This has been a year unlike any other. We feel as if G-d’s face is hidden. There is a sense of unease. “What will be?” we wonder.
So much unknown. So much up in the air. Parents are dealing with their children’s anxiety about school, this pandemic, the desire to spend time with friends and family, all while dealing with their own very real pressures and tensions. Many feel isolated and sad.
How easy it would be to just raise our hands and say, “I give up.” But Jews never give up. We never lose hope. Inside each and every one of us lies a flicker of light, a spark that never dies.
As we kindle our Shabbos and Yom Tov lights, we bring blessing and light into our lives. Even if it may feel as if we’re living in the blackest of nights. This is exactly why our holy days begin at night. The message is for each of us to know and transmit to our children: Night yields to day. Darkness to light. Galus to geulah.
The redemption always begins with moments we perceive as hopeless. From Mitzrayim to the birth of Eretz Yisrael, we have found ourselves in the narrowest of straits. Choking. “Min hametzar karasi Kah, anani bamerchav Kah.” What we see as lightless is truly the birth of brilliance.
Exactly at this time of unease we are given a loving gift from Above. The mitzvah of sukkah.
Why this mitzvah? A sukkah reminds us that Hashem provided the Jewish nation with the ananei hakavod – clouds of glory that enveloped and protected Am Yisrael when they left Egypt and traveled in the desert wilderness.
But surely Hashem could have performed another miracle and enabled His children to have a more permanent dwelling. So why the ananei hakavod?
Hashem wanted to give, not only that generation, but every generation to come an eternal message of faith. There is no enduring dwelling, no security, no fortress, no human power, no law of nature that will protect you like the kanfei shechinah, the shelter of Hashem’s wings.
Sukkos comes to remind us that we are a nation of miracles. When we place our trust in Hashem, we realize that we are shielded beneath the refuge of Hashem’s presence. Our sukkah is our shelter of faith. We are not alone. Hashem is watching over us, guiding us, protecting us.
When we enter the sukkah, we offer a most beautiful tefillah. “Yehi Ratzon, may it be Your will, my G-d and the G-d of my forefathers, that You cause Your presence to reside amongst us; that You spread over us the sukkah of Your peace.”
What we seek now is a sense of serenity. Knowing that Hashem is with us, that we’re sitting in our sukkah enveloped in the presence of the Shechinah, is exactly the antidote needed to combat all the chaos surrounding us.
How can we each build our own sukkah of shalom and find the peace we so desperately need?
When you’re sitting in your sukkah, take a quiet moment and look around. Material security is left behind as we contemplate our spiritual security. The sukkah replaces our homes and we realize that “all this” to which we have devoted our energy is transient. We are given life to make the most of each day. Whom have I touched and to whom have I made a difference in this world? What legacy am I leaving?
When I was a little girl, on Motzei Shabbos we would get together with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I recall us children running around until my beloved Zayda would motion and ask for quiet. My mother’s father – my Zayda – had survived Bergen Belsen. Zayda had lost his parents, and all his siblings and their families to the crematoria of Auschwitz. He was the only one who remained. Despite all his indescribable suffering, I never heard my Zayda raise his voice. He was always filled with love.
I watched as my Zayda would then recite the beracha of Shehecheyanu. And then Zayda would cry.
“Why is Zayda crying?” I would wonder. “It’s just a little family get together. Why the tears?”
Now that I am baruch Hashem a mother and bubby myself, how I understand my Zayda’s tears.
Time passes so quickly. What I wouldn’t give for one more Shabbos meal with my parents and grandparents. Just one more beracha, one more hug, one more kiss, one more word. Would I ever have imagined that I would walk my children to their chuppah and my parents’ place would be empty?
When we take a step back, we realize that time is such a gift; family and friends are treasures to be cherished. Sukkos opens our eyes to what’s important and lasting. Sukkos helps us understand that we have been given gifts that perhaps we have taken for granted.
The beracha of Shehecheyanu means that I am grateful for every moment, every person in my life. I appreciate the moment given to me right now. If I can draw upon this attitude of gratitude, of seeing what I have, of recognizing what’s important in life, then I will build a sukkah of peace. Focusing on our blessings brings us to a place of joy.
While sitting in my sukkah, I can draw closer to Hashem with the realization that my protection is found, not under the shelter of my roof, but under the shelter of my G-d. He has guided us and watched over us throughout every exile. My sukkah becomes my sukkah of peace as I connect to my faith and trust in Hashem.
Our sukkah must have at least three walls. It’s as if Hashem is wrapping His arm around us, bringing us close, and welcoming us with His embrace. Come. Step out of your home, your stress and anxious moments. Take a seat under the stars. Feel the kanfei haShechinah. Treasure your blessings. Cherish every day. Seek true purpose in your days. Know that you are not alone. Build a sukkah of peace.