Growth. This one word, idea, aspiration, is the entire foundation on which Succos is built.
Unsurprisingly, all the mitzvos of Succos revolve around things which grow from the ground. Schach must be made from something that grows from the ground, and all four species (lulav, esrog, hadas, and aravah) obviously grow from the ground as well.
So we see that the common denominator for all the mitzvos of Succos is growth!
This common denominator is the perfect one with which to begin our avodah for the new year, to help us face the challenge of becoming the person we promised ourselves and Hashem we would try to become.
But how does one grow? With the mitzvos of Succos Hashem is teaching us the perfect model for growth:
The esrog teaches us to take the fruits of our labor from the year before, and bring them into the new year. We must not forget the trials and tribulations, triumphs and victories that we had last year. They are the foundation for this year’s growth.
The lulav, which comes from the palm tree, grows pointing straight up. So too, our growth should be pointed towards Hashem, and not down towards us. We are not growing to gain honor, we are growing to become better Jews for Hashem. We must strive to do everything for the sake of Heaven.
The hadas is seen as a chain; all three leaves need to be connected to the next three leaves forming what chazal describe as a chain. We, as the Jewish nation, are all linked to our ancestors. We cannot grow or do anything that does not follow in their path. We must make sure we remain connected to the three-thousand-year-old chain that links us to matan Torah. This is especially pertinent as our modern culture is full of liberal love filled ideals that seem to fit with our own emotions. But these ideas need to be looked at through the lens of a Torah perspective!
The aravah grows only with an ample supply of water. Chazal understand that water is a euphuism for Torah. In order to grow properly we need to be surrounded by Torah. Whether that means listening to a shiur once a week, picking up a sefer and delving in ourselves, or encouraging your husbands to learn, we need to surround ourselves with the wellsprings of Torah.
Finally, there is the succah. Chazal explain that one of the main reasons we dwell in this “temporary hut” is to show our bitachon in Hashem. The flimsy building of a succah does not really protect us from the outside world. The time we spend in the succah is supposed to bring us to the realization that only Hashem can protect us. We see from the succah that the real way to grow is through sheer emunah (belief and loyalty) and bitachon (trust) in Hashem. When we base all our actions on the realization that Hashem is The One in charge, and we trust His decisions with a full heart, we are finally able to grow and fulfill our potential.
May we all merit to learn from the mitzvos of Succos and have a year of growth.