September 27, 2007
Sukkahs are for sleeping
Sukkot reminds us of precariousness of Jewish history and improbability of our survival
(Page 2 - Previous Page)We learn that all these exist within God's world but also within each of our individual souls. By meeting the ushpizin, we ultimately meet the selves we were meant to be.
Perhaps most extraordinarily, we learn that the names attached to these different facets of divinity are those of human beings. In Judaism this is not sacrilegious, but essential. Human beings can get things so right that they become the most effective way of conveying to others what God is about.
In the course of many years of sleeping in the sukkah, the experience has never stayed the same. In the earlier years, it was just myself and the older boys, and even then we would lose an occasional candidate to middle-of-the-night second thoughts, resulting in someone wandering indoors to the safer company of his mother. The next major accomplishment was achieving a critical mass for vigorous pillow fights with multiple combatants.
As the number of guests attached to our household grew as well, we got to the point that we had to move tables and chairs from what was one of the larger sukkot in the neighborhood in order to cram in more and more side-by-side mattresses. With some doubling up of the smaller children, I think our record was 12 people, all peaceably snoozing in the presence of the Divine. (There is poetic justice in this for those who have felt guilty for dozing off during the rabbi's sermon. On Sukkot, falling asleep actually becomes a mitzvah!)
By now, we've added the third generation, as the married kids come back with their own children, all of us sharing the experience. Without putting the feelings into words, we have all lived with the sensation of being both vulnerable and invincible. We are out there, exposed, thrust out of the cocoons we build for ourselves.
The ramshackle dwelling in which we spend the days and nights of Sukkot reminds us of the precariousness of Jewish history itself and the improbability of our having survived so long. But we are equally aware that we did survive and that we are protected by something much stronger than walls and roofs.
There is no sleep quite as sound as lying in the embrace of the Creator, feeling far more protected than in the company of Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and holds the Irmas Adjunct Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at Loyola Law School
1 | 2