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Sukkot: Leaving It All Behind

September 17, 2018 | by Emuna Braverman

Sitting outside beneath the starry sky, vulnerable to the elements, stop to think about how little we need in the material world.

When we were first married, we lived in an apartment in the Old City of Jerusalem. We shared a secluded courtyard with our three neighbors. One year at Sukkot time, we watched our neighbor build his “hut”. In went his air conditioner (it was hot and he wanted to be comfortable) and in went his television. Although I try to avoid being judgmental, I’m afraid I was – and am. I was appalled that he felt it necessary to bring his television into his sukkah. I think I could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps he had missed the point of the holiday.

Although we certainly decorate our sukkahs to enhance the experience of the holiday, our focus is not on the material. In fact, the opposite is true. On Sukkot we stop to think about how little we need in the material world. We sit outside beneath the starry sky, vulnerable to the elements as we pause to reflect on our dependence on the Almighty.

This isn’t easy to accomplish. With our elegant dishes and fancy Yom Tov food, we are not really roughing it. It’s easy to miss the point. For all of us.

And I guess that’s why the TV bothered me. Because the more of our house that we bring into the sukkah, the less it becomes like a sukkah and the more it becomes like our house!

And of course, the real reason it bothered me must be because I experience some of that challenge myself. Although I couldn’t bring a television into my sukkah since I don’t own one, I can’t say that I completely give myself over to the simplicity of the holiday.

I can’t say that I’m really able to feel that there’s just the Almighty and me and that nothing else matters. There are so many things that get in the way – materially and psychologically. I’m thinking about when to warm up the food, how to keep my new dress (purchased solely for the honor of the holiday of course!) clean, whether there’s enough food for everyone, did it turn out as planned (you might notice at theme here!), am I eating too much?, who’s going to stay up and help me with the dishes, how early is everyone going to wake up in the morning, should I have hired more cleaning help, is the new jungle gym safe…and these are just the concerns I’m willing to list publicly!

And yet it is Sukkot and I have everything I need and the Almighty is totally taking care of me. I wouldn’t want the external noise of a television set because I have so much internal noise I’m struggling to turn off!

So I’m trying this year to live in the moment and experience the Almighty’s kindness. To be grateful for what I have, to enjoy the vulnerability and not feel threatened by it. To focus on the spiritual and not the material. To deepen my relationship with the Almighty and my understanding of my total dependence. If I’m really focused, hopefully the point of the holiday will sink in and drown out the clatter in my mind. I’m praying it does.

I just hope the dessert is as delicious as anticipated…


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