Torah Thoughts: Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot 5779
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
A Fragile Sukkah, a Fragile Life
This week we are celebrating the festival of Sukkot. The main symbol of this festival is of course the Sukkah, the booth in which we live, or at least have our meals, for seven days.
If you build a sukkah every year, or if you ever built a sukkah in the past, you know very well that sometimes it is hard to keep your sukkah in good condition for seven days. Rain, wind and other climatic factors make it difficult to have the sukkah at the end of Sukkot looking the same way it did before Sukkot began.
The question is, should we feel bad because we cannot fully guarantee our sukkah will hold up during the festival? My answer is, not only should we not feel badly about it but, in fact, one of the most important lessons we learn during Sukkot is that nothing in this world is as strong and durable as it seems to be.
The Torah says, “For a seven-day period you shall live in booths. Every resident among the Israelites shall live in booths, in order that your [ensuing] generations should know that I had the children of Israel live in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God” (Leviticus 23:42-43).
The sages interpreted this to mean, “All seven days of the festival, each one should turn the sukkah into his permanent residence, and his house into the temporary one” (Mishna Sukkah 2, 9). During the year, our homes seem to be our “permanent residence.” They are usually well built and likely to stand bad weather conditions and other factors that may affect them. After living for some time in our homes, we may think we are very well protected and that nothing bad could happen to us. That would be a big mistake, because a person who thinks he is too strong and protected from any evil, can easily fall into selfishness. Only when we recognize how week we are can we understand that we may need help at any moment, and that we should help others for the same reason.
During Sukkot we make our sukkahs our “permanent residences,” and even the best designed and well-built sukkah looks fragile, unable to stand strong winds or too much rain. It is a good opportunity for us to remember that we are fragile creatures who live fragile lives. We need God’s help in this world, and we need other people’s help as well. We must be willing to help others when we can.
So, you already know, next time you see your sukkah and think how flimsy it looks, you can always try to strengthen it a little bit. However, please remember that during Sukkot we learn about how fragile our lives are. The sukkah should be fragile; that is its essence.
Shabbat Shalom and Moadim Lesimcha!