We wish our Year 12 students much success on their HSC exams, which they begin as we return to school.
It is very opportune for us to come back to school while it is still the festival of Sukkot. It’s magnificent to be able to take all our staff members and children from ELC, Primary and High School, into the sukkah and to shake the lulav and etrog. Sukkot at Moriah is truly a hive of activity.
I wanted to take a moment and reflect on some of the simple life lessons we can take away from sitting in a sukkah:
1. Celestial resilience
There’s a fascinating, seemingly contradictory aspect of the mitzvah of sukkah. The walls have to be permanent enough not to flap in the wind and to provide us with some level of shelter, however, the roof must be temporary, cut vegetation – schach. The schach must provide more shade than sun and it must also allow the rain in or the stars to peak through. Often, we experience more shade than sun in our lives, yet the schach reminds us to glance up and remember we have a celestial connection always peaking in and having oversight of lives. We can, and we should, put our hopes in Hashem. Just like the clouds of Glory that surrounded the Jewish people in the desert, for which the sukkah is reminiscent, protected the Jewish people and gave them hope and security in a relatively hopeless time, we too must always have that sincere celestial hope and resilience.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff – in fact, who needs all that stuff!!!
Sukkot is like a detox from having way too much stuff in our lives. In fact it’s a temporary relief from ‘affluenza’. Today in our disposable, consumer hyper world and environment, we live with way more than we could possibly use. Sukkot is a time to refresh and live in the simple sukkah for a week without all our stuff. It’s a reminder that we can and should live a simpler life with less.
3. Our great ancestors
Make each one of us feel valued – Every day of sukkot we have a custom to welcome, not just physical guests into our sukkah, but seven spiritual guests – Ushpizin. We welcome Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaacov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and David. We must all remember where we all come from, from such illustrious forebears.
4. Humility – creating space for others
Sometimes we get caught up in a selfie or Instagram life. Sometimes our life is so full of our own reflection that we don’t even have room for anybody else. The schach roof of the sukkah must be lower than 20 cubits – approx 2.5 storeys tall. The reason is for us to always be able to see and perceive the simple schach. It induces humility, which, in turn, helps us connect with others and fill our lives with meaning and love. Humility helps us make room for others and to live a life of giving.
5. A festive hug
There is an interesting Halacha that a sukkah must be constructed with a minimum of ‘two and a bit’ walls. This image is reminiscent of a festive spiritual hug that Hashem gives to each one of us as we enter the sukkah. As Hashem draws us close in His embrace, He can’t even see our face. In fact, a hug is irrespective of the emotional/spiritual status of the recipient. Hashem loves us no matter where or who we are. Unconditional love.
As we take the opportunity to enter in and enjoy our Sukkot celebrations, let us also take the time to listen to the special life messages that the Sukkah is whispering to us.
Welcome back, Chag sameach, and have a great term!
About the Author
Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler is the College Principal at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.