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Sukkot – Dwelling in Trust

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 26, 2007


Torah Portion: Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44 & Numbers 29:12 – 29:16 Haftarah Zechariah 14:1-21

Focal point: Vayikra/Lev 23:34

“Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the Lord, [to last] seven days.”

“Sukkot reminds us that ultimate security is found not within the walls of our home but in the presence of God and one another. Indeed, there is a midrash that says that sukkot are not buildings at all but the glory of God. 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 our sukkot 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. Sukkot reminds us that freedom is enjoyed best not when we are hidden away behind our locked doors but rather when we are able to open our homes and our hearts to one another.” From Kolel

This ties in very nicely with what I quoted from Alcoholics Anonymous when I wrote about G-d, Promises and The Days of Awe:

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that G-d is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84)

On Yom Kippur we had a close encounter of the third degree with G-d during which we looked at who we are, what we have been and how to go on, and now on Sukkot we are asked to trust that G-d is going with us into the New Year, just like He went with the People during the forty years of wanderings in the desert. In fact we are to physically build that trust as we build the sukkah, and dwell in it for seven days, eat in there and invite our friends into our sukkah to share with us. And we are to visit others’ sukkot and share with them.

The sukkah is a fragile building, but as it is made of tree branches it is also resilient. It gives some protection from view, but that’s it. Trust is the same, it does give protection – inner protection – because when we trust, G-d, ourselves and others we build strength and wholeness, we learn to deal with the past, let go of it and move on with our Program trusting that G-d will care for us like He took care of our ancestors.

In one of our Bed Time Prayers we say: “Spread over us Your Sukkah of peace, direct us with Your good counsel, and save us for Your own Name’s sake.”

There are many versions of this line – some have say “wings” others say “presence” – but I like this version best, because it indicates something tangible, a structure, and since it’s G-d’s it’s constant, it’s always there for us, to take shelter in and learn more about what trust and wholeness is.

Amen

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6 Responses to “Sukkot – Dwelling in Trust”

  1. What I like about Judaism….I wrote taking the opposite view, that the sukkah shows how flimsy is God’s protection and how we have to look out for ourselves and each other instead of relying on God!

    To me that’s the best thing with being Jewish, the same story can teach multiple lessons, opposite lessons, and yet somehow they can all be valid.

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  2. “To me that’s the best thing with being Jewish, the same story can teach multiple lessons, opposite lessons, and yet somehow they can all be valid.”

    I agree. I just finished writing the Dvar Torah for Bereshit, and was surprised how easily it bent to my mixing Torah with 12 Step Recovery – it will be published on Thursday. Next year I’ll have another angle – and I still have a multitude of ideas on the rest of Bereshit, such as the unfair deal Chava got, or how G-d asked the Animals to provide part of Human in the creation of Adam… When do I write those? Where?

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  3. I hear you. I still haven’t gone back and written a post I started the other day. Too many holidays this time of year. I guess there will be other times. I’ve got all these ideas though….

    I’m very curious now. You can’t keep me waiting. How God asked the animals to provide part of Human in the creation of Adam? You have to tell me about this! Now!!!

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  4. The idea isn’t mine – it belongs to Rabbi Harold Kushner

    Gen 1:26 And God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’

    Harold Kushner suggests that the PLURAL in v.26 expresses the idea that G-d asked the animals to pitch in their specific nature – instinct, basic physical needs, etc, and that He pitched in His specific Nature – spirit, metaphysical needs.

    I like it because it solves two problems – it shoots down any “you know who claims”on Bereshit, and it gives animals an elevated status – and would explain the basic idea about taking care not to abuse animals.

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  5. Thanks. It is an interesting view. Sorry to pull this away from your original post, but….

    If we got part of our nature from animals and part from God, does that mean part of us is removed from God? Does that mean God doesn’t contain all that we contain?

    Or is it just that God asked the animals for input and they got to help decide what characteristics they and God both have that man should have as well?

    I’ve had my fill of ‘you know who’ types today already. I have no problem with ones who are tolerant and interested in Judaism. We have good conversations, their comments can motivate me to learn more, look at things from new angles, but the others….what a waste of time….

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  6. I always understood that the animals provided the animalness, physical, biological parts and G-d provided the non-biological parts. That would explain how we can be made in G-d image and still be biological beings.

    I never saw animals as removed from G-d, as they, like angels cannot violate Torah.

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