Vicki Cabot

Heavenly gates

In the sukkah

I am sitting in our sukkah on the last of the middle days of Sukkot.
And I am taking a deep breath.

The fall holidays come in a hurry, one after the other, each to its own purpose, each with its own rituals, each with its own meaning, each with its own emotional power.

Sukkot arrives after the jubilation of the coming of the new year on Rosh Hashana, the solemnity of Yom Kippur with its accounting of misdeeds and fervent prayers for forgiveness, and then the rush to build and decorate a sukkah where we are reminded of life’s evanescence and our own vulnerability even as we are commanded to rejoice within its frail walls.

And so, I am in the sukkah, marveling at the wisdom of the Jewish calendar, with its set times for holiday ritual and its quiet interludes for deep thought, reflection and introspection. Holy space.

I savor the quiet in the temporary structure, its three walls now slightly skewed, its roof partly awry, a few errant blossoms and fruits, scattered on the ground. The wind has buffeted the makeshift dwelling, and, yet, it is still standing, its festive garlands of apples and lemons, its swaths of flowers and greens, its strands of tiny lights to twinkle at sunset, its banners exalting us to be joyous, to appreciate the blessing of family and friends, undamaged.

I look up through the bamboo slats on its roof to catch a glimpse of blue sky and white puffs of clouds, to feel the warmth of the sun on my face.
To sense Gd’s nearness.

I imagine Peter Berger’s sacred canopy spread above us and recall the siddur’s image of the majesty and splendor of the divine, cloaked in light, as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a curtain.

I think of the fragility of the sukkah, of the precariousness of our lives, and of the comfort of that cloak unfurled above, providing heavenly protection and promising divine compassion.

And I recall the teaching from the Zohar that judgment and inscription in the book of life is written and sealed on Yom Kippur but not delivered for a few more days until the end of Sukkot, just before Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

So it is we who exist in these middle days in liminal space between heaven and earth.

And I think of how even as we recall life’s capriciousness and our own insecurity, we end the spate of holidays dancing with the Torah scrolls and rejoicing as the last words of the Torah are read and beginning anew, with its first, in the beginning.

It is, as Rabbi Arthur Waskow, describes, the rounding of the world, assuring us of its continuity, and Gd’s enduring presence, even as we confront life’s randomness.

And so, as Sukkot ends, as Simchat Torah approaches, I envision the heavenly gates closing with a soft click, and I pray we be granted another year with ever more earthly portals to pass through, beckoning us to reflect, to do better, to change, to grow, and to be blessed with ever more days to use in good measure.

May it be so for us all.

About the Author
A writer and editor, Vicki has been recognized for excellence by the American Jewish Press Association, Arizona Press Club and Arizona Press Women. Her byline has appeared for more than 30 years in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and in a variety of other publications. A Wexner Heritage Scholar, she holds masters degrees in communications and religious studies from Arizona State University and a Ph.D in religious studies also from ASU.
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