Monday, September 20, 2010

The Total-Body Experience: A Thought for Sukkot

I saw this thought in a number of books in Hebrew, but a quick internet search brought me to it in English here, in the book Tallelei Oros by Rav Yiśakhar Dov ben Shaʼul Rubin (it's scary what's online). You can buy it here.

The real question is: what does it mean? What difference does it make that these two mitzvot share the quality of a "total body experience?" To me the answer has to do active faith.
According to the Gemara, the Sukkot that we sit in represent either the "Clouds of Glory" that protected the Jewish nation in the desert, or the actual booths they dwelt in during their travels in the desert. Which ever option you choose, either represents a symbol of divine protection and influence. The Jewish nation left the relative safety (things were bad, but at least they were safe) of the desert for the danger of the desert. How was a nation of millions supposed to survive the harsh, unlivable conditions of the desert? And yet they did.
To remind us of both the faith of the nation, and God's miraculous protection of His people in seemingly impossible conditions, we leave our home, with their solidity and security, and live unprotected in the Sukkah. One cannot demonstrate that level of faith halfway. We either sit in the Sukkah or we don't. Sticking your hand in the sukkah won't cut it. We must leave our homes and move into the Sukkah for a week, and actively demonstrate our dependence on the divine.
The same applies to the Land of Israel.
In a way, you've got to be crazy to live here - and I'm not writing from a financial point of view. (I've come to believe that Orthodox people who live in the United States are crazy. How do they afford tuition?) I'm talking from a security point of view. We've got:
  1. Hizballah to the North. With a gazillion missiles.
  2. Syria to the Northeast. They're the ones giving the missiles to Hizballah. Thanks for that.
  3. Gaza in the south. They're committed to attacking Israel pretty much daily.
  4. Even farther east, we have Iran - whose nuclear aspirations are truly disconcerting. And they're giving money to anyone with a gun and an I-Hate-Israel website.
  5. And let's not forget the unknowable number of terrorists living among us - in cities and down not only in the West Bank, but in Israel proper.
In a nutshell, you've got to be nuts to live here. And yet we do. And we thrive and grow and succeed. Coming here - staying here - demands full-body emunah. It asks us not only to live with this reality, but to send our sons to protect it.
I think about this reality more and more as my oldest son grows older. One day, in not-so-many-years, he will, God willing, leave home to serve his country in the military. I will be proud, and pray for his safety, but this is not a scenario I had to contemplate when I lived in the States. That's whole-body emunah.
Food for thought as we sit in the Sukkah this year.