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Expressing Your Essence

September 24, 2015 | by Emuna Braverman

Two pivotal ideas about Sukkot.

Sukkot is here and there are two ideas I’m focusing on this year. The first is the importance – or lack thereof – of our external trappings. The holiday of Sukkot forces us to confront ourselves and try to determine who we really are. Stripped of our fancy or lived-in or shabby chic or whatever type of furniture we have, who are we? Without the statement made by how we decorated (or didn’t decorate) our home, what is our identity?

This is not as trivial as it seems. We use our material possessions to make statements about ourselves. When we walk into someone’s home, we look around to get a sense of who they are – are there books on the shelves? On what subject? Is there art? Of what ethnicity? Is there Judaica? Is there a flat screen TV? (How big is it?) All these objects are clues to the identity and priorities of the owner. Without these who are we? What are we projecting?

We are forced to fall back on our most basic self – just our personalities, our goals, our dreams, and our aspirations. We are forced to be real. This is certainly an important yet possibly intimidating exercise. We build a lot of walls and masks with our material goods. We keep the world at bay and our insecurities close. Moving into the sukkah and abandoning our furnished homes removes those barriers. We need to look at who we really are and we need to recognize that is the self we are revealing to the world.

It is intimidating and yet can be freeing at the same time.

Additionally, of course, the shopping and cooking and preparation are just tools to help get us into the mood of the holiday. Once we have drank our wine and eaten our gourmet repast, we are able to look around and say with a full heart (and a full stomach) that there is nothing else we need. Even if during the rest of the year we are preoccupied with interior decorating or upgrading the deadbolts on our doors, on Sukkot we let all that go. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We recognize that the Almighty has given us everything we need – a rickety table, some mismatched chairs, a mattress and a thatched hut. Everything else, all of our furniture and locks, just create the illusion of security. Our only real protection comes from the Almighty. Our only real trust should be in Him.

Like the holiday itself, these ideas are simple. And also like the holiday itself, these ideas require tremendous effort to truly internalize. But each year I like to think we can take a little step closer. Each year we can have a little more clarity. Each year we can define ourselves more by our essential essence and less by our external fixtures. Each year we can recognize that at this – and every – moment, I have exactly what I need. Nothing else is necessary.


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