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Shemos 12:37

וַיִּסְעוּ בְנֵי⁠ יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵרַעְמְסֵס סֻכֹּתָה כְּשֵׁשׁ⁠ מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף רַגְלִי הַגְּבָרִים לְבַד מִטָּף.

The Children of Israel travelled from Ramses to Sukkot, about six hundred thousand on foot, the men, excluding the little ones.

Mechilta dR Yishmael (ad loc) cites 3 opinions as to why it was called Sukkos:

  1. They dwelled in actual Sukkos there
  2. That was its name
  3. It's a reference to the clouds of glory that enveloped them there which can be called Sukkos

Opinions 1 and 3 are well known as the referents of vayikrah 23:42-43

בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים כׇּל הָאֶזְרָח בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשְׁבוּ בַּסֻּכֹּת. לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּ דֹרֹתֵיכֶם כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַׁבְתִּי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּהוֹצִיאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי י"י אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

This seems to indicate (most definitely according to the 2nd opinion) that the plain symbolic meaning of dwelling in Sukkos on the holiday of Sukkos is to remind us that God took us from Ramses to a place called Sukkos (a fascinating biblical pun) when He took us out of Mitzrayim with Sukkos essentially another celebration of yetzias mitzrayim.

Do folks concur?

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  • If it were true, it would be interesting to know why the Gemara only cited (from Tannaim) 1 & 3 - presumably they held that the pun wouldn't be a good enough reason
    – AKA
    Commented Jan 16 at 22:12
  • @AKA Seen in this light, 1 as well presumably understands the pesukim in the same vein, perhaps even 3 as well. Altho in 3 it (the vayikrah pasuk) may be referring to the underlying ananim . .
    – Nahum
    Commented Jan 16 at 22:40
  • R' Fohrman says yes. alephbeta.org/video/sukkot-meaning-why-we-celebrate/…
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 16 at 23:45
  • Didn't we have this question once?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 16 at 23:50
  • @IsaacMoses ty v kewl
    – Nahum
    Commented Jan 17 at 0:28

1 Answer 1

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An understanding from Masechet Sukkah might be that perceiving this world only two dimensionally (length and width, Sukkah 3b) is the concept of building one’s house in מצרים (Egypt). מצרים represents a false perception of independence apart from any divine power (the 3rd dimension of height, Sukkah 2a). This is because Egypt is a land that represents total physicality due to it attributing its strength to the Nile River which continuously irrigates its fertile delta. This is expressed by Pharaoh in Shemos 5:2 when he states: ויאמר פרעה מי יהוה אשר אשמע בקלו, Who is Hashem that I should listen to his voice? Therefore, מצרים represents a constricted perception of true reality.

Consequently, in addition to not being able to perceive spirituality or Hashem within the physical world, the concept of being enslaved to מצרים is one of living in bondage to our physical drives, while at the same time believing that we have the power within ourselves to independently obtain and fulfill our desires through hard work, intelligence, good health, high education, wealth, powerful connections, and etc. This is the inner concept of idolatry, where we perceive anything other than Hashem as having the power to provide our needs, to include ourselves. We have awareness, but not self-awareness.

Because of this, when the Torah tells us in Bereishis 47:27 that the Israelites settled in the land of מצרים… and acquired property in it, Rashi states that they built houses. And, the Kli Yakar adds that they no longer regarded themselves as sojourners but as permanent residents. Therefore, we were enslaved to מצרים in a constricted reality, steeped in its false idolatries. This is why Egypt is referred to as the “house of slavery” and also why the first place the Israelites journeyed to upon leaving Egypt was called Succoth, as Torah states:

אנכי יהוה אלהיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים מבית עבדים

I the LORD am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. (Shemot 20:2).

ויסעו מרעמסס בחדש הראשון בחמשה עשר יום לחדש הראשון ממחרת הפסח יצאו בני־ישראל ביד רמה לעיני כל־מצרים… ויסעו בני־ישראל מרעמסס ויחנו בסכת

… in plain view of all the Egyptians… The Israelites set out from Rameses and encamped at Succoth (בסכת, literally “in sukkahs”). (Bamidbar 33:3-5)

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