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Temporary structure, PErpetual Joy

10/03/2021 09:54:07 PM


Sukkot is known in Hebrew as Z’man Simchateinu – the time of our joy. It’s the happiest festival on the Jewish calendar, labeled as such because it represents a time for coming together to enjoy family, nature, and a bountiful harvest.  

My family erected a sukkah for the first time this year, which gave us numerous excuses for experiencing the joys of Sukkot in new and exciting ways. My kids enjoyed helping to decorate the sukkah with twinkle lights and handmade artwork, dancing with the lulav and etrog, and eating all of our meals outside. Like many young families in the age of Covid-19, we have been pretty isolated over the course of the past 18 months. Having a sukkah gave us a reason to invite friends and family we had not seen for a very long time for outdoor covid-safe dining.

But what happens when it’s time to take the sukkah down? Since Sukkot is such a celebratory occasion, the act of deconstructing the sukkah can be quite depressing. The sukkah is built in somewhat of a rush in the four short days between the end of Yom Kippur and the beginning of Sukkot. Yet there’s no real deadline for taking it down. Since we had so much fun in our sukkah, we procrastinated and kept ours up for a few extra days. We had my brother and his family over for Shabbat dinner and ate outside in the Sukkah even though the holiday was technically over. It warmed my heart when my almost four year-old, Alex, asked if we could keep the Sukkah up forever. As tempting as it was to say yes, I knew in my heart that the sukkah wouldn’t survive a northeastern winter. As it was, the wood frame was already starting to buckle under the weight of the schach (roof) – it would surely collapse with even the tiniest snowfall. Besides, the whole point of a sukkah is that it’s meant to be a temporary structure. It reminds us of our vulnerability and our history as wandering Jews. Also, if we kept the sukkah up permanently, it wouldn’t be as exciting. It would simply become an ordinary part of our porch décor.

And so, I knew it was time to take the sukkah down.

“I’m going to miss the sukkah,” said Alex, sadly.

I gave him a consoling hug and reassured him that we would build a new sukkah – and new memories – next year.

“Now we have something to look forward to,” I replied.

And with that, Alex started scheming ideas for next year’s sukkah decorations. On tap? A Frozen theme, complete with dangling snowflakes.  


Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782