Sunday was international Sukkah Building Day. Well, maybe that’s not a real holiday, but it should be. I’m watching the gradual transition of a pile of lumber into our Sukkah. Squirrels skip over it, and it looks like their weight might topple it. It’s fragile, and even when it’s done and decorated, it will still be pretty vulnerable to the elements.
There’s another transition at work, but it doesn’t feel quite as gradual. For the last ten days, we have been on an emotional, personal, introspective journey, focusing on vulnerability, as we reviewed our thoughts and actions; realizing how dependent we are on God and each other for our needs: health and happiness, a job, and forgiveness, packing it all in before those gates closed for another year.
And then Wham! Get out the dishes, break the fast, feed the family, clean up the dishes, and start inviting over company. I have three days to build the sukkah, and at the same time, totally change my outlook and focus and attention. Inward to outward. Individual to community. Self to guests. Welcome the crowd in and celebrate. Party at the Silvert Sukkah!
That’s quite a transition, and after a pretty intense experience, too. But we’re really only moving from an internal fragility to an external fragility. The sukkah is supposed to be open to the elements. There’s no real roof, and the sides are often burlap or tarps, maybe latticework or fabric. Pretty flimsy. The sukkah recalls both historical and agricultural sources. Bringing in the first harvests of the season meant living out in the fields, in temporary huts. Soon, the sages attached another meaning to the hut: it was what sustained us in our wanderings from Egypt to Canaan. Like the temporary structures we carried with us on that long and difficult journey, we also were open to the elements, vulnerable. But those little huts got us through the wandering, and we’re still here.
That’s the strange thing about vulnerability You’d think it would be that we would be walking around all weak and scared, but that’s now how it seems to work right now. We acknowledged our fragility during the Days of Awe, culminating on Yom Kippur, and hopefully came out the stronger for it. Similarly even though the sukkah itself seems really fragile, it has withstood being put up, taken down, stored, put up, taken down, stored, for thousands of years all over the world. Is a sukkah really that fragile? No, I think it’s as strong as the community that continues to build it. Chag sameach, have fun in a Sukkah this week.