Yom Kippur has passed and we are entering the happy holiday of Sukkot. Do we really feel as though we were given a second chance? Do we actually understand that we were facing some terrible decree and because of the mercy of the Judge, we were let off the hook?
Perhaps we just go through the motions, one holiday after the other, thinking about what food to make and how to dress. Do we feel that we were in an actual courtroom filled with reporters, packed with people waiting to hear the outcome? A room filled with prosecutors just waiting for their turn to speak out? Did we sit in that courtroom with fear and trepidation of what our sentence would be? Did we cry and plead our case and beg for mercy and forgiveness?
Unfortunately, we do not feel these feelings as intensely as we should. If anyone has ever had to stand in a court of law for any purpose, let alone for a serious crime, I am sure that the atmosphere there was not relaxing and calming. The reality of being judged brings on a very harsh and uncomfortable feeling.
We go about our lives and don’t really take into account that we are being judged daily, that all our deeds are written down every second. True, it’s important to maintain a sense of normalcy in our daily lives; however, there are certain times of the year that it’s crucial for each of us to pay much closer attention to what our life is all about.
During this time of year, when Hashem decides what kind of year we will have, it’s of utmost importance that we recognize His mercy and kindness upon us – and realize how badly things could have turned out until now if G-d had not granted us all of the blessings of the world for another year.
Say a person is driving his car and for some reason he hasn’t paid attention to the fact that something is clearly wrong with the mechanics of the car. Suddenly, his car goes out of control and hits a pedestrian. The pedestrian is injured badly. As a result, the driver who hit him might be taken to trial. Obviously the injury wasn’t caused on purpose, yet it will take at least the next several months to find out what punishment this person might receive which will change his life forever.
The amount of time he will spend apologizing to the injured pedestrian, the money spent on attorneys, the anxiety of what can and will be, will be a constant part of his everyday life. He might have his license taken away temporarily. That already changes one’s daily routine, whether it’s taking buses or taxis or simply the reminder of the accident that is constantly there.
And when the time finally comes to have the verdict read out loud, one can just imagine how tense and scared this person will be to find out if his life will now go back to normal, more or less, or be changed for the worse. When the judge asks him to stand while the verdict is read, the person might barely be able to stand on his own, shaking and worrying what the next few moments will bring upon him.
If for whatever reason the judge decides to give this person a second chance – because he has mercy on him, because he sees how sorry he is, and how much he has changed since the incident – the judge might lessen his punishment, reduce or even erase all the charges. Imagine the excitement and overwhelming happiness that this person would feel at that moment. But not only at that moment – he will be walking on cloud nine for quite some time. He will also probably change many behaviors and thoughts he might have had before the whole incident, and really make a change in his life due to this horrible and intense period in his life.
Whether we have ever stood inside a real courtroom or not, and whether we have actually felt any of these feeling in our lives, this is the exact process that goes on with each and every one of us every New Year, when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur come around. Hashem in His merciful ways and endless love for us is always there, lessening our punishment for our various crimes, and granting us mercy and forgiveness even when we really don’t deserve it. Granting us a second chance to do the right things and follow the right path.
Therefore, the way we should feel right after Yom Kippur is ecstatic and elated that we were just saved from some terrible verdict. This happy feeling is the feeling with which we build our sukkah, the feeling with which we walk around all Sukkot as if we were just released from the courtroom and are free like a bird.
So with this reminder, let us build and enter our sukkah with the happiest feelings in the world, realizing how much love G-d has for us and how He saves us with His mercy time and time again.