Sukkos comes to us as a beautifully wrapped gift from Hashem, right when we can use some pampering. Having just completed an exhaustive round of appeals to our Father in heaven to forgive our iniquities and grant us yet another chance to prove ourselves worthy of His beneficence and mercy, we emerge as newborns – clean and pure and free of the stain of sin.
An infant upon birth is immediately swaddled in blankets to protect it from the sudden change in temperature of its new confines. At the conclusion of Yom Kippur we are forgiven our transgressions and likened to a newborn; hence Hashem protects us with the sukkah, shielding our newly acquired holiness from becoming sullied by the vulgarities that surround us.
How apropos to celebrate a new beginning by inviting our elite leaders, our role models from time immemorial, to join us in the Sukkah. Enter the Ushpizin (Aramaic for guests) – the seven holy shepherds who blazed the trails for us to walk in, whose merits we invoke for our benefit at every turn in life.
The luminaries that comprise the Ushpizin are Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and Dovid, each representing one of Hashem’s divine attributes and each possessing a spiritual essence uniquely his own, along with the combined middos – the character traits – of them all.
Avraham Avinu represents the divine attribute of chesed (kindness) and is the epitome of the perfect host. He has served as our model for the mitzvah of hachnassas orchim ever since he invited the angels to “sit under the tree.”
According to a fascinating midrash, it is as a result of this gesture that Avraham’s children were rewarded with the mitzvah of sukkah. Shedding light on the correlation, the Zohar teaches that Avraham Avinu’s intent when inviting the malachim to rest beneath the tree was to teach his guests (the angels disguised as mortals) that one is to place Hashem before him always. The seven days during which we are commanded to sit in the sukkah correspond to the human lifespan of seventy years – during which time our every act and deed, physical or spiritual in nature, is to be done l’shem shamayim, for the sake of heaven. (Alshich HaKadosh)
Yitzchak Avinu represents the divine attribute of gevurah (strength). Who can possibly begin to fathom the remarkable strength of a young man who had allowed himself to be bound by his father, in readiness to be offered as sacrificial lamb to God per divine instruction? Their complete submission to the will of Hashem attests to both father’s and son’s unerring faith in their Creator. Their actions have spoken for all eternity and have achieved atonement for our weaknesses and failings time and time again.
Yaakov Avinu is aptly accredited with the divine attribute of tiferes (beauty). By integrating the qualities of his father (gevurah) and his grandfather (chesed), Yaakov managed to achieve the perfect blend of character traits to qualify him as progenitor of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Following Yaakov’s defeat of Eisav’s ministering angel, Hashem named him Yisrael – which contains the words yashar (straight, upright) and Kel (one of God’s names), thus validating Yaakov’s uprightness in his service of Hashem.
Moshe Rabbeinu, whose legacy lives on in teachers of Torah throughout the generations, personifies the divine attribute of netzach (eternity). The mere mention of Moshe Rabbeinu invokes the trait of humility. Yet if he was truly “more humble than any man on earth,” how is it that he did not have an issue with being summoned to ascend to the top of Mount Sinai to accept the Torah as an intermediary between God and the Jewish nation? Shouldn’t he have protested “Who am I to go…?” as he did when Hashem told him to approach Pharaoh?
Moshe knew Hashem had chosen the smallest mount for Mattan Torah and rationalized that it was fitting for him, as the smallest Jew, to be mekabel the Torah on the smallest mount. (Kedushas Levi)
Aharon HaKohen, bestowed with the majesty of the kehunah by the Almighty Himself, represents the divine attribute of hod (glory). The role of kohen gadol was most suitable for Aharon, whose love for his fellow man was legendary. He was close to the people and genuinely took their troubles to heart. As one who took upon himself the tza’ar of Klal Yisrael and constantly prayed that their burdens be lightened, he was the perfect candidate to wear on his heart the choshen – the breastplate that depicted the twelve tribes of Israel via precious gemstones set upon the woven square. (Be’er Mayim Chaim)