation. The central quality of this sefirah is connectedness. On this level of faith, we begin to realize that there is more to existence than this material reality. We sense that we are part of something larger than ourselves. We feel a connection to other people and other nations. We start to touch the outer reaches of the Supernal Realm.
The third day is netzach/hod – victory/splendor. Here we begin to see changes in ourselves – victories over our lower nature. We discover a new self that is beginning to emerge, one that has greater focus, more confidence and peace of mind. Others notice that there is a distinctive spiritual glow which shines from us, an inner splendor that reflects the growing overshadowing of our soul.
The fourth day is tiferet or glory. On this level, we experience the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven and receive the supernal emanations of the supernal sefirot. We now have faith that God is real. We know that He or She is walking beside us through life.
The fifth day is chesed/gevurah, or mercy/power, where the power of God flows freely through our centers. We not only feel God’s presence ourselves, but we are able to give that experience to others. We become a divine instrument to spread God’s mercy in the world. We live in the constant awareness of His loving grace guiding our footsteps on the path.
The sixth day is chokhmah/binah – wisdom/understanding. Through the consciousness of this center, we finally comprehend who we really are, and discover the true meaning of our existence. We see the world through the mind of God and understand the nature of its workings. We are enveloped by the wisdom of the universal consciousness. Our whole being becomes infused with faith in God and the eternal plan.
On the seventh and final day we reach the consciousness of keter. On this highest level of faith, we transcend the limitations of physical consciousness and unite with the infinite awareness of the absolute. Our will becomes one with the divine will. We relinquish our lower identity and enter into the reality of our higher self. Our faith is now unshakeable; nothing can disrupt our trust in God. The trials and tribulations of this world cannot touch us. Material life no longer holds sway over us. We can bear even the searing light of the midsummer sun.
We may find other temporary shelters, but in the end, faith is the one true refuge – a living faith that is based on inner experience. Only such a faith will endure the upheavals of this earthly existence. Only the direct knowledge of God will bring us lasting peace.
Copyright © 2016, by Yoel Glick
- The traditional Kabbalistic system speaks not of seven but ten sefirot. The reason for this is that each of the centers has a left-hand and a right-hand component to its makeup [see the next chapter]. In three of the centers, the difference between the left and the right hand component is so marked that the Kabbalah considers each side of the center as a separate sefirah in itself. Yogic teaching, on the other hand, continues to think of the left hand and right hand components of these three chakras as two halves of a single whole. This accounts for the addition of three extra centers in the Kabbalah.↵