The Sukkah and the World Trade Center
After the terrorist attacks, the ancient truth came home: We all live in a sukkah.
BY: Rabbi Arthur Waskow
In just a few weeks, the Jewish community will celebrate the harvest festival of Sukkot. Many Jewish families and organizations will celebrate by building asukkah
What is asukkah
? Just a fragile hut with a leafy roof, the most vulnerable of houses. Vulnerable in time, where it lasts for only a week each year. Vulnerable in space, where its roof must be not only leafy but leaky--letting in the starlight, and gusts of wind and rain.
In the evening prayers, we plead with God--"Ufros alenu sukkat shlomekha"--"Spread over all of us Your sukkah of shalom."
Why a sukkah? Why does the prayer plead to God for a "sukkah of shalom" rather than God's "tent" or "house" or "palace" of peace?
Precisely because the sukkah is so vulnerable.
For much of our lives we try to achieve peace and safety by building with steel and concrete and toughness. Pyramids, air raid shelters, Pentagons, World Trade Centers. Hardening what might be targets and, like Pharaoh, hardening our hearts against what is foreign to us.
But the sukkah comes to remind us: We are in truth all vulnerable. If "a hard rain gonna fall," it will fall on all of us.
Americans have felt invulnerable. The oceans, our wealth, our military power have made up what seemed an invulnerable shield. We may have begun feeling uncomfortable in the nuclear age, but no harm came to us. Yet yesterday the ancient truth came home: We all live in a sukkah.
Not only the targets of attack but also the instruments of attack were among our proudest possessions: the sleek transcontinental airliners. They availed us nothing. Worse than nothing.
Even the greatest oceans do not shield us; even the mightiest buildings do not shield us; even the wealthiest balance sheets and the most powerful weapons do not shield us.
There are only wispy walls and leaky roofs between us. The planet is in fact one interwoven web of life. The command to love my neighbor as I do myself is not an admonition to be nice: it is a statement of truth like the law of gravity. For my neighbor and myself are interwoven. If I pour contempt upon my neighbor, hatred will recoil upon me.