Sukkot is a busy holiday. We have to procure a kosher (ritually fit based on several factors) Lulav and Etrog (citron) and build a sukkah in which we will eat, relax, and sometimes sleep for the entirety of the holiday (7 days, unless it rains or snows). It is the holiday on which we march around the Synagogue with our lulav & etrog, while reciting prayers for rain in the proper season. A lot is going on and every element is full of meaning!
For example, what is the meaning of the sukkah? During our 40-year sojourn in the wilderness, Hashem surrounded us with clouds of glory to protect us from any enemies and/or elements of nature. Our Rabbis explain that we erect the sukkah in memory of those clouds and what they represented.
The sukkah by its nature is meant to be a temporary structure. The walls can be built out of wood, but also canvas or even plastic. Come a windy or cold day, you will feel the elements. Now couple this with the requirement to have a roof that allows you to see the stars at night, a setup that would certainly allow the rain to drip through, and you have a recipe for disaster!
What is the lesson that this mitzvah is trying to impart? It is meant to reinforce within our psyche that life is transient and that Hashem is the only real constant that we can rely upon to offer viable solutions. However, while we are beholden to Hashem, we must make our own efforts to do things properly. We can’t just rely upon miracles, sitting back and expecting Hashem to create an idyllic world for us. But, should all of our preparations come to naught, (e.g. we need to leave the sukkah) we are not supposed to be depressed/angry, but rather continue to serve Hashem with joy!
At times, things may not go according to one’s plans. Regardless of what one does, nothing seems to pan out. While Hashem has a specific plan for each individual, one doesn’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel. The mitzvah of Sukkah comes to remind us that Hashem sets up help along the way to alleviate our problems.
Examples that illustrate this concept abound in Torah. After the Jews emerged unscathed from the Red Sea, they complained that there was no drinking water available. Hashem told Moshe to throw a stick into the bitter waters that were present and miraculously the waters turned sweet and fit to drink.
Another incident was when the people complained that they had neither meat nor bread to eat. Once again, Hashem responded and sent them a daily portion of manna in the morning and quail at night. In both these cases, the people asked, albeit not always properly, for help, and Hashem answered them. Again, teaching that we need to ask before Hashem will solve our problems and provide for our needs.
I like to think that Jewish Family Services is part of the things that Hashem has set up to help when things don’t go according to your plans. Our aim is to be a temporary aid station. We are here to help. May it be through our virtual pantry, referral services, life coaching, etc., we are here for you when you need or want us, even if it is just wanting to talk to someone. Sometimes a fresh perspective or just a listening ear can do the trick.
Lastly, I would like to thank our anonymous donors and all who donated and made our Rosh Hashanah fundraiser a success. It is only through your generous donations that we are able to continue to serve our Jewish community!
Rabbi Fred Nebel
Jewish Family Services Director