Benjamin Rapaport

Sukkot: The Holy Hug

My nine-year old son, Felix, asked me about the number on Bubby’s arm. He knows that she was in the Holocaust and got it there. That was not his question. He wanted to know why, what was its purpose.
The first thing that came to mind was to keep track of the people that were there. On second thought though, there was a much deeper message contained in the number tattoo. You are a number, not a person. So, although I was not sure if he would understand, I told him that the Nazis used the numbers to dehumanize the Jews.

He looked confused. I explained that when you treat a person as a thing, an object that can be counted, like many other of the same kind of objects, this is very destructive on an emotional and mental level. People have a deep need to be treated as people, to be treasured as the unique individuals that they are.

As heavy as the Days of Awe can be, the idea that the Creator individually considers us in our totality is incredibly valuing. After this, G-d takes us into His house, the Sukkah, a space beyond the here and now, and embraces us. The basic requirements of the walls of a sukkah, two full walls and a handbreadth represents this.

If we stick out our arm and then bend it at a ninety-degree angle we have two walls. When we then bend our hand inward, we have the position of an embrace. In a sense, when we walk into a sukkah we are entering into a divine hug.

We hug the people we care about, the people we love. How amazing and meaningful it is to be shown such warmth from the One who put us here.

At the same time, like all Divine attributes of compassion, they are revealed to us in order to emulate them. There are so many people that feel lonely and devalued. By reaching out to others and treating them with greater humanity we create our own shelter of divinity and increase the presence of the Shechina in the world and in our lives.

Wishing you a beautiful Sukkot!

About the Author
Rabbi Benjamin Rapaport grew up in Great Neck, NY, the son of a famous surgeon and scientist; His six-month trip to Israel turned into a twenty-year career of study; Rabbi Rapaport received semicha ordination from Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood in 2002, taught in the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem for six years, and lectured at a number of introductory programs to Judaism; More recently, his activities have included graduate work in Clinical Sociology, and several years of clinical practice in counseling; Rabbi Rapaport lives with his family in Jerusalem, where he works with individuals and groups, helping them discover and develop their unique talents and abilities; He is the author of the Jewish Art of Self-Discovery, available on Amazon