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Thought for the Day: The Majestic Innocence of the Sukka

I'd like to start with the beginning of a story, end with the end of the story, but sandwich some thoughts in the middle.

It was our first Sukkos in Dallas (and my first Sukkos as Jew, actually).  We had no deck, and Dallas is usually hot this time of year, so I was off to Home Depot to buy lattice work for siding and 2x2s for rafters.  For a physicist, it marked an apex of structure design.  In Dallas people actually park in their garages, which open to the back, and use the alleys.  I saw my neighbor  mowing his lawn and told him what I was up to.  (When I am exciting about something, I figure everyone must be excited about the same thing.)  I knew my neighbor was Jewish, but I also knew he was a member of one of the largest reform jewish temples in the world and seemed to have little to no interest.  Surprisingly, he said, "You know; I've always thought it would be fun to have a sukkah."  More surprisingly, I said, "Do you want to go with me?"  Shockingly, he said, "Sure!"  As I recall he left his lawn mower in the middle of the job and off we went.  We both built sukkos, certified kosher by my rabbi.  He now had the only sukkah in this temple and their Sunday school classes made several pilgrimages to it over the holiday season.

What's a sukkah?  Really it's the schach... the roof.  What's the criteria for kosher schach?  Basically, the stuff you thought you was a necessary nuisance.  You wanted grapes for wine, so you needed vines.  You needed wheat for bread, so you needed straw.  Then you went through Rosh HaShana (declaring HaShem King) and Yom Kippur (making yourself a fitting subject) and now HaShem says He wants just one thing from you.  Take that stuff you thought was a necessary nuisance and make that your dwelling place.  Why?  To live as reality what you've been saying for two weeks, that HaShem runs the world.  Your house is no more secure from the elements than your simple sukkah.  The same HaShem who runs the world while you are behind your sturdy walls is the same HaShem who run the world when you are beneath flimsy straw.  The sukkah is an edifice that proclaims, "HaShem runs the world, even down to the tiniest detail."

A postscript to my friend's first (maybe only, he moved away not long afterwards) sukkah.  I saw him the next day.  He was beaming.  He told me that he had just sat in his sukkah that first night of Sukkos and felt so at peace.  He wanted to do something holy (his words), so he got the only Jewish book in his house, an old de Sola Pool siddur that had belonged to his grandfather.  He told me he just opened it up and started reading.  I knew my friend's knowledge of Jewish custom was weak even by reform standards, and I asked him to show me what he had read.

On the first night of Sukkos, in his first ever sukkah, he randomly opened a siddur (likely for the the first time) and said Hallel.


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