First Day

Leviticus 22:26 - 23:44 Maftir Numbers 29:12-16

Our Sukkah Came Crashing Down ©

By Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

The Torah States "You shall dwell in The Sukkahs Seven Days, every native born Israelite shall dwell in The Sukkahs so that your generations will know that in The Sukkahs I caused B'nei Yisroel to dwell when I took them {B'nei Yisroel} out from the land of Egypt, I am Hashem, your God. And thus Moses declared the appointed times of Hashem to the B'nei Yisroel." Leviticus 23: 42-44.

What is a Sukkah? ASsukkah is a temporary dwelling usually found on one's porch or patio or in one’s yard, parking space, etc... It is a building made with a variety of materials.

Story: Our Sukkah Came Crashing Down
Over the past years the Belk family has built our Sukkah out of conduit and plastic, tarps, plywood, wood paneling and other interesting materials.

Another name for Sukkah is Booth. Sukkah is the Hebrew word that many translate as booth. The translation is derived from the Latin word tabernaculum, meaning tabernacles.

Dear reader, as you learn with us on JewishPath you will notice a special fondness for Sukkts. I think it’s because so much happens while The Sukkah is up or, in this case, when it comes crashing down. In another discussion which I encourage you to read, entitled Building A Sukkah Together, I explain it has been a family tradition to build a new sukkah each year.... In that article I explain the fun we had creating a new Sukkah. That article was about a Sukkah we built in 1997 with our dear friend Alex, a blessed brother. This discussion is Part Two to that article.

’s Sukkah. We analyzed it, what we liked, what worked well, what needed to be changed. Then my dear brother Alex and I met to build his Sukkah and mine. That is what the article  Building A Sukkah Together is about, the humorous events surrounding building our Sukkahs. I use the term “building” broadly because we actually prepared the material to build The Sukkah which means The Sukkah had to be assembled. That is where this story begins.

It was the afternoon of Erev Sukkos. I was across town sitting outside the school our son attends. The bell rang. He came charging out with excitement. From the time we left his school we had about four hours to drive across town and assemble our Sukkah. In our family we have another tradition. Well, we used to........ assemble our sukkah on the day Hag Sukkos would begin with the exception of Sabbath.

We had been talking all week by phone. We knew exactly what we had to do. From the minute we arrived home things went like clockwork. Within two hours our sukkah was assembled. The tables, chairs and other items were in place including our decorations. It was wonderful. Our sukkah glowed. It was as if Hashem’s presence had filled our Sukkah. Our Sukkah was filled with joy! It was wonderful. It was so pleasing. Joel and I were so happy as we looked at our Sukkah sitting in our complex parking lot between two parking spaces. One of the parking spaces was ours, the other was a guest space shared with our neighbor who gave us permission to use it during Sukkot. This was our third year in this complex so all of our non-Jewish neighbors had grown accustomed to our weirdness.

bbath crumpled sukkah I wondered, Is this an omen? Is this how the future will be, all crumpled and dismantled? Will this be our last Sukkos together? Many thoughts rushed through my mind.

Holy reader, a sukkah according to the Mishnah is supposed to be fragile, otherwise it would be considered a permanent building. What happened to us recently was a reminder of why we are required to dwell in The Sukkah. It is to turn our thoughts towards our dependence upon Hashem. When our building is fragile we tend to be more dependent upon Hashem. When our building is strong we by nature tend to be more dependent upon the arm of flesh... upon ourselves.

When millions watched huge structures come crashing to the ground it was and still is extremely upsetting. Why? Because of the tragic loss of lives. And because these buildings were not fragile. They were built to stand! They were built to withstand. Yet they came crashing to the ground as if they were unsound and fragile. This is a real setback! This shakes our confidence! This makes us more dependent! This is uncomfortable for us... We want to be strong We want to be less dependent. This tragedy makes us realize how vulnerable we really are. It causes us great concern as it should!

Today America which is still a very great country is shaken. The world community is shaken. Why? We had intelligence failures... security failures... the American homeland was attacked... We were so comfortable with all our high tech spying devices... our modern military... we felt secure. This sad and horrific tragedy has turned many of us more intensely to God. There are many lessons we will learn from this horrible tragedy as time goes on. From the spiritual side, one lesson we can connect with relates to Sukkos. That lesson is the lesson of Sukkot... reliance on God.

...We continued walking about another fifty feet. We came to a drift over three feet high. We continued. Soon we realized we would not make it to shul. We returned home. That year many Denver Jews experienced our fate. It was sad for all of us.

We have moved several times since then. We have dropped the traditions of building our Sukkah with conduit... waiting to the last day to assemble our sukkah and building a new sukkah each year. Yet we still experience the wonderful joy of building our Sukkah, thank God!

Holy readers, B'nei Yisroel during their forty years in the BaMidbar, {wilderness} lived in booths. Every Jew lived in a Sukkah. Our ancestors were totally dependent upon Hashem to protect them in these fragile dwellings. Their Sukkahs were not secure from the elements... wind, rain, dust, snow, etc. Their Sukkahs were not secure from wild animals or creatures of the ground. Their Sukkahs lacked the privacy most of us enjoy. The sukkahs of Kal Yisroel then were nothing more than refugee camps. We fled Mitzriam with what we could carry, drag and pull.

Realizing this I think of others in our world who are fleeing their homes with what they can carry, drag and pull, similar to when we fled Mitzriam thousands of years ago. We were delivered by Hashem from slavery. The Afghans are fleeing their country because of war, poverty, hunger...

We need to look at their pain. We need to remember. Nations of the world then closed their borders to us. We were not allowed to pass through their countries. Our brothers deserted us. It was difficult for B'nei Yisroel thousands of years ago. It is difficult for the Afghans now. They are experiencing what we experienced. Do we want to treat them the same way we were treated? I realize our many differences BUT Sukkot is about remembering, connecting, experiencing and changing. I am NOT suggesting that we extend a hand to terrorist or terrorist supporters. Each year we look back to remember the death, destruction that evil forced upon the world.

The terrorist attack that happened in America now has victimized the world. The ripple effect on world commerce is gargantuan with business losses into the trillions. Layoffs are mounting. We are just beginning to see the effects. The nations of the world are much closer than we realized.

Holy readers, don’t miss the message of Sukkts this year. A Sukkah according to the Mishnah is supposed to be fragile, otherwise it would be considered a permanent building. Let’s remember the lessons of fragility, reliance on God and let’s react properly to those who have not instigated this pain and suffering!

Wishing you the best!

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

Books by Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk