The festival of Sukkot begins tonight (September 18th). Many Jewish Coloradans and their families and friends will find their way to physically sit, eat and/or sleep in a Sukkah this year. As with any ritual, the physical choreography is a way to directing the one observing the ritual to encounter an awareness of a spiritual reality. For many in Colorado – Jewish or not – I believe that the last week of rains and flooding have already opened their hearts and minds to an important spiritual reality related to building and dwelling in the Sukkah.
The recent flood waters devastated so many lives – destroying homes, businesses and taking lives. Across the spectrum of this impact were realizations by tens of thousands of people in Colorado that no matter how physically secure we feel, we are actually quite vulnerable. And in our vulnerability, we discover the true nature of our power and strength. This awareness is a fundamental intention of the mitzvah to build and dwell in a Sukkah. The 14th century Spanish scholar known as the Menorat HaMaor framed is this way: “The human being must leave his or her permanent home and move into a temporary abode that is devoid of wealth and security to remind her or him how deeply each person depends upon God.”
The Sukkah is a temporary hut. It is fairly sturdy for something that is supposedly easily put up and torn down. The Sukkah building at Micah every year seems to coincide with at least one good windy, storm. A couple of times in the past few years I arrived at Micah to see the Sukkah on its side, feet away from its original location. I think this uncertainty is part of the intended feel of the Sukkah. We get ourselves out of our comfortable and secure homes, erect these huts with almost open roofs and flimsy walls and spend our time within those walls and under that roof with those we love. If it rains (or even snows some years) we simply move our meal inside. Perhaps, though, for even a fleeting moment (or more if we are fortunate) we appreciate our blessings; acknowledge how little control we have over the forces of nature and where or upon whom our true dependence lies.
We build a Sukkah and dwell in it so that we understand where our dependence and strength dwells. So, when we realize the vulnerability in ourselves and in other – we know where to turn and we know when to help. As we dwell in our Sukkot this year – the ones in our yards or the ones in our hearts – let us turn to one another and help one another.