From Caterpillar to Butterfly
Just as we can observe dramatic changes within the creation, such as the transition of an unassuming dawdling caterpillar into a gracefully airborne butterfly, so also we at times observe quite dramatic changes in the course of our lives.
The sukkah is a, so to speak, spiritual cocoon that can help us remove any “roofs” of perceptual limitation and replace them with the supernal lattice covering –s’chach –which allows us to widen our previously limited horizons. By understanding the connection between the halachas of the s’chach and ourselves , we can begin to peer through the gaps and gaze into the supernal realms of our lives.
The mitzvah of sukkah aids us to detach from any materialistic excesses as well as guides us through the Uzpizin (seven days of supernal guidance from our greatest spiritual leaders from Avraham Avinu through David HaMelek), to nourish from the eternal values of the Torah as will been explained.
For during each of the seven days we spend in our sukkas we have the opportunity to absorb spiritual ‘nutrients’ that provide a far greater visual range– a broader and sharper perception of ourselves, others and our world then we would have ordinarily been able to obtain without this mitzvah.
When compared to our sturdy homes, the halachic construction specifications of our sukkas call for a less then solid and contiguous structure. For example, the ‘latticed’ roof – the s’chach – contains many small openings. Also there need be only a minimum of three ‘halachic’ walls which need only come to within three tefachim of the ground—lavud –and do not need to come all the way up to the s’chach. The walls, also amazingly, do not even need to be located within the boarders of the kosher area of the sukka—dophin hakoma – as long as they are within four amos of it (about six feet).
Several elements of these halachic parameters stand out. The first is the degree of openness and seeming “incompletion” that is tolerated by the halacha. We have an open lattice roof and walls that can seem to be somewhat incomplete. How, one wonders, could such a configuration be considered a suitable dwelling? Yet it is precisely the idiosyncratic nature of this construction that allows us the opportunity to contemplate connections that might have eluded us from our vantage point within the solid shelter of our houses. These seeming ‘gaps’ thus can and do serve a lofty purpose.
We are finite beings living in a finite world and our usual perception of reality is confined within the parameters of human consciousness. When the Yom Tov of Succoth arrives, however, the Creator allows us a glimpse – especially through the latticed s’chach and also through the other halachic ‘openings of G-dly consciousness. We, ourselves, cannot contrive this opportunity, only Hashem can afford us this glimpse into limitlessness. As is said in Koheleth which we read on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos, there is a time and a season for everything and only Hashem can create that time and season. For seven blissful days we are given a seasonal opportunity to live in a temporary dwelling that allows us to access a vastly expanded realm above and beyond time, place and limitation.
(Optioanl) [ In a worldly sense, to what can the s’chach and the walls of the Succah be compared? In nature, the living cell is covered by a membrane. And so how do the necessary nutrients get into the cell ? There are several routes inward, however, recently, scientists have discovered that miraculously, from within that membrane, molecules of a protein, called clathrin, assemble into a cage-like structure made up of lattice walls. This latticed cage captures and transports nutrients, hormones and other necessary substances into the cell. When the job is done, these latticed walls spontaneously disassemble.
So we too, through the mitzvah of sukka, assemble a latticed roof – the s’chach which allows for the ‘spiritual nutrients’ to become accessible to us, until the end of the festival. Now let us examine some of these ‘spiritual nutrients’ that come through the ‘lattice s’chach’ and possibly even through the walls of our sukkas.]
The walls of the sukka bring us additional messages. There are numerous fascinating laws concerning the walls of the sukka. Certain areas of a sukka can still be kosher even if its walls are under a roof or under the branches of a tree, as long as the wall or walls are within four amos of the kosher area. This wall, which is called – dofin a coma – a bending wall, is now able to serve as a kosher wall to complete the sukka, even though a person would not be fulfilling the mitzvah of sukka by eating or sleeping in that area.
Perhaps we can offer the following insight. Each of us has a part of our personalities which can be understood through the metaphor of the wall. A physical wall can serve several purposes – it can define living spaces and provide staging areas in which we can organize the activities of life. Indeed, with respect to tefillah, we are taught to select a makom kavua—a designated place– in our shul or in our home where we can daven. Walls provide much needed privacy, stability and security. Just as physical walls perform these functions, so too do psychological walls. We build psychological barriers to shield ourselves from unwanted influences and undesired intrusions. However, there are times that these “walls” can work against us. If, for example, we allow the “walls” of our personalities to become too rigid a barrier between ourselves and others, then we lose precious opportunities for growth and connection. If, however, we allow ourselves to ‘bend over towards others’ by letting go of our personal idiosyncrasies, we then can unite with them in the building a ‘sukka of peace’ and cooperation. Perhaps this is one of the many wondrous lessons that the Torah had in mind in giving us the law of the bending wall – dophin hakoma.
This number seven is echoed in the number of days we spend in the sukka as well as the seven emotive attributes within each of us. Thus, not only does our stay in the sukka help us to develop the attribute of humility, the time spent in the sukka also allows us to take advantage of each of the rectifying attributes of our seven ushpizin – Avraham Avinu through David HaMelek and through the various mitzvoth during this auspicious time.
When we spend seven days in the sukka, in the company of these special dignitaries of the Creator we are able to access the inner value of this special time and specific place.
One of the well known sayings of the Bal Shem Tov is: “You are where your thoughts are.” Even though the Yomim Tovim will pass, we can continue to dwell in the holy ‘conceptual atmosphere’ of the sukka with its profound symbolism. May we merit to nurture these ideas and feelings throughout the whole year thereby bringing closer the final geula soon in our days.
Through the year we dwell in homes that are solidly constructed to provide us with insulation, protection and privacy. The security we experience in these dwellings is a paradigm for the external reality of nature, which cloaks the Creator‘s essence within it. When we leave our homes to dwell in the Sukkah, we are proclaiming that we desire to relinquish our man-made “security” for true Divine protection.
We are then prepared to enter the spiritual realm called Succah. In this realm we encounter the Divinely inspired influences of the Ushpizin –the special guests we invite into our Succahs.
How many of us have thought about the following dichotomy? We all have seen how parents begin prodding their toddlers to walk and talk as rapidly as they are able, yet as soon as these same children get a little bigger their parents and educators are constantly telling and teaching these children, often in futility, to sit down and be quite. For the children this mixed message might be quiet confusing but there lies within this moshal a profound message for all of us.
Indeed, in the first phases of life, our task is to learn how to walk and talk and use all of our efforts to “get up” on our own two feet and succeed in the world, however, if a person does not learn how to “sit down” introspectively and become “quietly” contemplative they will find themselves spending their entire adulthood trying to conquer the world instead submitting to their own inner spiritual calling. Perhaps one of the many invaluable lessons within the mitzvah of (leishev) to sit in sukkah is to teach us how to “sit down” in contemplation with our neshomos under the guidance of each days Ushpizin – the supernal sublime guests that grace our sukkah..
To aid us in this transition Chazal teach that on each of the seven days of Sukkos one of our forefathers is invited to join us in the sukkah. They are our honored guests who educate us in perceiving our true purpose and potential that we can strive to attain throughout the year when we return back into our homes. This transition is best facilitated by opening our hearts and minds to the divine attributes that the seven Uspizin symbolize as the infra-structure of our spiritual stature.
Under the influence of our forefather Avraham Avinu we can reveal and refine the trait of – chesed – loving kindness for the sake of Heaven. Under the guidance of our forefather Yitzchak Avinu we are aided in developing the attribute of discipline so that our chesed can be constructively channeled. Under the influence of Yaakov Avinu we are shown how to harmonize these seemingly disparate attributes of chesed and gavurah.
Moshe Rabbeinu awakens the netzach Israel within us that links us with the eternal message of the Torah. Under the tutelage of Aaron HaKohan we learn to offer ourselves for service to the Creator thereby engendering greater peace in the world.
Yosef HaTzadik inspires us in our strivings towards righteousness through acts of purity. Finally the attribute of malchus, which is expressed through the kingdom of David HaMelech, is the power within us to orchestrate and combine all of these attributes so as to harmonize our potential to reveal the will of the Creator in this world. This means that each day of Succos we each have been blessed with our own private supernal “tutors” who join us while we are enveloped within the mitzvah thereby aiding us to elicit from deep within us the seven divine attributes.
Through following this spiritual prescription may we see to take the inner message of the sukkah back into our homes the whole year, thereby meriting to dance (stand up) and sing (speak) words of praise and gratefulness for each moment throughout our lives thereby meriting to soon dwell in the long awaited Sukkos David.
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- IN RETROSPECT: THE SUCCAH WHERE HEAVEN & EARTH MEET
- DWELLING IN SUKKAH CONSCIOUSNESS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR