A Temporary Dwelling: The Journey Toward The Land
By Elana Heideman
There are only 2 mitzvot that we can do with our entire being, both body and soul: The mitzvah of building/dwelling the Sukkah, and the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel. (Vilna Gaon)
How meaningful it is to appreciate the union of these two mitzvot as Sukkot arrives in Israel.
When the Israelites left Egypt and traveled for forty years to the Land of Israel, they built tents to live in along the way. But in the period surrounding the harvest, temporary huts or booths - Sukkot סוכות - were built with the date and palm branches that signified the completion of the season. The distinction of living space was a reflection of their faith - as a celebration of the life-giving harvest infused with awareness of its Provider, generating true joy and thus making this one of our most festive holidays!
The tradition has been carried on for these thousands of years in keeping with the commandment “You shall dwell in Sukkot for seven days… so that your future generations shall know that I had the children of Israel live in Sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt….” (Leviticus 23:42-43).
The finale of the Chag Season, ending with Simhat Torah in honor of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the sukkah is in its own way a symbol of peace: it is open to the elements of nature, to the heavens above and to our family and friends...
How wonderful if we can also ensure that this temporary dwelling is an open reflection of our connection Israel?
Sukkot are build all over the world; But in Israel, it is a truly unique experience. You can enjoy the experience of spending time in your sukkah without the heat of the summer as the nights are cooled by the brisk fall air, as the breeze of this incredible land brushes your skin with such sweetness, such caress, it brings a smile to your face...knowing we are in the land our ancestors journeyed towards, the land in which we were destined to thrive as a people.
Within the modern day mosaic of this incredible country, Sukkot is felt on every corner - yet another part of Jewish life in the Jewish state that unites history, tradition, family and faith in a celebration of our freedom as a people on the ancestral land we have inherited. Here in Israel, there is certainly no need to stay confined to the backyard: nearly every restaurant in the country has a sukkah in which to eat, some even have a lulav and etrog on hand - It's a beautiful sight to see soldiers, tourists, and locals filled with the joy of this special holiday! The country is (again) on vacation and there are more festivals than one might imagine to fill these days with meaning.
In so many ways, Sukkot offers us the opportunity to connect with the Land in which we were destined to thrive as a people. Every year, we take ourselves out of the comforts of our home to relive an experience that spans the generations and helps us connect with the memory of our ancestors and the journey they traveled to reach the land promised to the Children of Israel.
So much meaning has been placed on these temporary dwellings, wherein families gather, guests are welcomed, and delicious dishes concocted to celebrate the abundance of the Land of Israel.
Many people grace the walls of their sukkot with the blessings, images of the species, and sometimes images of the Kotel. As you decorate your Sukkah this year, we invite you to adorn your dwelling with images of the Land that will help remind you of the journey - both ancient and modern - that the Jewish People have traveled to our ancestral homeland, to the place that we can all call home no matter where in the world we might live.
Select a special image that will help you celebrate that connection. Imagine driving the roads of the Judean Hills, or under the canopy of the date trees, wandering the streets of Jerusalem, or standing at the Kotel (The Western Wall) and shaking the Arbaa Minim (The Four Species) with thousands of other Jews...
Indeed, it was once said that "One should concentrate on being part of the entire people of Israel, with intense love and peace, until it may be considered as if all of Israel dwells together in one sukkah." While we may not all be together in the land to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in the land, we can unite in our mitzvah of inspiring Israel by combining something temporary with something permanent: our commitment and belonging to Israel.