As we approach the holiday of Sukkot, after the High Holidays, the excitement and joy in the Holy Land is palpable. Nights are filled with the noise of families building their sukkot, and between the last few moments of school and work before the holiday, people are scurrying to purchase their lulav and etrog, and food to prepare for the holiday–these are busy and exciting times!
I want to share one amazing idea from the Talmud for sukkot.
There is a discussion about whether or not each individual needs to have their own sukkah for the festival, to which the Talmud replies: כל ישראל ראוים לשב בסוכה אחת (all of Israel is fitting to sit in one sukkah)
[BT Sukkah 27b.] This is an incredible statement of both unity and connection amongst the entire Jewish People.
I would like to suggest that after the “reset” of the Days of Repentance and the beginning of the new year, we each have a new opportunity both as to how we present ourselves, and how we choose to see others. Along comes the joyous holiday of sukkot, with it’s symbolism of unifying all types of Jews together through the lulav (I hope we will be able to discuss this at a later date!), as well as the idea of spending time together, visiting each other in the sukkah. This is an astounding statement of intention to include and engage with all other Jews.
13 years ago, when I was still a student in Yeshiva in Jerusalem, I would spend the week of Sukkot praying at the Kotel with friends, and visiting other friends around the city. One particular morning, I was leaving the Kotel and running a little late to arrive to my hosts who were expecting me for lunch. As I left the Old City, I decided to jump into a taxi so as not to further delay my arrival at my friend’s sukkah. As we drove down Emek Refaim, the taxi driver, who had no external signs of being religious, began to give me a very difficult time about the holiday of Sukkot.
“Do you really believe all this stuff? I mean with the lulav and dancing around??”
To which I replied,
“My dear friend, look around you–don’t you see how beautiful it is that the city is alive with celebrations! Both in people’s homes, and community wide fairs and festivals–this is what the festival is all about!”
“But do you really believe in all this silliness? I mean, if Gd even exists, is this what He would want??”
At which point, my driver turned off of Emek Refaim onto a side street that I did not think was bringing me closer to my friends. I was still relatively new in Jerusalem, and always excited to learn a new short-cut from the expert taxi drivers. But when he turned off the side street into an alley, and pulled behind an apartment building, I began to get concerned.
He pointed to the other side of the parking lot, “You see that over there?”
“OK. Yeah-” and I expected him to launch into another tirade-
“I built it with my son….”
Friends, Sukkot is an amazing time of unity and connection. May we merit to taste a little bit of the possibility of this holiday by spending it together with friends, family, and those who are not yet friends! If you find yourself in the Jerusalem area, please come and visit us in our sukkah!
The Hasidic master Rabbi Nathan (1780-1844, chief disciple and scribe of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov), teaches that one should fulfill the mitzvah of sukkah with the following kavanah:
“One should concentrate on being part of the entire people of Israel, with intense love and peace, until it may be considered as if all of Israel dwells together in one sukkah.”
Blessings to you, your family, the Jewish People and the entire world! Hag Sameach!