(photo credit: Matthew Wagner)
One of the many great advantages of commemorating Succot here in Israel is the
ease and ability that one has to sleep in the succa. Coming from the freezing
climes of Chicago and Monsey in the United States the ability to sleep in the
succa was almost always negated by the inclement weather. Many a bowl of soup
congealed on my family and I while eating all bundled up in the succa in those
years. When I was a rabbi in Miami Beach the weather was also too inhospitable –
tropical humidity, assorted insects, lizards and bugs and the presence of brief
but always omnipresent rain showers of some intensity – to allow for any
comfortable rest at night outside of the air-conditioned bedroom.
here in Jerusalem none of these factors exist and I therefore am able to sleep
blissfully, or at least normally, in my balcony/porch/pergola succa. And I am
really grateful that I am able to do so for it gives me a heightened sense of
the wonder of the holiday of Succot. Succot represents many things and like all
Torah subjects it is many layered. It is about history – our sojourn in the
desert after leaving Egypt – and nature, since it is the bountiful harvest
holiday of the year. It is about the recollection and commemoration of our
Temple service with our recitation and participation in the ceremony of hoshanot
in our prayer service.
It is about water and rain, the one blessing that
we must have to live comfortably. It is about nature and beauty, the
species of fruit and plants that are such a central commandment to our
appreciation of the holiday. But to me at least it is mostly a holiday
perhaps even more than are the days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
is a great hassidic legend about a man who wanted to see a person who
wealthy. He went to his rebbe and asked for directions to find such a
The rebbe sent him to a small village and told him to find a certain Reb
and to stay the night with him. Arriving in the decrepit village the
eagerly searched out Reb Itzik. He was ushered into a ramshackle hut
only straw for mattresses and broken wooden boxes for furniture. “Surely
rebbe must have been mistaken sending me here,” he thought to himself.
very uncomfortable night spent on the straw-covered floor and a very
breakfast of hard bread and tepid water, the visitor in desperation
host: “Reb Itzik, I heard you are a very wealthy man. Where is your
can you live under such circumstances as these?” Reb Itzik replied: “Oh,
a great mansion with untold wealth located not far away. But pray tell
and of what type is your home?” The visitor replied: “Oh, I live in a
brick house with many comforts. But naturally when I am traveling I make
whatever accommodations are offered to me.”
Reb Itzik replied: “My
mansion is in Heaven, in immortality, in my generations that are yet to
Here, I like you am only a traveler, so I also make do with whatever I
hand. My brother, we are all only travelers.” The visitor returned to
and thanked him for showing him a truly wealthy man.
Sleeping in the
succa, outside of my comfortable but only temporary living quarters,
gives me a
sense of faith that I can build for myself a truly magnificent mansion
untold wealth not far away. Here in the succa I gladly make do with
have in hand. But I am comforted that by living even only for a week in a
open to the elements and unpredictability of life and events themselves I
concentrate on my true mansion and wealth – on spirit and family and
and ancestors and hope and service to God and humans. Our national succa
withstood all of the elements and all of the evil that the world
contains and it
still stands. It may wobble at times but it still stands. It still
because of the mansions that we build constantly for us and all of
far from here in the Jerusalem that hovers above our earthly Jerusalem.
all but travelers but that fact should not cause us discomfort or fear.
are all truly wealthy and that is the Torah’s great gift to us.