What is a Sukkah? To fully understand it, let’s see the first reference to a Sukkah in the Torah: After surviving a threatening confrontation with his arch enemy Eisav, the Torah records the following: “And on that day Eisav returned on his way to Seir and Yaakov traveled to Sukkos and built for himself a house and for his cattle he made Sukkos therefore the name of the place is called Sukkos.” (Breishis 33:16-17) The verse is a little odd. Yaakov built himself a house (which sounds normal enough) but because he made Sukkos for his cattle the place was to become known as “Sukkos”. Is that the reason to name a place? The Ohr HaChaim answers, “Perhaps because he did something new by showing his compassion for the cattle…that he did something that no one had done previously… It was that novelty that caused that the place should be called so.”
This may help us to gain an insight into the essence of our Sukkos. After a near head on collision between two super-powers the Torah depicts Eisav going back home and to his old predictable ways. Yaakov, however, did something beyond the norm, outside his home. He didn’t walk away from his brush with death the same as he entered. Rather, he became better, and that’s what the Sukkah represents for us today – a chance for a fresh start to the new year, a chance to grow and express growth in new and creative ways.