Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Eliezer, Succot, and the Enneagram

For those of you who know me well, you may know I study a personality typing system known as the Enneagram. To learn more about it go to enneagraminstitute.org, or, for a "Torah perspective," try the book "Awareness" by Miriam Adahan.   I will come back to the Enneagram a bit later.

The central mitzvah regarding living in a succah is found in the Torah:
You shall dwell in booths seven days; all who are Israelites born shall dwell in booths; That your generations may know that I made the people of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 23:42-43)
The Tannaim disagree about what these booths were:
These were clouds of glory, so R. Eliezer.  R. Akiba says, They made for themselves real booths. (Succah 11b)
The Rishonim also disagree.  Ramban and Rashi favor Rabbi Eliezer's opinion.  Ramban brings the following prooftext:
Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter (succah) and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. (Isaiah 4: 5-6)
Rashbam and Ibn Ezra favor Rabbi Akiva's opinion.  Rashbam writes the following on Lev. 23:42-23:
“You shall keep the feast of booths seven days, after you have gathered in from your threshing-floor and from your winepress.” (Devarim 16:13). [Succot is celebrated] upon your gathering the produce of the land and when your houses are filled with the best of grain wine and oil, so that you will remember “I made the Israelites to dwell in booths” (Lev. 23:43). [They dwelled in booths] In the wilderness 40 years and they did not settle the land and they had no inheritance. And out of this [experience of returning to sit in booths each year], you will give thanks to the One who gave you an inheritance and made your houses filled with goodness.
For Rashbam, the succot we sit in today (and those that our agricultural ancestors sat in) remind us of the actual succot we lived in when wandering in the desert for 40 years after the exodus from Egypt.  Rashbam suggests that the festival of succot is a time when it is easy to rest on our laurels and celebrate the work of our hands, forgetting to be thankful for our blessings.

The Taz  (OH:625) teaches that the entire meaning of the mitzvah of sitting in the succah changes depending on what we believe the succot to be a remembrance of.  According to the clouds of glory opinion, he says, the essence of the mitzvah is remembering the miracle of Israel being encompassed by the clouds of glory, and matter of the exodus is merely a secondary matter found in many mitzvot.  According to the view of actual booths, the essence of the mitzvah is remembering the exodus from Egypt.   (The Taz was Rabbi David ha-Levi Segal, c. 1586-1667, also known as the Turei Zahav, after the title of his significant halachic commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, and was one of the greatest Polish rabbinical authorities).

Moving to modern times, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld who wrote Jewish Holidays brings the two Tannaitic opinions into clearer relief.
Rabbi Eliezer sees the necessity to remember a special time, at the beginning of the Jewish people's relationship to G-d, when we were fed and sheltered by the Holy One....Sukkot is to remind us of that time and urges us to recapture the sense of G-d's sheltering presence....Akiba on the other hand, is concerned that we are too secure in our shelters and need to recapture some of the sense of insecurity that comes from being wanderers.  It is not the importance of shelter but its problematic nature that is his focus.
When we find different opinions among chazal, sometimes we try to reconcile them so that they don't contradict one another.  Other times, we let the differences remain, especially when it is not a matter of Jewish law.  And while there is room to argue that halachic compliance with the mitzvah requires a proper kavana, there is not a tremendous amount at stake if we don't know precisely which opinion to follow here.  Even if we focus on the fact that we are fulfilling a mitzvah given in the Torah, especially if we keep the pasuk in mind, this is probably sufficient halachically.  But is it sufficient spiritually.

I have always been of the mind that different people need different spiritual messages in their lives.  One of the many beautiful things about Judaism is that it allows us to choose from a variety of approaches.  Sometimes we even need different messages at different times in our lives.

Returning to the Enneagram, this could relate to our soul-root or put in a different language, personality type.  Some types need reassurance and need to grow in faith that G-d / the community/ our our inner guidance/ will support us in difficult times.  Other types tend toward arrogance and need reminding that their success isn't all of their own doing.  I am not going to to suggest the different Ennegaram types and what they might need.  That is outside of the scope of this drash.  I will ask you, however, to ask yourself:  Which message do you need to hear this year?  Are you in a state of insecurity, needing to be reassured?  Or do you tend towards a more complacent attitude, and you need to be reminded to be grateful?  Whichever it is, I encourage you to find meaning in your mitzvah this year, as you enjoy your succah.  Wishing you all an early Chag Same'ach.