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Sukkot - Jewish Fountain of Youth?

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The holiday of Sukkot is the holiday of happiness. Literally - when we recite the prayers for the holiday we constantly refer to it as “Zman Simchatenu” - the time of our happiness. I could go ahead and give you all the basics on Sukkot, run through the same old stuff you could read by searching “Sukkot” on Google. But instead I’m going to give you a direct view into the realizations and revelations I had while observing the Holiday - because that’s what actually matters most about any given holiday. Sure, Hashem loves it when we fulfill the Mitzvot precisely as they are commanded - but the point of them, as Rav Aryeh Kaplan writes, is that they are consciousness elevating activities. Every holiday is a consciousness elevating activity that gives us the opportunity to enter uninspired and emerge with a wealth of life realizations and Torah insights. These are the true joy of the holiday of joy - those moments of sublime self-engagement, when you’re sitting out there in the Sukkah looking up at the stars. Thinking to yourself. Talking to God.
 
Life is about family. When you aren’t with your family you are disconnected from your source. You are like a baby once it has been removed from the umbilical cord - no longer receiving the nutrients that sustain life directly from the source. When we are away from our families we are in a constant state or decline - a gradual forgetting of our true selves, rooted in the lack of the life affirming moments that simply being with your family provide.
 
This is the nature of our disconnection from the Source of all Energy, of all Creation, of all Goodness Holiness and Truth. Every year that our infinite soul spends inhabiting this earthly body we are one year removed from when our soul was entirely immersed in the Infinitude of the Divine Energy. We are like fragrant, fresh herbs plucked from the ground - gradually deteriorating each year, like ET’s plant, literally dying in proportion with the length of his disconnection from his home world. We are in a constant state of exponential disconnection from our home world - the world of the spirit. This is what it means to be a “mature adult” - a person whose soul has succeeded in programming itself to disconnect from the freeness, the infinite expansive perfection of the spirit realm, in favor of establishing “an identity.” Such a person is in for a rude awakening when the years of their life come to a close and they find themselves “in danger” of returning to the formless, perfect chaos from whence they came. From which we all come.
 
On Sukkot we get back in touch with our youthful consciousness - the root of all happiness. Children are happy because they are not yet acclimated to the struggles of this world. They are buffered from these struggles by a combination of parental protection and youthful naïveté. An external protection, and an internal protection. On Sukkot we recreate these specific elements of the childhood condition, children once more after emerging from what Rabbi Alan Lew refers to as “the death rehearsal” of Yom Kippur. The external protection on Sukkot is our Sukkah - we are quite literally enclosed in God’s protection. One wall is left open - a reminder that God’s protection, like that of a parent, includes times when He lets us go out on our own to learn our own lessons from the world. Times where we wish He was there to hold our bike as we ride without training wheels for the first time and we don’t feel Him. We don’t feel Him and we cry out to the Heavens - the Schach must not obscure our view of the stars. Yet this protection is still in full effect whether we realize it or not - the Schach must produce more protective shade than it lets in unfiltered sunlight.
 
Our youthful naïveté - this is the Simchah that we must work on internally. The protection from the “harsh realities” and external tribulations of the material world that exists primarily within our own consciousness - that must be fashioned into an internal seafaring vessel, allowing us to navigate the psychic waters of the various reactions we have to all the mentally and emotionally overwhelming Yisurin of life. This is the Simchah of Emunah - the happiness of faith. Faith is not blind and it is not natural. Faith is calculated. Faith is developed and cultivated. We create this state of consciousness from within even as the Sukkah protects us from without. We stay in the Sukkah as much as we possibly can to ensure that we don’t lose a moment of that parental protection while we go through these internal fortifications. The winter months are coming - the vessel of Simcha, or calculated happiness, must be ready to set sail by then, to carry us through the season of toughest storms. We acknowledge that we can’t do this on our own. We can’t keep the happiness of our youthful simplicity without knowing that our Father in Heaven is providing for us constantly, that while we do this internal work we have nothing to fear from the outside world. Our lives will not implode because we take this week to focus on cultivating a sustainable and lasting mentality of positivity and happiness. Rather, they will prosper - the rains will start at the close of the holiday and begin the natural cycle that will eventually result in our harvesting crops once again.
 
It’s been 2000 years since the Jewish people had a civilization built around Torah. Our Sages weren’t even sure it would be possible to keep it alive without that setup. Let alone without the centrality of the authentic oral tradition. This is the tragedy of the Beit Hamikdash being destroyed - the tragedy of a Judaism decentralized, splintered, chaotic. A Judaism of text rather than a Judaism of culture, an instruction manual rather than the living traditions of a people in their own land.
 
Yet we still sit in these Sukkot “so that our generations know that in Sukkot [Hashem] sat the Jewish people down upon their exodus from Egypt.” The exodus from Egypt is a constant process - a constant reminding of our souls which are direct pieces of God from the purely spiritual dimensions - that even though they’re for now trapped in these earthly bodies and ruled by a Pharoah of impulses, Hashem lives and breathes in this world just the same as He does in those spiritual dimensions. He’s just as close to us here - as close as we’re willing to let him be. Close enough to be our literal house if we let him be. We don’t have to be disconnected from the source and slowly wilt as we age. We just have to return to our Sukkot - with our families - to remember what it means when we read in just a few weeks, in the present tense: “and God blew (is blowing; is always blowing) into his nostrils the soul of life.”
 

. Jacob Schwartz regularly writes blog postings for Jewish Values Online.
 
Please note: All opinions expressed in Blog Postings and comments on the Jewish Values Online site and through Jewish Values Online are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, beliefs, or position of Jewish Values Online, or those associated with it.
 
 
There were many miracles that God performed during the Jews’ sojourn in the desert – the manna, the “ananim,” water spurting out from rocks, etc. Why on Sukkot do we focus on the most mundane and man-made aspect of God’s protection—the huts the Jews dwelt in?
See answers from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis here.
 
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