By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
This Sukkot Perspective is dedicated in memory of Mrs Elka bas Zisel OBM
Homelessness is one of the saddest social phenomena. No matter how destitute a person may be, home always provides a needed sense of security and belonging. In fact, the need for a home is so great that the Talmud says that “one who does not have a home isn’t a person.” Physically, perhaps one can survive without a home, but emotionally speaking, a home is the most basic human need.
Needless to say, homelessness isn’t about where you may find yourself at a given moment. You can be at work, visiting with friends, stuck in traffic, or on vacation thousands of miles from home—it’s not about where you are, but it's the knowledge that there’s a little corner of the world you can call your own that gives you the peace of mind a home provides. (As the well-worn aphorism: “Home is the place that has to let you in when no one else will . . .”) A place where you can let your guard down and act as you wish.
This, the Rebbe explains, is what is so special about the mitzvah of sukkah. Normally, we are connected to a particular mitzvah (and through the mitzvah, to the One who commanded the mitzvah) so long as we are actually involved in its observance.
But sukkah is an exception. For seven days we are commanded to dwell in a sukkah; for seven days the holy shelter of the sukkah becomes our home. And as explained above, one’s association to his or her home isn’t restricted to the time spent therein. It is an ever-present connection.
For seven days we are intimately involved with a mitzvah, regardless of where we are or what we are doing. And it isn’t a peripheral involvement - just as our relationship with our home is never peripheral, it is so basic to our identity.
Perhaps we can take the lesson of the sukkah a step further.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are just behind us. The theme of these holidays, as well as the preparatory month of Elul that preceded them, is teshuvah - usually translated as “repentance,” but whose literal meaning is “return.” After a year of wandering and drifting, we return. To our Father’s embrace, to our truest home, to the place where we always belonged. To our core Judaism.
One thing I have requested of G‑d, this I seek: That I may sit in the house of G‑d all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of G‑d . . . - King David, Psalms 27:4
But another year now beckons us. Once again, we will be forced to leave “home” for an extended trip. A daunting prospect, a depressing thought for the individual who is now savoring his brief stay at home.
Enter the message of the sukkah. Once we’ve established where our true home is, we never lose our attachment to home, no matter where we are.
Come what may during this new year, no matter how far from home life’s journey may take us, our internal GPS will always have its arrow pointing homeward. And that knowledge will provide us with serenity and security.
And we don’t have to wait until the next Rosh Hashanah to return. Make some time to escape back home every day - whether it’s morning prayers in the synagogue, or even the few seconds it takes to recite a blessing on an apple you are about to bite into.
If that is the reassuring lesson we take from the holiday of Sukkot, no wonder it is the most joyous of holidays! Is there anything more uplifting than the knowledge that you are never homeless?
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg)
May you have a joyous, meaningful and uplifting Sukkot and Shabbat!!
If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha/Holiday Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at yshusterman@chedermonsey.