Article

This temporary building comes to remind us that our homes on planet earth are temporary too; that our materialistic achievements are fleeting; that our physical edifices are short-termed. And, at the end of the day, the only true and lasting possessions we can have, are the spiritual ones. Like the tzedakah we give to our community and to the poor. Or like the time we pray to G-d not only with our mouths but with our hearts and mind as well. Or like the two minutes, we spend doing homework with our child. Or like the extra phone call, we make to mend a broken relationship.

Rabbi Allouche

A year ago, upon hearing the news about the novel “coronavirus” that erupted in China, I doubt anyone would have imagined that it would have had such far-reaching effects on our lives. 

Yet, as of today, 7.7 billion people have been disrupted by this pandemic that knows no color, creed, or race. 

The negative effects are evident. Many have lost their jobs. Others, have fallen into the abyss of despair and depression. And some, have suffered the worst of all — the passing of their loved ones. 

Nonetheless, and lest we forget to also count our blessings, we must also acknowledge that this pandemic has also produced many positive results. Families, who were now forced to spend more time with each other, solidified and strengthened their inherent bond, like never before. Relationships were repaired. Acts of kindness, particularly toward so many individuals who were, and are still, quarantining alone, increased multifold. 

But above all, this pandemic has shifted our perspective on life itself. Suddenly, we have come to the realization that our physical senses are unreliable and deceptive. What we thought was certain — the comfort of our homes, the security of our jobs, the health of our physical body — has become so uncertain. What our physical senses thought was true, has been revealed as so untrue. 

Our physical senses may help us perceive aspects of our reality. But, we now understand, that there is so much that exists beyond all that we see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. And the only senses that are truly and fully reliable and trustworthy are our spiritual and intangible ones. 

In some magical way, these spiritual senses have now taught us to recognize that even as we found ourselves “alone” at home, God, and the love and affection of our loved ones, are still with us. Even when our jobs are gone, our family remains forever. And even when people die “alone”, their good deeds and many merits are with them, and scores of angels accompany them from this world to the next. 

This is the refreshing message of this festival of Sukkot (which begins this evening), in which we are asked to dwell in a “Sukkah,” a “temporary hut” (according to Jewish law, if it is built entirely as a permanent edifice it is disqualified.)  

The lesson is surpassingly beautiful: this temporary building comes to remind us that our homes on planet earth are temporary too; that our materialistic achievements are fleeting; that our physical edifices are short-termed. And, at the end of the day, the only true and lasting possessions we can have, are the spiritual ones. Like the charity we give to our community and to the poor. Or like the time we pray to G-d not only with our mouths but with our hearts and mind as well. Or like the two minutes, we spend doing homework with our child. Or like the extra phone call, we make to mend a broken relationship. 

In the profound words of my beloved mentor, world scholar, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, of blessed memory: “We only truly own, what we give.”