At Sinai Temple’s Dor Chadash (programming and community for families with young children) Sukkot program, the kids made edible Sukkot out of graham crackers, candy and frosting. The little, yummy booths were adorable: chocolate smeared on the “walls”, pretzels serving as branches on top, fruit loops as decorations and sprinkles adorning the whole, messy thing.
One little boy carefully carried his sukkah and friends of mine watched as the child’s sukkah wobbled every which way. As little ones do, he tripped over nothing and the entire sukkah collapsed on the floor, one big heap of broken graham crackers.
My friends couldn’t help but giggle. They wanted to say, “Kid, that’s life…when your sukkah falls, don’t worry, be happy.” In the moment, I agreed. Yes, we all live in shaky, fragile states of existence. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Faced with uncertainty, unpredictability, too often, caught unaware. At any moment, our sukkah might fall down.
But then, I realized, someone must have given the child a new bag of goodies to restart his creation, which is the real lesson of Sukkot: when your sukkah, falls, go ahead and cry. But then, understand, even within the tears, it’s time to rebuild…over and over again.
How could this possibly be our zman simchateinu, the time of our joy when we live in such precarious times? Because, says Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, “Sitting in the sukkah is a chance to make the conscious choice of inhabiting joy…and even if that joy is tempered with anxieties…joy is still the existential state I’m making the choice to try to inhabit, during Sukkot and the days that follow.” In other words, perhaps when we feel a sense of morbidity creep through from the days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Sukkot reminds us to appreciate each moment, offer gratitude for our blessings, and thank God for being alive.
Cultivating joy in a mysterious world is the choice we choose to reject or embrace.
It may feel as if the walls of life are crashing all around, and yet, the foundation of joy that we build over time…that is what allows us to get up and start again.