Sunday, October 12, 2008
GRATEFUL FOR THE SUCCAH
What fascinates me most about Jewish tradition and the Hebrew language is how certain words contain multi layered dimensions of association and meaning. For the High Holyday season that just passed, "Teshuvah" was a key word with a universe of spiritual significance embedded within it.Now we approach Succot and as I reflect on the meaning of this holiday it occurs to me that the concept of "Teshuvah" runs into the Succot celebration like a flowing stream of water that cleanses and clarifies.
Upon stepping into the Succah-the tiny, fragile hut in which we dwell for the Succot holiday, we recite the blessing- "Blessed are You...who ordained that we -"Lay-shev"- we dwell in the succah."In the action of dwelling we encounter an allusion to "Teshuvah."
Both words contain the root consonants-"shin" and "veit", SH-V.Is there a connection between the experience of Teshuvah on the High Holidays and that of sitting or dwelling in the Succah?I believe there is a profound link between the two.
To better establish this relationship I quote a passage from Psalms that is recited throughout this period-from the onset of High Holydays through the end of Succot.
"One thing I ask of the Lord, for this I yearn,to dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life."(Psalm 27,4). The image of the Psalmist suggests more than the physical dwelling in a shrine or temple.The place of dwelling is spiritual in nature, it's parameters are within our hearts and souls.
When we take leave of the artificial comfort and security of our year round homes and enter into a space of fragility which is exposed almost totally to the elements around us, we are made keenly aware of the ultimate source of security and spiritual place in the universe. Encompassed by brick, mortar and glass may keep out the cold and the heat of the outside; only a consciousness of our intimate connection to all things and to the Source of everything can endow us with an inner understanding of acceptance and faith that transform our lives into authentic refuges of homecoming and serenity.
In an earlier posting on Teshuvah, mention was made of "Teshuvah" as related to return and homecoming-the process completes itself as we return to our natural homes symbolized by the Succah with its "Sechach"-a ceiling with slats wide enough for us to feel the sun and see the stars.
Where is the house of the Lord in which the Psalmist yearns to dwell? It is that sacred space of heart and soul, the place of God's in-dwelling, where one experiences the safety, assurance and peacefulness of a divine Presence. To discover this home one must sit-simply be with what is and mindfully recognize the gift of all things, without barriers or walls of separation and fragmentation.
The beauty of the Succah-the idea of "Hidur"-of adorning the Succah transcends external aesthetics to the beauty of the universe as perceived in our hearts and souls.
Moadim Le Simcha-A joyful Succot holiday.