I have often been struck by the similarity between the sukkah and the chupah. Both of the structures are temporary and most traditionally made of organic materials. Before fabric became the covering of choice, the wedding canopy was usually woven from branches, just at the sukkah is covered with something growing that was cut from the ground.
Beyond the physical similarities, the symbolism of each is parallel to the other. The chuppah represents the new household created in Israel, the first place bride and groom inhabit. It is meant to call to mind the bridal chamber, to which the couple escapes after the public ceremony, and the home they will then make for themselves. The sukkah represents the first independent dwellings of the liberated slaves. It is meant to call to mind the homes the Israelites would establish for themselves upon arriving in the Promised Land, and the booths used during harvest time, a symbol of sustenance and plenty.
With all these obvious parallels, one more should be apparent. Bride and groom enter the chupah in intimacy. The declaration, “Behold, you are consecrated to me by this ring in accordance with the tradition of Moses and Israel” is a statement that elevates the relationship of the bride and groom from romantic love to holiness, set apart from all others yet bound up in community.
Our communal and individual relationship with God is, in many ways, consummated in the sukkah. God has taken us in, spreading over us the shelter of God’s peace. It becomes our dwelling place for the duration of the holiday to remind us of the holiness of our connection, set apart from all others yet unmistakably a part of the community of humanity.
For that reason, I love to davven in the sukkah, following the Ashkenazic custom of wearing tefilin during the intermediate mornings. There is something uniquely appropriate in reciting the verse from Hosea as the strap is wrapped around my fingers: “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in justice and judgment, in love and compassion; I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and you will know the Lord.”
It’s honeymoon every year.