By now, every one of us has received our invitation to dwell in the tzila d’heimnusa – the shade of faith. In just a few hours, when we enter our sukkahs, we will experience our own personal Heavenly embrace, fortunate to joyously experience the love that Hashem has for us, His pure and doting children. It is the holiness of the sukkah alone – a structure representative of a metaphysical edifice much greater than we can suitably describe in this short installment – that can propel our true, post-Yom Kippur selves to the levels which we aspire to reach.
Throughout the Yom Tov of Sukkos – indeed, beginning in Elul and continuing throughout the chagim of Tishrei – we add kapittal 27 of Tehillim to our daily tefillos. We recite the words of Dovid Hamelech, whose life was punctuated by a succession of trials and tribulations. In this kapittal, he asks Hashem for protection: “[Hashem] will hide me in His sukkah on the day of trouble.” One would think that a building of more solid construction than a sukkah would provide the protection from danger that Dovid Hamelech seeks. But it is precisely in the “sukkale,” of makeshift construction, where we can best feel Hashem’s protection.
There is a story that some of you may know. Into the night walks a young girl, carrying a tray laden with bowls of steaming chicken soup. She concentrates on the tray she carries, careful not to spill the soup, while navigating the path from her home to the sukkah in the front yard. But when a strong breeze blows, the girl grows worried. After all, the sukkah her father built on Motzei Yom Kippur from flimsy boards and bowed beams is too fragile to withstand the wind, isn’t it? Surely the poor little sukkah will succumb to the wind and will fall to the ground…
The child races to the sukkah – oblivious to the mess that her pace is creating of the soup in her tray – to warn her father that their sukkah is surely in danger of collapse. But her father is not alarmed. On the contrary! He explains to his daughter that this sukkah, which has stood already for two thousand years, has not fallen yet – “My dear daughter, fear not. Our sukkah will never fall.”
This story, of course, is based on the plaintive, moving poem called “In Sukkeh” written by Yiddish writer, poet and editor Avraham Reyzen (1876-1953) about a century ago. Various versions have been recorded over the years – with notable changes made to the wording, verses, and even to the original anonymous melody itself, as it underwent a “folklorization” and gained increased popularity. The poem is a metaphor and is meant to inspire and strengthen us all. It reminds us that the Ananei Hakavod, with which Hashem shielded us in the wilderness, continue to protect, embrace, and keep us standing to this day.
A Sukkale really reflects two sukkahs – one literal, the other metaphorical – but its message is clear. No matter how loudly the external winds may howl, no matter how vulnerable and insecure our physical fortresses may be, on Sukkos we are given the ability to recognize that Hashem has always been there and will continue to always be there, watching over us and providing us with His loving shelter. As the father in the song succinctly says:
באלד צוויי טויזנט יאר, און די סוכה’לע זי שטייט נאך גאנץ לאנג
It is already close to two thousand years, yet our sukkele continues to stand.
Today’s rendition is the version that I grew up listening to, recorded by The Rabbis’ Sons for their debut album Hal’lu in 1967. The simple, yet eerie arrangement (complete with, what I imagine to be, the implied echoes of a hammer striking a nail), makes this adaptation one of my favorites this time of year.
This Yom Tov, may we be zocheh to witness the actualization of another of our daily and weekly tefillos –
!וּפְרֹשׂ עָלֵינוּ סֻכַּת רַחֲמִים וְחַיִּים וְשָׁלוֹם… בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ הַפּוֹרֵשׂ סֻכַּת שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל יְרוּשָׁלָיִם. אמן