Our family has had a few health crises over the last number of years. And when they occur, I always have the same image in my mind. It’s the image of the eight of us crowded into a rowboat, huddled together and paddling like hell. Sometimes the water is rougher and we have to paddle really hard; at times we have to scoop incoming water out of the boat. But it’s always the eight of us in the boat, working to keep it afloat.
As Sukkot ends soon, I’ve come to realize that my love for the holiday mirrors that boat. We all know the expression “under one roof.” On Sukkot, I literally have everyone under one roof. And that roof, that temporary dwelling where we all huddle together to eat, laugh and sleep, reminds me of the family boat. But rather than working hard to keep difficult times at bay, our family’s rowboat fills with the 8 of us as an expression of joy and festivity over Sukkot.
I love awakening in the Sukkah in the morning and knowing that my entire family is under one flimsy roof. And while it’s a fragile roof that sways in the breeze, it provides shade as needed and, more importantly, brings the 8 of us together during this week each year.
As the children have grown, we’ve slowly adjusted to the ever-present ebb and flow in the house; there is a rhythm and a beauty to the fact that they are all busy with their own lives and commitments; and the more that they leave, the more I’ve come to realize just how much I value when they are all under one roof.
This morning, as I awoke in the sukkah to the birds chirping, to the decorations gently swaying in the breeze, and to the warm, cuddled shape of all seven of my guys sleeping under the same sky, I soaked up the moment. And I thanked Gd for granting me these fragile, tender, fleeting moments of togetherness.
I know the rowboat will feel empty at times in the future, as this one can’t get away for the holiday while in the army and that one travels; as this one (and hopefully that one and that one and that one) marries and as our family dynamic changes in shape and size.
But for now, for these seven days, I had all of them under one roof, all of them in my rowboat together for festive days.
And there is no amount of jewelry, fancy clothes or other purchases more precious to me than sleeping out under the stars together with our fragile roof, our temporary dwelling and our sense of togetherness.