I was watching the movie Ha Ushpizin (The Guests), which takes place in Sukkot and tells about the ardent desire of the protagonist to assemble his sukkah, to which two unexpected friends arrive, who come to represent the return of the past that we thought was forgotten.
I sent it to a brilliant friend, who replied me that she was not interested, because she simply does not see the sense of external rituals, such as sitting under a kind of hut for days, waiting for a certain type of cosmic energy that comes down to us to raise the level of our existence.
Although I have studied Kabbalah for years, I have never sat under a sukkah. So when I saw the first sukkot in photos on the Internet, they reminded me of the most humble dwellings in any Latin American favela, because a sukkah is identical to the ramshackle little sheds where the characters from “Los Olvidados” by Luis Buñuel live.
I began to think that what for a Jew means a renunciation of the material comfort of a middle class home due to a spiritual desire to unite with the Creator, for millions of Latin Americans and Africans it is the daily reality, it is all they have.
A Jew cannot build a sukkah that can stand a whole year. A Venezuelan family in extreme poverty prays that their sukkah does not fall with the first gale, that the first windy rain does not take it away.
What do these two opposite poles of perceiving a humble hut have in common, on an energetic level?
Following a lecture by Javier Wolcoff, who in turn quotes the ARI Isaac Luria, Kabbalah understands that the energy we receive in Sukkot is the possibility of building good things that did not exist in the world before, from the most waste and humble materials; palm leaves, raw wooden boards, cardboard, plastics. Let’s say, what any beggar usually collects to build a little dwelling on the banks of the Guaire River, in Caracas.
It is about educating the conscience, our highest sefirot, so that they learn to participate in the work of the Creator, in the Plan of Creation, starting from the grossest and most elemental elements.
If the Creator made the human being out of dust, out of mud, we humans could (and should) generate a more supportive, more creative, richer and more enriching consciousness on a spiritual and material level, with waste materials, previously despised right up to that precise moment, until Sukkot week, when we should realize that it is what we really have, like any beggar in the Bombay favelas.
My master, Michael Laitman, points out that it is about consolidating the desire to bestow, the altruism, that is, to bring down the superior lights that the Creator sends us, starting from the most harmful, darkest and most negative human components: selfishness, the desire to receive only for ourselves, without the ability to share, hatred, fear, resentment, racism, anti-Semitism and so many other isms that are represented by waste materials.
We do not want those gross spiritual materials, those despicable components of our being, to last within us another year. But it is from them on this week, and not from the other sublime components that exist in the intellect, in the will, in the higher sefirot, that we have to build a new world.
Think of the world around us right now, fear, pain, anger, selfishness, death: this is the only real thing we got, the beggars of the Guaire River know it very well. But now, due the the pandemic, this notion is reaching the middle class homes of the USA, of Spain, of Israel.
And it is with these palms, with these old boards, with this selfishness, with this fear, that we must build a lasting, sustainable world.
I have never been under a Sukka, I repeat. But I do know what it is like to be in a precarious little hut, with dirt-floor, with cardboard walls, hugged by my brothers and my mother, praying that the wind and rain do not collapse our little cardboard and zinc cans house .
I think I told myself from then on, that it was from there and not any other ideal place or reality, that I had to build my world, their world, the country I love, the Humanity that I wish for all of us human beings, and that this moment was a message, that it showed to me the way forward.
I have tried to honor that promise throughout my life. The road has been long, it has taken me around the world, Caracas, New York, Buenos Aires, the three cities that I love the most, but also to London, Paris, Madrid … I think I can repeat Homer’s verse “I have visited the cities of men and their palaces … ”
That is why I see a sukkah and I understand, I feel, I know … I have been there before, and since I was not born into a Jewish family, the Creator simply prepared that sukkah from Maracay for me so that I would not lose the path back to Jerusalem.
How do I explain all this to my friend? Hopefully these lines will help a little to that wish.
Chag sameach for all.