Chaim Ingram
Chaim Ingram

When The Ushpizin Spoke To Me: A Succa Fantasy

Azmin – I invite to my meal the exalted guests Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David  (Home ceremony prior to eating in the Succa)

It was the first night of Succot. My wife and I had savoured her delicious Yom Tov se’uda in our Succa as well as each other’s company. We had imbibed our sparkling wine down to the last drop. We had bensched. She had retired to bed. My mood, which had been effervescent, became more reflective. I ruminated sadly on the fact that this Succot we would not be entertaining any guests in our cosy Succa. Not even our son and daughter in law from the neighbouring suburb. Not because we didn’t desire their presence, but because we weren’t allowed it due to the harsh Sydney COVID lockdown rules.

Suddenly I felt an ethereal breeze caress my cheeks. I turned around and discovered that I had guests after all! Why was I surprised? After all, I had invited them expressly to enter my Succa at the very start of our meal! Now here they were.

Well not they exactly. Seven translucent pairs of disembodied eyes were gazing at me. They were the most expressive and arresting eyes I have ever seen in my entire life.

One pair was more prominent than the rest. It appeared to be leading the other six.  These eyes were the epitome of kindliness. The benevolence that they conveyed was indescribable.

These eyes said to me: Do not be sad! I too was once longing for guests in vain. Eventually the three who showed up weren’t in need of anything from me at all! I bless you in the name of our Creator that there will be many future happy years when you together with your wife will be able to welcome and honour guests of flesh and blood without restriction in your Succa!

The next set of eyes blazed into me. They were searing in their intensity. They said: I represent gevura, self-control. You should discipline yourself not to be sad, even momentarily.! For twenty long years, my wife and I were the lone inhabitants of our tent! If it please our Creator, you and your wife will have many healthy years ahead with guests aplenty adorning your Succa!     

The third pair of eyes seemed to peer into my very soul. I could hide nothing from them. They said: I represent emet, truth. The truth is that in a Succa where there are no guests, we Ushpizin also do not feel welcome. But the truth is also that when a Jew gives Tsedaka in advance of Succot so that poor people have the wherewithal to celebrate, it is as thought they were his guests. I note with pleasure that you as well as many of your townsfolk gave for that purpose. In so doing you are emulating the example I set in Bethel all those millennia ago when I made my vow. Most definitely you have my heartfelt blessing!

The fourth pair of eyes were eyes of a pure tsaddik. They said to me: In whatever situation I found myself, whether a vulnerable slave, in prison or as chief minister of Egypt, the name of G-D was always on my lips. Remember that whenever you give Him house room in your heart, you are never alone!

The fifth pair of eyes were unique. They seemed to contain the words of the entire Torah within their pupils. They declared: I felt at home here as soon as I heard my Scriptures cited within these humble walls. Even when you are alone, as you well know, whenever the eternal words of my five books are on your lips, the Shechina is present along with you (Avot  3:7).

The sixth pair of eyes bespoke love and serenity. Softly they said to me: As you are well aware, I delight in peace, particularly between husband and wife.. Tonight, in your succa, I was delighted to witness true shalom bayit. That alone merits my Kohanic blessing to you!

The seventh pair of eyes radiated majesty. Yet they also appeared to rapturously dance. They said: I am joyous that the words of my Hallel rang out in song in your Succa tonight despite the lack of numbers.. So may there always be simcha in your midst!

And suddenly fourteen eyes, with one voice, proclaimed: Your hospitality was most welcome. But we have many other guestless Jews in lockdown to cheer up!  And, led by the kindly eyes who had spoken to me first, they departed.

But their afterglow remained. And I felt strangely reassured!

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the author of four books on Judaism and honorary rabbi of Sydney Jewish Centre on Ageing.
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