What is a home? Is it the four walls that we live in? Is it the furnishings, the chairs we sit on, the dishes we serve on, the people we live with?
In the rides I’ve taken with the Grand Rapids Police Department as a COP (Clergy on Patrol), I’ve learned that when officers interview people from poor areas of the city, the question “where do you live?” does not always elicit a useful response. Often, people who encounter police officers don’t have a home, they don’t “live” anywhere. So in order to get an address, the officers instead ask, “Where do you stay?” The four walls are always changing, the furnishings and the bed or couch rotate, and the people who provide the hospitality are not always the same. So it doesn’t feel like a home in which they live, but rather a place they stay until they need to find another place to stay.
The holiday of Sukkot cultivates that kind of rootlessness. It’s a temporary place that provides uncertain shelter. On a glorious sunny day or a crisp cloudless night, it’s a wonderful place to sit down for a meal. In the bitter cold of a windy, snowy day, or when cold rain drops through the porous covering, it’s not quite so comfortable. But once a year, for seven days, it’s a mitzvah to uproot oneself from one’s home and stay, for meals at least, in the sukkah.
It’s a gratitude practice. It’s a reminder not to take one’s home or one’s comfort or security for granted. It’s a reminder of the fragility of our lives and how much we depend on God and other people for support. Don’t let Sukkot pass you by without making time to visit the synagogue Sukkah (or build one of your own). We’ll have Kiddush in the Sukkah on the Monday and Tuesday Yom Tov days of Sukkot and on Shabbat. During Sukkot, I’ll be eating my lunch out in the Sukkah, either at home or at the synagogue. I’d welcome company. And see elsewhere in the Voice for details about the joint Sukkot dinner with Temple Emanuel, the “Chili” Sukkot, on Wednesday evening, October 12.
I wish you a joyous Festival of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simhat Torah, and I hope to see you returning to the synagogue to celebrate with us.
Hebrew Words of the Month:
- • s’khakh – the covering of a Sukkah, comprised solely of materials grown from the land.