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Canopies & Walls

Friday, 2 October, 2020 - 9:07 am

As soon as Yom Kippur ended, I looked around the canopy tent that served as our outdoor synagogue for the Days of Awe, and thought about building another temporary structure.

Within about 24 hours of the wall-less tent coming down, we had put up a walled, yet roofless, structure. Soon enough we gathered branches and added the schach.

The contrast of the two structures got me thinking.

The tent had a beautiful and quite secure roof. We were well-protected from the rain. However, it had no walls – which is precisely why we chose it, as extra precaution against potential covid-19 lingering aerosols that might escape a social-distanced mask.

The sukkah, on the other hand, has sturdy walls, but the roof is rather weak.

In fact, for a sukkah to be kosher, its walls may be constructed from wood, steel or even cement. Any material is acceptable for the walls, so long as it doesn’t sway in the wind. The roof however, must be made from detached vegetation. And, rain must be able to seep through.

The primary reason for sitting in the Sukkah on Sukkot is to remember the Divine protection of the Jewish people while they sojourned for 40 years in the wilderness. Though they were vulnerable to the elements, attacks and constant change – they trusted that Almighty G-d would protect them. We sit in a Sukkah not merely to commemorate their huts. Rather, we are reliving the faith that is essential to our own being.

By sitting under the feeble roof, we express and experience our trust in Hashem. This faith brings us great joy – knowing that we are in the hands of our able Creator. Leaving the homes that we build and being surrounded by the protection of Hashem is the greatest safety and security.

But, why is a vulnerable roof the primary point of a Sukkah? A canopy tent also makes us susceptible to the elements due to its lack of walls. Wouldn’t that suffice to remind us of G-d’s protection?

And, if we are looking for the ultimate in vulnerability, why doesn’t the sukkah have vulnerable walls as well?

The key difference is that the roof is above us and the walls are at our sides.

Walls – attached to the earth – represent human endeavor. A roof, suspended above – represents Heavenly protection.

G-d does not wish that we rely entirely on Heaven. Nor, does He wish that we imagine we are fine without Divine assistance.

The greatest act of faith is not sitting in a canopy tent. Building strong walls, and yet still feeling vulnerable, is exactly what genuine faith is all about.

G-d wants us to partner with Him by maximizing our human effort. And, then to realize that without faith in G-d’s protection, we are doomed to fail. That’s what happened with the Tower of Babel and countless others that have come and gone.

To be Jewish is to persevere. To be Jewish is to work hard. And, to have the humility and faith that Hashem will do the rest.

As we continue to endure the anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic, there’s no better time to enter a Sukkah and feel G-d’s embrace.

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