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or many years, it has been our family minhag to begin the singing at our table on Leil Succos — that marvelous, magical first evening in Hashem’s abode — with a niggun for Zachreinu L’chayim from the Yamim Noraim davening. That choice of song expresses the idea that Succos is but a direct continuation of all that came before it in Elul and the first part of Tishrei.

After working to develop the beginnings of a relationship with our Dod during Elul, we arrive at Rosh Hashanah, which in turn ushers in a ten-day period of intense communion between the Divine and His creations, a singular time during which, in the Navi’s words, Hashem is “to be found,” available to respond immediately to our every entreaty, to grasp hold of even the faintest turn in His direction. These ten days devoted to teshuvah, which has the unique power to reach the Kisei Hakavod itself, culminate with our arrival on Yom HaKippurim at the very throne room of the palace.

All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing. From the merest buds of incipient reconnection in Elul a bonding has emerged that enables us to stand before G-d and speak openly and honestly of our shortcomings. But then, on the Tenth of Tishrei, the relationship ascends to even greater heights. We plunge headlong, as it were, into the Mikveh Yisrael Hashem.

Mikveh, of course, has two meanings, that of a pool of gathered water and a source of hope and reliance. The two, at root, are one. Full immersion in the all-enveloping waters of the mikveh returns us to a primal state of nullity of self and utter dependence on Another.

No wonder then that as the Yom Hakadosh reaches its concluding crescendo, the words we say are Hashem Hu HaElokim, a declaration that these two names, the one signifying the attribute of din and the other, rachamim, are indivisible. This is what bitachon is all about: The understanding that any supposed bifurcation of Divine justice and mercy is illusory, because the one G-d rules over all, and all He does is good.

The strongest form of bitachon is that which emerges organically from a preexisting relationship. A well-known gemara (Taanis 22a) about Nachum Ish Gamzu teaches that he was so named because throughout his life, no matter how difficult his straits, he would pronounce, “Gam zu l’tovah,” that “This too is for the good.”

We understand “zu l’tovah”; regardless of how it seems, it’s all good. What does “gam” add? That little word supplied the entire predicate for Nachum’s unshakable belief — nay, deep-seated knowledge — that however ostensibly bleak his situation, it was shot through with unfathomable chesed Hashem.

“This too is for the good” means this: That as I look around me — even just at me, my miraculously functioning body — I’m overwhelmed by the impossibility of cataloging even an infinitesimal fraction of the multifarious goodness filling the earth. I look behind me, at the Divine track record of what He has done for me (and not just lately) and for my ancestors recent and distant, and I’m struck speechless by the quantity and complexity of it all.

And then I know that gam zu, now too, it must be so. It’s not a wishful belief. It cannot be otherwise, because the overwhelming evidence of my own life experiences past and present and of every other creature that has existed testifies so. These experiences create something far deeper than rational, evidentiary knowledge; it is an experiential, relationship-based knowledge.

To trust in Hashem is to be, in the words of Dovid Hamelech, k’gamul alei imo, as an infant resting securely in its mother’s embrace. The Vilna Gaon writes that children merit greater Divine Providence than do adults because the young are naturally predisposed to pure bitachon. Still unsullied by sin and uncorrupted by the cynicism that life can engender, they see the world for what it truly is, in which G-d’s Hand is blindingly obvious.

From the moment of birth, a child possesses a bedrock, visceral certainty of his mother as the source of protection from all harm, of life-giving sustenance, of being his entire world. As the child grows, he may incur his mother’s displeasure, even absorbing from time to time a scolding or a chastening smack, from which he flees. But when just moments after that tongue-lashing, a dog barks menacingly or thunder roars, is it not into the arms of that same mother that the little boy runs? He doesn’t believe or hope she’ll save and soothe him  — he knows it, in the deeply innate way that flows from neither head nor heart but from the essence of their relationship. She is my mother, period; I have no questions.

In the very same way the Jew knows that zeh Keili, this is my G-d, period; I have no questions. He is, after all, Elokei avi, my father’s G-d, too, which means this relationship has been in the family for millennia. This, then, is the bitachon of Mikveh Yisrael Hashem, of immersing in the waters of Divine trust, born not of logic or emotion but of the intimate relationship we’ve hopefully worked to nurture in the preceding weeks.

After Motzaei Yom Kippur’s rousing send-off of “Hashem Hu HaElokim,” we pick up the thematic thread by making our way into the succah. This rickety shack is the ultimate expression of bitachon b’Hashem, and it too must somehow express the idea of Kol d’avid Rachmana l’tav that the words Hashem Hu HaElokim embody. And indeed it does. The numerical value of succah (+1) equals that of Elokim, and with the Sheim Hashem that comes to rest upon the succah (Succah 9a), those Names form together the unity of purpose conveyed by Hashem Hu HaElokim.

And like a mikveh, the succah is very much an instrument of bittul, of puncturing many illusions: one’s ego, the security of possessions and power, and physical reality itself. For a full week’s time, we decamp from our impervious, well-appointed homes to frail huts vulnerable to nature’s vagaries, driving home our utter dependence on our Creator’s ongoing and manifold kindnesses.

Yom Kippur’s mikveh and succah dwelling are the two fully immersive experiences in the course of the Jewish year, when we don’t perform a mitzvah so much as become subsumed within it. Both are the fulfillment of the commitment made just weeks ago of “Ani l’Dodi,” in which we pledged ani — our entirety — to our Beloved. We can’t live year-round in a mikveh, and so on Succos we begin to integrate Yom Kippur’s immersive experience into everyday life as it must be lived.

The Bukavsker Rav, grandson of the Bnei Yisaschar, noted another parallel between mikveh and succah: The concept of daas — the term Chazal use (Shabbos 30) to allude to Seder Taharos, the order of Mishnah addressing matters of purity, including mikveh — looms large on Succos. The Torah (Vayikra 23:43) describes the succah’s purpose with the phrase “L’maan yeid’u doroseichem — So that your generations will know that Hashem housed our ancestors in succahs.”

But, Chazal teach, Yisrael v’Oraysa v’Kudsha Brich Hu chad Hu — the Jew, the Torah, and Hashem are one. There must exist yet another form of immersive experience one can access when Yom Kippur and Succos are a distant autumn memory, and its name is Torah.

Enter Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. According to the Akeidas Yitzchak, the reason a person studying Torah in depth is exempt from dwelling in the succah (Succah 28b) is that while learning Torah he’s in a “succah” of his own making, hermetically sealed in an environment of hashraas haShechinah. On the last day of the spiritual odyssey that commenced in Elul, we leave the succah. As we take the Torah in our arms to dance the day away in circles, we come full circle.

And when it’s over, we sit down to learn, submerged in the mei hadaas, at one with Kudsha Brich Hu.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 728. Eytan Kobre may be contacted directly at kobre@mishpacha.com