Our Gemara on Amud Beis quotes the famous dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva about the meaning of the Scripture’s  description of Succos:

As it is taught in a baraisa that the verse states: “I made the children of Israel to reside in sukkos ”; these booths were clouds of glory, this is the statement of Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Akiva says: They established for themselves actual sukkos.

The Peri Tzaddik (Succos 13) wonders, according to Rabbi Akiva, what significance should we assign to the huts? So, the Jews made huts in the wilderness? Nu? What else should they do? Furthermore, the verse’s grammar doesn’t work well according to Rabbi Akiva. The verse states, “I made the children of Israel reside in booths.” If they were clouds of glory, then we can understand that God is having “made them reside…“ As this was something coming from God. However, if they were at the actual building of huts, in what way did God “make them“ reside in Huts? They built huts because they were travelling and camping out as many travellers would do.

The Peri Tzaddik explains that there were two kinds of enlightenment the Jewish people experienced in their emergence from bondage in Egypt. There was an inner enlightenment and an outer enlightenment.  Inner enlightenment came from the matzah as this represents a purification of the inner drives and preventing internal “leavening”. The building of Succahs, which the Jews voluntarily took upon themselves even though it was not yet the holiday nor a command, was to continue the process by drawing an outer enlightenment. The Succah symbolizes the outer enlightenment because it surrounds the person, unlike the matzah, whose lack of fermentation is internal. 

How can we define internal and outer enlightenment? This is my opinion, but it rings true to me. There are two ways to be close to God. One way is by going inward, our soul which is described by our tradition as a part of God (see for example Tanya, Part One, Sefer Benonim 2), is a way to see and find God. This is the internal enlightenment.  However, obviously God is completely other and external to us, and so another way to find God is by experiencing His emanations and representations that come from the outside into us. That is the outer enlightenment.

This kind of metaphysical discussion has practical application. In our path toward dveykus we can and should realize that inspiration can come from within and from without. There are things that we can learn by reaching deep into our soul and our inner awareness, but there are also things that we can receive somehow through divine emanations.


Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation cool.)