In our Rabbinic and Halakhic tradition, there is an unresolved debate. Is the Sukkah that we dwell in during Sukkot supposed to be a temporary dwelling/דירת עראי or a permanent one/דירת קבע? How thick should the walls be? How high should the walls be? Should rain be able to get in through the roof/סכך? How much of my body and table should be in the Sukkah while I eat? These are all questions that circle around this question about the essence of our Sukkah.
The Sfas Emes comes to teach us that in fact, the Sukkah was meant not to be either temporary or permanent, but rather, the Sukkah was intended to be both. He teaches that one needs to understand that this temporary dwelling is what expresses that which is fixed-the divinity which is in all places. This temporary dwelling is more fixed that any of the fixed places in the world, because it orients us to the fact that God is what is truly fixed in all places. The Torah tells us that “you shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt/בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים; כָּל-הָאֶזְרָח בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשְׁבוּ בַּסֻּכֹּת. לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּ דֹרֹתֵיכֶם כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַׁבְתִּי אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּהוֹצִיאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.” The Sfas Emes reminds us that the reason that we were brought out of Egypt was to be a free people/בני חורין. And being free means realizing that our souls are not bound to anything material. What is permanent is our relationship and connection with God, and we are reminded of that when we step into the seemingly impermanent Sukkah.
It is good to want and own nice things. But Sukkot reminds us not to become too attached to any one thing. That attachment to the material becomes shackling. And the Sukkah offers us the potential to go out into another realm. If we are to be a free people, this week, I challenge us to go out from our places of material comfort, with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all our might. And there, I hope we can find our true and permanent comfort in the shade of God’s House, the Sukkah.
Shabbat Shalom and Moadim L’Simha,