Shelters in the Wilderness

A Lesson on Sukkot

Each year, Sukkot becomes more illuminated.  This year is especially prominent. On Yom Kippur, I sat beside the bed of my father as he lives his last days.  Early that morning, he and I began to recite the Shema.  After morning prayer I was reminded how temporary the physical world can be.  From the beginning, Jews have celebrated Sukkot with joy, remembering the time they dwelled in temporary shelters in the wilderness.  During this period of Israel’s history, the people experienced, first hand, the glory and splendor of the Creator. While living in meager dwellings in the open desert they were over shadowed by the Almighty One, blessed be He.  It was in a dry and dusty land that G-D etched His love on the hearts of the people.

We are able to get a glimpse of this during sukkot.  A time of refreshing and renewal with family and friends, a moment of joy captured in our fragile temporary world, the sukkah becomes a physical reminder of a profound reality.  G-D dwells with His people.  Within this temporary shelter of the human existence dwells the splendor of HaShem, not seen by radiant fire and smoke as in Sinai, but through the light of mitzvot.  Each one of us achieve our own Sinai by clinging to Torah and walking with G-D.  The fastest way to spiritually elevate oneself is to recognize the limitations of the physical dimension.  Expressing holiness through our frailty is true emunah peshutah (faith).

As I watched my father mouth the words in silent prose, “Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad,   I saw his love for HaShem begin to radiate.  Breaking away from the end of the shema, He then began a personal prayer.  “My G-D, the G-d of my fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you are my G-D, I love you……..”  In his temporary dwelling of failing flesh, he offered thanks to HaShem.  He did not kvetch (complain) to his Creator, nor did he make any request.  He simply connected his soul, with love, to his G-D.  His voice now bellowing in full strength as if he were talking in a crowded room, and with eyes wide open looking upward, he spoke to G-D as if he were physically standing before His Presence.  “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”  He chanted with clarity and passion.  All this expressed from a man who, minutes before, could not hold a conversation with his family.  From deep within his soul he interacted with HaShem in personal prayer. For a moment I felt like an intruder in a private conversation as I sat in silence and smiled. The patriarch of my family may not see this years celebration of sukkot.  However, he is experiencing it in a much more profound reality.

In this years celebration, let us again build a dwelling place for G-D. Not with sticks and vines only, but with our hearts.  Devoting our existence with spiritual clarity and purpose. Here are a few things which may guide you in this journey:

  • Experience life with the joy it is intended to be lived.

  • Strive to ascend to higher levels of goodness.

  • Keep in mind the value of life.

  • Discover new ways to express your love for G-D.

  • Find renewed purpose and hope through lovingkindness.

  • Give charity.

  • Develop personal prayer and meditation habits.

  • Focus on positive attributes which promote healthy living.

In doing this, we connect to the heart of  G-D and merit the final redemption.  May this new year be filled with great prosperity and hope for us all.

© Reuven David

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