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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Sukkot

The Succa of Peace

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We recite it every Friday and Yom Tov night:
"... Hapores succat shalom aleinu v'al kol amo Yisroel V'al
Yerushalyim/ [G d] spreads His canopy of peace ("succat
shalom") over us, over all His people Israel, and over
Jerusalem."

The more something is holy, the greater is the need for
peace. The forces of non-holiness do not sanction the
presence of holiness, and constantly do battle against
against her. The Jewish people are the bearers of holiness in
this world, and therefore this people is constantly subject
to attack. We are part of the the holy people; the Land is
the holy land; Jerusalem is the holy city. All three, in an
upward trajectory of holiness, are historically the object of
the brutishness of the non-holy forces in the world.
Therefore, all three urgently require the succa of Gd's
loving protection and the wholeness that is the true meaning
of shalom. Perhaps this is why the reference to the "succa of
peace" is found three different times in this brief
paragraph: one for each of the holinesses in this world - and
it explains why shalom is a word constantly stressed in our
davening, from the last phrase in the kaddish, to the last
beracha in the Amidah, and numerous times in between.

One salient question emerges from the succat shalom
blessing: what is the connection between a succa and shalom?
A succa, after all, is a thatched roof that does not even
keep out the rain. In fact, if it does keep out the rain, it
might well be an invalid succa, because the roof of a succa
must by definition be temporary and not permanent - a dirat
ara-i. What is the connection between an impermanent covering
above our heads, and shalom?

The answer might lie in the fact that an impermanent roof
allows us to look upward and, symbolically, to see the
heavens, and it allows the heavens to enter, as it were, our
own dwelling. In a succa, we are not shut off from the One
Above, and the One Above is symbolically invited to enter
our abode. A succa thus represents the connection between the
lower and the upper worlds, the life-line between man and Gd.

Succot is the time when we abandon our permanent homes and
choose to live in a temporary dwelling for a full week. By so
doing, we express our faith that our lives and our security
do not depend on impregnable dwellings or fortresses. On the
contrary, our lives and security depend on being in contact
with the One Above, and when we are truly connected with
Him, we are guaranteed peace and security. Without that
connection, even powerful ramparts and barricades cannot give
us the peace we so fervently desire. Lo bechayil velo
bekoah..../ "not by might nor by strength but by My spirit,"
says the prophet Zechariah ( 4:6).

The Succot Yom-Tov thus represents true peace, the peace
that is granted to us from above, and that enables us to see
Him and invites Him to enter our lives. Yes, we must be
physically strong, and we must be able to defend ourselves
and repel our enemies by force. But in the midst of the
physical defences, we must bear in mind that true peace is a
gift from Gd, does not depend on our own selves, and
ultimately results from our devotion and attachment to Him
and to His ways.
May we be worthy of Gd's canopy of peace over all of
us.
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman
A resident of Jerusalem, former rabbi of Atlanta. He is the author of seven books. He serves as editor and chief of the Ariel Chumash project, which translates Rashi and other commentaries on the Bible into English.
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