When the rest of the population (in northern climes, anyway) is gradually moving indoors as the weather cools, a different phenomenon is occurring in many communities the world over. Recently, in Jewish neighborhoods everywhere, the sounds of hammering and sawing became a familiar accompaniment to people toting branches, bamboo, and other greenery through the streets. All this activity reached a crescendo this past Wednesday. For on this day, the temporary structure–known as a sukkah–where Jews eat their meals throughout the joyous holiday of Sukkot had to be completed.
And completed they were. Topped with the roof of above-mentioned branches, the sukkot were ready for use, some resplendent with decorations provided by the younger members of each family. As day moved towards evening, a feeling of anticipation began to build. After the solemnity of the holy days just passed, now was the time to really celebrate. When night fell, even the sporadic drizzle that fell from the skies in the New York metropolitan area could not dampen the enthusiasm of the celebrants. The tiniest tots, too, felt the excitement. Even mundane tasks such as setting the table became infused with joy. At the moment when all was ready for the festive meal to begin, family and guests eagerly took their places. This proved to be no ordinary dinner. Individuals who ate together every day of the year sensed something different, something elevated, about this meal–and about all the ones that would follow. Perhaps it was because of the utter difference in routine. Perhaps it was the novelty of the experience.
Or perhaps it is something more: we leave the comfort of our warm (and dry) dining rooms to eat in a relatively flimsy structure that does not even keep out the wind! The experience is as strong a reminder as any that we rely on a Higher Being for protection from all that life sends our way, and the strength to withstand and grow from what befalls us. And, even after we return to our homes and our normal routines, this loving care does not end. Isn’t that enough of a reason to rejoice?