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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Sukkah

All Wrapped Up in Mitzvot

Rabbi Stewart WeissTishrei 11 5779
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"Like an eagle protecting its nest, Hashem spreads His wings over us…." (The song of Ha’azinu).

In this crazy-busy world of ours – forget about so-called "time-saving" devices, we’re busier now than our previous generations ever were! – we struggle to find a "space" (sorry for using that over-used buzz-word!) to just be calm & peaceful. A place to let our minds roam free as we pause & think - just plain think - about the magnificent, multi-dimensional world around us; our place in it, & G-d.

I once asked Rav Shlomo Carlebach – a man who was perpetually on the move & surrounded by fans & friends - where he goes if he wants "private time." Where is his "escape room" where he can be alone with his thoughts? He pondered that for a moment & then said, "My one & only refuge from this all-too invasive & intrusive world is when I am wrapped up completely in my talit!"

The talit is one of 4 Mitzvot that can completely surround us from all sides so that, in a sense, we are "swallowed up" by a Mitzva. There is the Mikva, of course, & then there is the Sukka, which also totally envelops us, & is the closest thing we Jews of today can experience akin to the Ananei Kavod, the Clouds of Glory, the impenetrable, Heavenly wall that kept Bnei Yisrael safe in the desert.

In my Sukka, I am the Prince of my Castle (Hashem, of course, remains the King!). Cozy (I prefer that to "small") & constructed by our own hands (every Jew wants to be a kablan!), we can sit in the great outdoors, under the stars, & contemplate nature, escaping, as it were, the rush-rush of "normal" everyday existence. The decibel level has dropped, the spiritual level has risen, & somehow – despite its temporary structure - I feel safe there. I feel that Hashem is squeezed right in here with me.

Of course, there is yet one more Mitzva in which we can be completely immersed, & that, of course, is Eretz Yisrael. The moment we fulfill this glorious, foundational commandment & come to Israel, its Kedusha encircles us as if G-d is whispering, "You are home; you are safe in your Sukkat Shalom!"

Ironically, the Sukka was once upon a time a symbol of our national homelessness, as we moved through the desert from place to place on our epic journey to the Holy Land. We quickly assembled & then disassembled our makeshift quarters, & headed to the next stop on the map, wandering, & wondering when that long voyage would come to an end. And historically, that voyage would continue for a long, long time thru the Diaspora.

But now we are home, finally & forever. Wrapped in my talit, sitting in my Sukka in the re-Jew-venated State of Israel, I can close my eyes as the Mitzvot wash over me as I rhetorically ask, "Does it get any better than this?!"
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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