Succot Sevens

From: Mark in TX

Dear Rabbi,

I remember something about the occurrence of the number seven in connection with the Succot Holiday. Would you please refresh my childhood memory?

Dear Mark,

Succot occurs in the month of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the year. Like other sevens in Judaism, this indicates the elevated spiritual status of the holiday. It comes after Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, once we have repented, have been forgiven and have been granted continued life and prosperity. It similarly commemorates the Jewish People’s liberation from physical and spiritual slavery in Egypt and elevation to being G‑d’s chosen people.

Thus, our Sages (Lev. Raba 30:2) taught that our taking the four species is compared to one who was on trial and emerged victorious from the case. He leaves the court overjoyed, ecstatically raising his staff and other belongings in the air. So too, our confidence in G‑d’s merciful acceptance of our penitence ensures us a beneficial result from the judgment of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. We thus emerge from these days overjoyed with G‑d’s favor and ecstatically wave the four species in the air. These are also comprised of seven parts: one lulav, one etrog, three myrtle branches and two willows.

Also, the holiday itself has seven days. Our Sages encourage us to hospitably receive guests in the succah during the entire seven days of the festival. In this regard, the Kabbala teaches that among the earthy guests invited into the succah, there are seven spiritual guests who permeate the air of the succah as well: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. In fact, many recite a special service “inviting” these honorary guests each night before the meal. Although all of these spiritual guests are present every day of Succot, each day features one above the others. The seven days and seven guests, called “ushpizin”, also correspond to the seven lower sefirot: Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut.

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