Off the Pulpit

Both Passing and Permanent

I don’t know if the story is true, but I hope it is. Goldberg built a sukkah. Next door lived a nasty man who didn’t like Jews and decided to get an injunction against unstable structures in the neighborhood. The case came to court and having listened to the arguments, Judge Steinberg said, “You are correct. The structure may not stand. Mr. Goldberg, you have a week to take it down.”

Sukkot is a holiday of temporariness. Everything passes, everything changes. Walls are fragile, roofs are porous, life itself is passing. We read Ecclesiastes to remind ourselves that all is hevel, vanity – in the sense of fleeting and empty.

Yet Sukkot is also the holiday of eternity. For the covering of the sukkah must enable us to see the stars; we invite Ushpizin, guests from the past, into the Sukkah; and Ecclesiastes concludes by reminding us to revere the reality of God. We live between the passing and the permanent; creatures of flesh and blood but endowed with a spark of the eternal. Chag Sameach.