Cheshvan 2, 5768
October 14, 2007
Dear Family and Friends,
By Friday afternoon, Isru Chag, our scach ws neatly rolled, the decorations boxed away until next year and the sukkah walls and poles stacked and wrapped in a corner of our same courtyard where they stood linked together, for one majestic week.
Our sukkah arrived on the lift with just about everything else we own. It’s one of those interlocking metal bar and canvas types that have been so popular for their ease. Easy to erect, easy to store. Each year, that sukkah that has given us headaches: first, the parts were not all there. Then, after a very rainy Sukkos, we decided the grass was too messy so the next year David designed and built a wood floor--rendering ease of erection and storage benefits meaningless. Ever try to store a 10’ x12’ floor? Another time, the main beam broke, pressured by the weight of rain from a sudden downpour that settled on the tarp we put up to protect the scach. Three years, three trials. Honestly, the girls and I simply dreaded the day each year one of us would have to help David with this chore.
But, we brought the sukkah anyway. Change of place, change of mazel—maybe. But I think this was not the same sukkah.. Same frame and fabric, same scach and decoration. However, it was an entirely different sukkah.
This year our sukkah went up with barely a glitch in an hour or two with the assistance of a helpful aish student from Australia whom we have handily adopted. Already we had a hint that something was different.
Then, we literally moved in: our coffee table which raises to dining height to seat eight for the meals, also lowers to create the ambiance of our living room with the addition of a couple of comfortable chairs. Lamps, the portable phone, a vase of flowers and it was home for the week.
We don’t worry too much about leaving furniture in the sukkah all week because we don’t expect rain here on Sukkos. There is a bit of emuna that goes into it, as for a few days we saw something strange in the sky: clouds. But they soon made way for the familiar endless sapphire mantle that thrills us each time we raise our eyes heavenward.
From the kitchen where I, like almost every other woman I know, spent most of the chag, I could see right in our sukkah’s door and feel connected to whatever was going in there. David ate there, learned there and brought the laptop out to surf a bit. Visitors stopped by our sukkah, because everyone we know is also enjoying the holiday. I took a break now and again for snacks and chats and cozy chol hamoed meals.
Each evening, David did something he has felt comfortable doing only once or twice in our 15 years of sukkah dwelling. He slept in the sukkah, among our snoring neighbors. Other than an occasional rousing to shush yeshiva bochurs hanging out on the quiet streets at 2 am, or to shoo away a cat trying to get into the courtyard, he slept peacefully under a blanket of Jerusalem stars.
This was certainly a different sukkah. And a different Sukkos.
Sukkos here is a holiday for the entire country. Many people simply close their stores all week. Yeshivos and schools let out, offices and government services give time off and the country goes into vacation mode. Families go on tiyul; nature hikes and zoo outings are most popular. Many take day trips to lovely towns like Tzefat or Zichron Yaakov, with its charming shops and marvelous view of the Mediterranean.
Jerusalem, of course, is one of the main attractions. And everyone who comes to Jerusalem, comes to our neighborhood. We had plenty of opportunities to play Old City ambassadors, exercising our pure bred Southern hospitality in a land hardly known for being genteel. Imagine us-two recent Georgia transplants, helping third-generation Israelis of every dress code navigate their way through our crowded streets toward the place they all wanted to go. The Kotel, the object of every Jew’s heart--whether they know it or not.
The Kotel is like Hashem’s “homing device,” drawing these souls to the center of His universe—home to our Father.
And home to our sukkos, where we intimately enjoy His closeness.
The air in the sukkah, hovering in the Clouds of Glory, always feels different. But it was more so for us this year. We wanted to be inside it every moment, under its shadow, under that blue, blue sky. It was as if the astounding clarity of Jerusalem’s air and light was distilled within those same canvas walls, the same walls we arduously assembled in each of the previous years.
Erecting and living in our sukkah this year was infinitely easier. Life here in many was is also easier. The future is still scattered with roadblocks and stumbling blocks. But there are bridges, too.
We have been traveling from Elul to Simchas Torah under the shadow of the Har haBayit--days and weeks saturated with mercy, elevated with encouragement and potent with opportunity. Linked together, they brought us over expanses we could not have traversed had Hashem not been drawing us closer.
To a different sukkah, a different Sukkos and a different us.
None of us are the same people as when we began this journey over 50 days ago. Now, what choice do we have?-- other than to kiss the sukkah walls and say good bye. And where do we go from here? Most certainly, each of us will be led in the way in which our heart yearns to go. May it be with bracha.
Come home soon.
Rena & David