October 21, 2016
I have lived in the same location for over two years, yet only recently did I pay attention to the build up of dust on the baseboard of our home. It has been gathering for some time but amidst the important matters of daily life I always chose to walk by, oblivious to its presence. In the absence of a reminder, it is easy just to walk through life unconcerned or inattentive to our environs and those who habitate within.
Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin writes in her book The Tapestry Of Jewish Time, “What do we need to sense the love, caring and kindness that swirl around us? What do we need to imagine the desire of God? Can we know, see, and feel holiness all around us? From what wellspring do the motivations for our everyday deeds flow-from the pools of selfishness or selflessness or from the place where those deep pulsing waters converge?”
This week Jews everywhere are engaged in the celebration of Sukkot. A Sukkah is a small portable booth made of at least three often-flimsy walls and a ceiling comprised of cut branches or leaves. The holiday, often referred to as the “Jewish Thanksgiving” compels the Jew to leave the security and warmth of their home one week a year and take up residence in a Sukkah to eat meals or even dwell.
Rabbi Cardin notes, “Sukkot reminds us that ultimate security is found not within the walls of our home but in the presence of God and one another. . . This holiday helps us understand that sometimes the walls we build to protect us serve instead to divide us, cut us off, lock us in. The walls of the sukkah may make us vulnerable, but they make us available, too, to receive the kindness and the support of one another, to hear when another calls out in need, to poke our heads in to see whether anybody is up for a chat and a cup of coffee. In contrast, our walls of concrete and steel can enslave us in our own solitude and loneliness.”
The holiday of Sukkot is one of several annual reminders on the Jewish calendar of the metaphorical dust that collects due to inattention. In a world fashioned by ego and draped in narcissistic pleasure it is easy to see oneself as the hub of the universe, rather than a spoke. Dusting off a heart of indifference may reveal the kindness and love for family and humankind that dwells just beneath the surface. Sitting in the Sukkah, reveling in the marvel of nature causes one to take note of the Divine Creator who created us in his/her image, gifted us with life, and endowed us with one another.
And all this from within a small, flimsy booth called a Sukkah!
Rabbi Howard Siegel