Thoughts on Sukkot

canstockphoto11083651Last year, Rabbi Joshua, of Ahavat Zion Synagogue in California, wrote on his blog,

By dwelling in sukkot every year, we are faced with the reality of our human frailty and immortality. Just like the sukkah, our earthly bodies are but temporary dwelling places. When forced to dwell in a sukkah during the festival days, we find ourselves exposed to the elements, eating our meals without certain familiar comforts, and spending time in a shelter that at any moment could be brought down by weather.

This fragile reality was brought home last year as our sukkah fell to strong winds about an hour after I finished building it. A Google search later that evening showed that due to weather conditions around the world, numerous communities suffered wind and rain damage during Sukkot. This year, so far, the weather has been cooperating but the fragility of life is still ever before us. Sunday evening over fifty people were killed and more than five hundred wounded at an open air, country music concert in Las Vegas in a shooting attack. Earlier on Sunday, two women were brutally stabbed to death in a train station in Marseille. Last week, three young men, a border policeman and two civilian security guards were gunned down while foiling terrorist attack outside the community of Har Adar, in the Jerusalem hills. The reality is that we have no assurance of life, limb, or property in this life. While we can do our best to protect and care for ourselves, ultimately, we, like Israel in the wilderness, are totally dependent upon Hashem for everything. The psalmist writes, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8.4) To balance that question, we have read Psalms 27 daily since the beginning of Elul and will continue until Simchat Torah. While the entire Psalm is phenomenal, the beginning and ending verses carry particular importance

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? … I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27. 1 & 13-14)

The psalmist’s paradox, on one hand, what is man in comparison to the greatness and majesty of the Creator of the Universe – on the other hand, is his sole trust is in the character and grace of the very same LORD.

Recently, a question was posted on Facebook, “where is G-d, when innocent suffer?” Not a new question, simple people, theologians and philosophers have been dealing with this for ages. Logical, rational thought demands answers, “how can a good G-d allow such horrendous things that we see and at times experience daily.” Sadly, the Scriptures do not always answer to our rational, logical demands. There are times when “In some areas of life, leaving a question unanswered is the appropriate response.”[i] One of my favorite passages from the Torah is found in Deuteronomy,

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (29.28, 29 in English).

This does not mean we should not seek answers to perceived dilemmas or to seek solutions to obvious paradoxes. What is does mean is that we can and should trust Hashem to have things under His provincial care, even if we do not understand, thus walking out the admonition of the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11.1), which also brings us back to the psalmist, as he proclaims

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (42.12, 11 in English)

So, as you build your sukkah this year, or as you sit in a friend’s sukkah; enjoy the goodness and provision of the LORD and at the same time remember the paradoxes and tragedies that abound in our world (and even our lives). Let’s commit to trust in the LORD as the psalmist encourages, even when we do not understand, knowing that He loves and cares for us.

Chag Semach



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