The Sabbath of Sukkot
September 28, 2018
This Shabbat, many Jews all over the world will be having their Sabbath meals in a sukkah. A Sukkah is a temporary hut built, according to the Torah, so that we may “dwell” in it for the week of Sukkot. In Israel, even many secular Jews build a sukkah at the holiday! Tradition says that dwelling in a sukkah reminds of the wanderings of the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness when they were homeless and forced to live in temporary dwellings. Oddly enough, the commandment to dwell in sukkot (usually interpreted as eating in the sukkah, although many people actually sleep in them), often imposes a kind of hardship; however, the holiday of Sukkot is the only time mentioned in the Torah when we are COMMANDED to be happy! Since one of the rules of a sukkah is that it can’t have a solid roof . . . you must be able to see the stars through the roof, the rabbis asked, “How can you rejoice in your sukkah if it’s raining?” The answer? “If it rains enough to ruin your soup, you don’t have to stay in the sukkah!”
One of the major themes of Sukkot, of course, is “Shelter.” Tradition tells us that the Israelites of the Exodus (we could call them refugees, couldn’t we?) wandered 40 years in the desert and built their huts to shelter them from the elements. Refugees and shelter is certainly on our minds lately. We Jews have been refugees in search of shelter for so much of our history. But now, from our more comfortable and even lavish sukkas, we are aware of the civil wars, terrorism, and huge upheavals throughout the world, but particularly those countries in the Middle East where nothing can be taken for granted. We are reminded of the incredible need in our world for compassion. For shelter. For Peace. As we wish each other Shabbat Shalom – a Sabbath of Peace – let us meditate about those places where peace is nearly impossible to come by.