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Home > Holidays > A comforting sukkah

A comforting sukkah

Staff Writer
October 13, 2000

The High Holidays are always surprisingly meaningful for me. I enter each year prepared for renewal and repentance, and actively work towards that. Although these are a few of the most important days in the life of a Jew, it is just a brief window of time. We all get on with life, and while we hope that we will soften our steps for the coming year, it's simply impossible for everyone to be perfect.

My son Vajih and I take great care in deciding the perfect place to build our Sukkah every year. We always try to have visual balance with the surroundings, yet encourage natural placement. The marriage of the structured frame with the organic elements brings a living breeze through the walls during Sukkot.

As we assemble the pieces of our Sukkah, I am once again touched with the perfection within imperfection. Bent and worn, scratched and dull, beat up and weathered, they somehow still chink and fit together beautifully. Before we know it, the Sukkah is up, and we are standing in unison within this crude skeleton support.

In spreading the wire mesh walls, we tie everything together, binding our New Year's self-reflections into the visible framework of our creation. Weaving in fruits and vegetables in improvised and impulsive patterns brings forth our unpredictable mortal nature. Spreading out the branches on the roof, the dependence upon HaShem (God), gently covers and fills the space.

Perhaps, for me, the most meaningful tangibility is the bouquet of the Four Species. The willow is a twig with neither scent nor taste, represents the Jew who doesn't study Torah and does no mitzvot (good deeds). The myrtle, a stem with scent but no taste, represents the Jew who does mitzvot but does not study Torah. The palm, a branch with taste, but no scent, is the Jew who knows Torah, but performs no mitzvot. The perfect, unblemished etrog is the ideal Jew-one who studies Torah and who does mitzvot.

All kinds of branches, all kinds of Jews, join together in a ritual action bringing unity to the four directions, the earth and HaShem. Performed within flimsy, organic walls, full of mortality and unique life over which we have no control, covered by the shelter and flowing breath of HaShem. Our very dwelling for this week unites everything that makes us who we are-as individuals, as a family and as a people. If one element is missing-if one kind of Jew is not present, it could not be possible.

It is so fitting that we dwell within the Sukkah this week and that our lives take place in a structure of complex completion. Perhaps a more meaningful prayer at this time of year is not a Yom Kippur hope to not repeat our previous year's actions that could have been better. Perhaps it is a prayer that we dwell for an entire year, joined together with all kinds of Jews, surrounded with our mortality yet covered and embraced by HaShem's glinting protection and divinity.

Deut. 16:14 calls us to "rejoice on your holiday - you, your family, your servants, the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow" I hope my son and I "dwell in this space" throughout our year.

Copyright ©, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.

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