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The Time of Our Joy

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Sukkot reminds us what is truly important.

If you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island and could only take one thing, what would it be?

"My shampoo!" declared one of our guests. "A boat," shouted another.

We were sitting in our sukkah, trying to get the feeling of the holiday. As we move outside and leave the sturdy comforts of our home, one of the goals is to recognize that we put too much reliance on the physical trappings of our lives (don't get between a girl and her shampoo!), instead of where it really belongs -- on the Almighty.

In the sukkah we have everything we need (although perhaps a good case could be made for indoor plumbing). We are free to focus on our relationship with God. We need the sukkah to teach us this lesson, to give us this opportunity.

All those things that seemed so important seem to fade in the lights of the sukkah.

When we look around our homes, there's always something we need to repair or remodel (especially if your house is 80 years old and starting to show its age). In an absurd twist on the idea that one mitzvah leads to another, one home renovation certainly does. Now that the room is painted, those old blinds must be replaced. And the comforters... It's a never ending trap. My children have a book "It All Began with a Doormat" that perfectly illustrates this concept.

We need to separate. The sukkah gives us both physical separation and emotional distance. All those things that seemed so important seem to fade in the lights of the sukkah (it's too dark to even see those expensive shoes!). There is beauty and there is peace.

It seems ironic that we, who are the most conspicuous consumers ever, should find peace in the simplicity of an outdoor hut. But we do. It's a place where all that striving for more, all those desires for more, hold no sway.

Sukkot is also called the time of our joy. Our sages teach us in Ethics of the Fathers that "the more property, the more worries." In the sukkah, there is no property to worry about -- although I don't want those cute school projects to get ruined and I do wish the kids would shut that door! It is all God. And all joy. And one bottle of really good shampoo.

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