Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sukkot 5769: After-Action Report

Yom revi'i, 23 Tishrei 5769, Isru Chag.

At the end of the holiday of Sukkot, there is a ceremony to "say farewell" to the Sukkah, our home for the last seven days.

The Dearly Beloved and I sat in the waning light, watching the sunset weaving pink and blue threads through the black plastic burlap of our western sukkah wall.



"What was your favorite moment in our first sukkah in Israel?" he asked.

I didn't even have to think. "It was an off-hand remark you made. I was reminding you of the time, that it was almost Shachrit. You said not to worry, that you wouldn't miss davening. That there is a Torah reading every day during Sukkot, and that you hadn't missed a Torah reading since you made a deal with G-d. I asked you what the deal was. Your reply touched my heart. 'I asked Hashem to please get rid of the Cellulitis. I said I would use my legs to get me to shul to touch His holy Torah, every time it was out.' I was so moved by the simple faith of that bargain."

While it is not recommended that we make deals with G-d, I know that The Dearly Beloved will keep his end of his bargain, even if Hashem decides at some point that he can serve Him best by struggling with another bout of Cellulitis. But get this: between 2002 and 2004, my husband had increasing attacks of Cellulitis in his legs. It really appeared that this was going to be our "new normal." In 2004, he had to cancel a trip to Israel with me, his first trip to Israel since 1991. His doctor said that the risk of DVT was very great, and that it could kill him if he flew. He was very disappointed; and I had so hoped this trip would finally convince him that it was time to make aliyah. Apparently, he made this deal with Hashem, unbeknownst to me, over this event. In 2005, he was able to take the family trip that caused all of us to decide to move to Israel. He flew with me again the following year for our pilot trip; and in 2007, we finally came Home. (And, he hasn't had Cellulitis since, bli ayin hara.)

I realized, sitting in the sukkah this year, that it may have been my husband's simple act of turning his health over to Hashem that caused Hashem to finally say yes to our aliyah.

"What was your favorite moment?" I asked him, in return.

"There were two. Working with my son on building it. And the melave malka, when our neighbors came by and played music with us."

I remembered that my favorite moment at another friend's sukkah actually took place as she walked us to our car afterward. She had invited us to speak and play music before a large group of her students. At the end of her event, she asked everyone to share a moment of silent contemplation, to lock in the sukkah experience. Some sat with eyes closed. Others studied the walls and decorations. As we were leaving, she and I shared that we two had been looking intently at each face... because to us, "the sukkah" was not the walls and decorations, nor even the schach, but the people. These were the true "walls of the sukkah."

The Dearly Beloved and I reminisced for several more minutes, and realized that all of our special moments were about people. Then he gave me a short d'var Torah. "We have to be careful not to get too focused on the structure of the mishkan or the Temple or the shul. Hashem said 'Build me a mishkan so that I may dwell in them.' He didn't say 'it.' Our sages learn from this that He wanted to dwell inside of each of us, and inside of the collective Jewish people. The structure helps us to focus, but it is the achdut, the unity, that is critical to Hashem's plan."

Master of the Universe...may there always be upon us a heavenly protection from Your holy abode, to save us from all sin and iniquity, from evil occurences, from malevolent periods that are stirring to come upon the world." ( -- from the "Farewell to the Sukkah" service on Shemini Atzeret)


May we Jews together create the achdut to merit that protection.
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