Thursday, February 20, 2020 -
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A sukkah’s dispensation

What is more significant, a fine deed or its supposed meaning? Take the giving of charity. It is deemed by Judaism to be of supreme importance. It saves lives. It puts food on the table. It advances worthy causes. It sustains the study of Torah. But when one writes out a check, is one thinking of all that? Usually not. The deed itself, the check-writing, is more significant than the meanings attached to it.

With the holiday of Sukkot, it is just the opposite. With the sukkah — the wood-covered hut that is the centerpiece of Sukkot — the meaning trumps the deed.

One sits in a sukkah, a simple act. The meaning is enveloping and inescapable. Departure from the warmth of the home drenches one in difference. The weather is usually cool. The comfort, less. For all its visual delight, the sukkah usually requires tolerance of some discomfort. The sukkah is one of only three commandments in the Torah performed with the whole body (the other two being mikveh and residence in the Land of Israel). The conditions of sitting in this fragile hut, built according to specification, coerce the contemplation of its meaning.

The construction of the first sukkah in the desert of Sinai thousands of years ago marked the reappearance of G-d’s “Clouds of Glory” to the Jewish people after the disastrous incident of the Golden Calf. G-d returned His presence to the Jewish people through the medium of the sukkah. His presence then, as now, was patterned after His revelation at Sinai, a singular moment whose experiential holiness needed not to end.

Body. Glory. Revelation. These are the meanings captured in the sukkah. When is one ready for this elevation and exaltation? After Yom Kippur, following the washing away of the spiritual stains. It flows as the day from the night that the prepared, post-Yom Kippur soul is open to new levels of awareness. Of sukkah awareness.

Enjoy these precious moments — the rest of the Sukkot holiday.

Mo’adim le-Simcha!

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