One of the most exciting aspects of Yom Tov is the preparation during the days beforehand. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like schlepping, shopping, and cleaning. But I love the atmosphere, the frenzied feeling that Yom Tov is in the air.
Conversely, the cleanup after Yom Tov is always sad. Dismantling and putting the succah back into the garage where it will remain for the next eleven months is a tremendous letdown. The same holds true for putting away the Pesach dishes after Pesach. Sure, everyone is excited to eat that first bit of chometz, but it is with a tinge of sadness that the beautiful holiday of Pesach is over. There are even many women who admit that, despite the fact that they are relieved not to have cook again, they miss the ambiance and festive atmosphere of Yom Tov.
I always feel that the end of Succos is harder than the end of Pesach, because when Pesach ends spring is only beginning, and Sefiras HaOmer is well underway, in our journey towards Mattan Torah. The conclusion of Succos, however, marks the onset of the colder part of the year. It will also be another six months before we have the opportunity to recite the uplifting Yom Tov Shemoneh Esrei, beginning “You have chosen us from all of the other nations, You have loved us, and found favor in us…”
To subdue some of that sadness, as I am putting the Yom Tov materials away, I like to think that I am essentially preparing for next year. As each succah board is piled upon the other, I try to imagine the excitement of taking the succah boards out again just a few weeks before next Succos, just like I felt a few weeks ago when I took out the succah for this year.
It is always amazing to think about how much has changed between when I put the succah away last year to this year.
This type of thought process is probably most acutely felt during Kol Nidrei, when the chazzan states that he is seeking to annul all vows – “From last Yom Kippur to this Yom Kippur, and from this Yom Kippur to next Yom Kippur.” [There are differing opinions about the text, but that is the generally accepted text.] The night of Yom Kippur is inherently a time of nostalgia and deep emotions, so mentioning the past and the future evokes even stronger emotions. It forces us to think about those who were here last year but are no longer with us, as well as those who were not here last year but are now.
This is especially true this year with the anxiety-provoking situation in Eretz Yisrael. No one could have predicted or dreamed about the current situation, and no one could know what the future holds. But we daven fervently that great days are coming.
More important than all the physical succos that we construct and dismantle each year, are the spiritual structures that we construct. The memories we create, the mitzvos we perform, the elevated feeling of closeness we have to G-d – those are never dismantled. They remain in our hearts and minds and infuse us with vivacity throughout the year. More than ever, we need to hold strong to the message of Succos – the message of faith and the knowledge that only He can truly protect us!