All Jews!

Friday, 29 September, 2023 - 10:11 am

In lieu of a personal message, please enjoy this piece by my colleague and former yeshiva-mate, By Rabbi Eli Friedman (Chabad of Calabasas).

The Talmud in Tractate Sukkah makes the following statement: "All Jews are worthy of sitting in the same Sukkah."


All Jews!


And some will ask, "What about those Jews who don't keep the holiday of Sukkot?"


All Jews.


And some will ask, "What about those Jews who want to change Israel's judicial system?"


All Jews.


And some will ask, "What about those Jews who voted for so-and-so?"

All Jews.


And some will ask, "What about those Jews who protest against the Israeli government at the UN?"


All Jews.


And wherever you go, there will be well-meaning people who will presume to know which Jews the Talmud is (obviously!) not referring to. And they will all be wrong.


"All Jews." That's it. That's all it says.


And far from being a vague, irrelevant and theoretical observation, the statement has practical implications: any Jew anywhere can use the Sukkah of any Jew anywhere and need not own their own Sukkah to perform the Mitzvah.


Why? Because G-d wrote in the Torah that, "All the Jews shall dwell in Sukkot." All the Jews? Yes, says the Talmud. All the Jews are worthy of dwelling in one and the same Sukkah. They need not own each their own.


Of course, if you want to take breakfast, lunch, supper and coffee breaks in the Sukkah, you'll want one nearby, preferably at your house. But that's a matter of convenience, not obligation. Unlike the Lulav and Etrog, which everyone should ideally own privately.


There is a special energy in the air during Sukkot. It is unlike the energy of any other holy festival. It is a feeling of family, of many people gathered together around one table, under one S'chach roof, inside one great, big, simple Sukkah. 


The Sukkah commemorates the protective clouds sent by G-d to watch over the Israelites in the howling Sinai wilderness, without which not a single Jew could have survived the scorching sun, the biting cold or the dangerous wildlife. 


And there isn't a single Jew in the world who does not need to be in the Sukkah.




50 years ago, as the holiness of Sukkot descended upon Israel, the Syrian and Egyptian armies were attempting to do the same.

At a time when people tried not to wander too far from the nearest bomb shelter, the familiar concept of the Sukkah as a spiritual shelter took on urgent meaning. 


The verse from Tehillim 27 rang in many minds: "For G-d will hide me in His Sukkah on the day of evil."


And now, 50 years later, Jews in Israel and everywhere can take the parallel to heart. Which Jew didn't need a shelter then? And which Jew doesn't need a Sukkah now? 


For the sense of estrangement nibbling at the fringes of Israel's society, where brothers feel like strangers with each other, the Sukkah is just the antidote. 


Let us not kid ourselves: we are in this together. We might as well be in the Sukkah together. 


All together, without exception!




The only question that remains is, which one Sukkah shall we all gather in? Your Sukkah or my Sukkah?


So, here's a novel idea. Let's gather in the Sukkah like the soldiers did fifty years ago in Israel. On the battlefield, at the front, under the threat of hostile fire, Jewish men fighting the enemy constructed and gathered in a Sukkah. Why don't we gather in that Sukkah?


They say there are no atheists in foxholes. All doubts about G-d vanish when you're under fire. And so do all doubts about the brotherliness of the men on your right and left. It becomes clear as day; clear as night lit up by tracers, star shells and the rockets' red glare. These are your brothers and your life depends on them.


Why don't we gather in that Sukkah? Then we can abandon all the terribly foolish doubts we have about each other and get the family back together. 


This year, as we sit together in our respective Sukkahs, let's all have peace talks. Not about peace with the Arabs but about peace with the Jews - the Jews to our right and left. 


Let's discuss what the Torah says, what the Talmud says, and take the words to heart. 


And may our friendship and unity here spread peace upon us and upon all of Israel, and let us say, "Amen!"

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