The beautiful new Sukkah overlooking the Atlantic was taken down on Sunday.
The Sukkah is one of many hands on meditational Jewish rituals that utilized properly can be a spiritual power tool designed to help facilitate an alignment with our higher selves. This adjustment certifies us to bring our deepest wisdom to the table, particularly in addressing the areas where we feel most vulnerable in our lives. In reality though, if we don’t work on getting to that mindfulness – we run the risk of short circuiting this unique and powerful energy, as Jews with power tools are wont to do — leaving us to flirt minimally with a pseudo precariousness. Without mindfulness the precious holiday moments can pass us by, leaving little room to focus on the fragile places of our lives. Especially when you factor in the state of the art, condo like Sukkahs that would be a huge step up from the manhole covers — that are in many ways the tragic Sukkahs of today’s society.
The spark needed to light up the mind comes from the Blessing of Layshav Basukkah. Unlike other Mitzvahs, we don’t recite a blessing over the building of the Sukkah. Instead we save the blessing for the moment when we actually begin our first festive meal. The sages scheduled the blessing right at the decisive moment, setting the tone — positioning the message in the most strategic way. The bracha of Layshayv Basukkah — means more than merely “to sit” in the Sukkah, it means we ask Hashem to center us in this moment, being fully present so that we can “settle” into the Sukkah experientially as well. The Bracha- blessing, grounds us into just enough mindfulness to begin to grapple with the wobbly nature of our existential Sukkah walls.
The goal is met once we can begin to feel less intimidated by the uncertainties of life, learning instead to lean smack into them with an almost careless celebratory bravado. Folding ourselves directly into our vulnerabilities, learning to have “yishuv hadaat” tranquility — precisely in our “Sukkah fuzziness” zones — as opposed to fearing them — is the hallmark of true Bitachon faithfulness, the spiritual fruits that we reap during this season. This transformational mindset is where true joy lives, and the name for the holiday Zman Simchataynu “the time of our rejoicing” becomes a truly fitting description.
Inherent in this approach is the realization that the greatest harvest of our lives happen when instead of limiting the picking of our crops exclusively from the fields of our dreams, we venture outward, to farm in the fields of our despair and brokeness as well.
Alas now the holidays have ended and the “sukkat david hanofeles” the fallen Sukkah of King David has fallen yet again, folded and packed away neatly into the garages and cellars of our people, till next year.
There is a beautiful custom of kissing the Sukkah goodbye after we finish one last meal. The symbolism is strong and rich. Often in the process of confronting our fears, owning up to our failures, and facing our sadness, we run the risk of becoming so addicted to this process, that we end up confusing the means for the end. The process of peering out over the abyss of our lives has its own creepy kind of intoxication, and the walk to the edge once begun can become addictive. The kiss goodbye is our way of acknowledging both the thrill of being on the edge, and even more importantly the joy of facing our fears courageously, while at the same time accepting that the edge is truly no place to live, and those that do live there eventually succumb to the fate of all martyrdom Junkies, inevtibly toppling over that edge — adrenalin and all.
The kiss goodbye is the sign that its time to return indoors happily bearing the full package of our lives; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Still — the image of the Sukkah being dismantled is Jarring. It hits us hard the way we are jolted suddenly back into our lives. The twilight zone abnormality of the month of TISHREI is over.
The heroic “sukkahleh” that we sing about in Yiddish over steaming hot chicken soup in the brisk coldness, surrounded by family and friends, recalling that despite its flimsiness- somehow, despite all odds, it always prevailed, now lies collapsed and defeated.
Is it because in the actual dismantling we encounter our worst fears? Perhaps the full message of fragility is only appreciated fully in the visceral visual of collapse? Is it possible that the deepest teaching of the holiday arrives slyly only in its aftermath?
The Sukkah during the holiday symbolized only the prospect of collapse, The Sukkah coming down after the holiday is an actual collapse.
Instantly we get dragged back to the edge, much closer to the edge this time.
There is no family sitting around the table enjoying the traditional holiday foods.
No hot chicken soup under the stars.
One last time we get to face off with our ghosts and demons — only this time we are on our own.
There is no halachik guidance for deconstructiong. What is the protocal for the tearing down of walls? They come down rather unceremoniuosly. There is no grace in the fall. We cry out in fear as if we are still connected to the live energy of the sukkah. The power is still on and suddenly we are right back in the game, only this time we continue covertly, no special prayers to go along with the ninth day of the holiday.. the tenth — we pick up right where we left off — only this time we simulate a crumbling of our existential walls.
These thoughts are beyond anything we have ever imagined. We suddenly feel as if we have been stripped away of everything we know. Naked, alone, shivering.
Then we slowly open our eyes and realize that we are still here. Not Still alive — more alive. Suddenly a knowing euphoria breaks out over us, covering us — as if we are being grafted with a new skin.
Also included in the demolition is our sense of entitlement. Once those walls come down, the walls of fear that are supporting our feeings of everything that is due to us, crumble as well. We dont need to be propped up continously by things and people around us to feel safe.
Ah! now we walk back inside, knowing that the true inside that gives us the real security that we crave is inside ourselves and for that we need to look not around us, but upwards to the higher places.
This dance between life and death energizes us.
We now truly get it. Our joy cannot come from the walls. Any walls. Our true joy lies in breaking out of the tyranny of siphoning off happiness from our surroundings. After the terror of visualising a severing from all the places we parasitically steal energy from, we are left only with the possibilty of being energized from within. From above. From our own souls. From Hashem.
The Torah recognized that just as we cannot live in fragile walls we certainly cannot live in collapsed walls. We do need to go back in now! But this excersise is good for us. It teaches us to be happy with who we are not with what we have. This helps us to treat the people around us not as walls to support us, reminding us instead that our purpose in life is to be the walls the walls for them!
It reminds us that we are happiest when we are giving and not taking. The message of the Sukkah is all about living Fearlessly. But not in the conventional sense of Dont worry about losing what you have. The Kabbalistic redefining of living Fearlessly is about accepting that you have within you everyrhing you need to be happy. Its about getting over the fear that you are not good enough and therefore you need to latch onto others to be the walls that sustain you.
The Torah knows that the message of the Sukkah once a year is not enough, and we need a continous reminder mechanism that prods us to venture out of our safe zones from time to time. There is a Jewish protocal for deconstruction. Dont take apart something that you are not able to immediately rebuild. Dont tear something down unless you have a replacement.
What can be our Sukkah all year round ? Perhaps we have to build and enter our own Sukkahs. The Torah helps out though and gifts us with a new Sukkah project even as we are putting away the old. The fallen Sukkah of David is replaced with the floating Ark Sukkah Of Noah. This Sukkah is docked at the pier of our consciousness, and we are able board any time we need!
Shabbat Shalom !