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The Sukkah's Connection

A unique divine shelter.

"You shall dwell in booths for a seven-day period: Every native among the Israelites shall dwell in booths [sukkot].” (Leviticus 23:42).

The Sukkah's Connection :

Remebering that our safety comes from Above.

By Claudia Dornbusch-Aumann

Unlike most of the other holidays on the Jewish calendar, "Sukkot" does not celebrate any significant event that had saved the Jewish people from great danger or changed the course of Jewish history; Neither commemorate an event that occurred on a particular date. Nothing of significance happened to the Jewish people on Tishrei's 15th.

So, what are we celebrating? Why is such a holiday relevant to us now?

The holiday of Sukkot celebrates the fact that after finally leaving Egypt, the Jewish people survived forty years in the desert living in huts that were, at all times, surrounded by G-d's presence.

These "Clouds of Glory" traveled with the Jewish people and protected them from all possible harm, helping them navigate and safely survive the long, fraught journey into the unknown.

Through all the way, G-d hovered over them, allowing them to feel safe, comforted, and, most importantly, believe that they were not alone. His presence was felt not only on a spiritual and emotional plane but a physical one as well: "He provided Manna (food) that fell from the clouds and water that emanated from the Well of Miriam." Everything was taken care of, every day, for forty years.

For seven days during this holiday, we recreate the desert experience and remember G-d's kindness by building a Sukkah and "living" in it. We eat all our meals in it and regard it as our "home." Even some people have the custom of sleeping in it.

So we ask, why is this "Mitzvah" chosen to name the holiday? Why does it represent what we will see, one of the most relevant and necessary messages today?

G-d, in all His wisdom, knew that we would forget one of the most life-changing and critical concepts that must guide our life: the fact that He is always present, that we are one with Him, and our real security and well-being can only come from Him as well, that everything that happens around us comes to us through His divine intervention.

Therefore, during this holiday, we are commanded to leave our homes' illusory permanence, the solid stone, bricks, and mortar of our houses that create the illusion of safety and move to a vulnerable hut.

We have the chance there to remove one of the most destructive delusions that block our ability to recognize and connect with the divine: the illusion that material security protects our vulnerability.

Built-in a three-sided structure, "The Sukkah" must rest completely under the unprotected open sky. Its roof made of branches or leaves must remain sufficiently open so that the stars stay visible.

Commanded to remain in this frail structure for seven days and nights, it is here that G-d knows we will be obliged to contemplate the fact that in truth, the strong, lavish, and supplied home that lies just feet away from us does not provide us our real security. The car we own and drive to work does not assure our success on the job. The clothes and jewelry we wear do not define our worth. Only G-d can provide us with the security that we need.

In moving from the material and permanent nature of our homes and made to "live" in a temporal and vulnerable space, G-d reminds us that we must see through the material and contemplate our true interdependence with Him. In essence, we must move our perspective, shift our way of looking at life.

The Sukkah reminds us that our security does not derive from the material. Safety comes from elsewhere – it comes from above.

It is through our experience in the Sukkah that we connect deeply with G-d, remembering that just as he took care of us while we were in the desert, also today, he takes care of us at every moment.

We understand that, in reality, we do not control our lives. Everything that we are, everything that we have – our health, our families, our relationships, our homes, our success, and material possessions – is only there because of Him. He takes care of us inside the comfort of our physical home, taking care of us while we sit outside in a flimsy hut. Sukkot – and the mitzvah of sitting in the Sukkah – celebrates this truth.

And in today's so stressful, hostile, and material world, nothing is more vital for us to contemplate and integrate into our daily lives.



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