Before each of my daughters got married, we spent a lot of time together. There are always so many details to take care of – the wedding itself, clothes to buy, a home to set up. Our conversations would range from the trivial (Are these shoes the exact shade of grey I need? What do you mean, that’s not trivial?!), to more profound discussions of marriage and tools for creating a great one (they usually at least pretend to listen to my advice!).
The needs seem endless; the to-do list never seems to diminish. And through it all, we are experiencing a unique mother-daughter bonding at a particularly vulnerable and meaningful moment in our daughter’s life.
But what happens when they get married? When all that together time suddenly evaporates? Overnight. Literally.
There’s a big hole. There’s all that time I was spending with her – okay; that gets filled up immediately. And there’s all that emotional energy, all that expectation of constant discussion and intimacy that is just gone. My hand itches to pick up the phone – just to check in, to reassure myself, to revive the contact. (Note to future sons-in-law: don’t worry, I don’t call, I’m not that kind of mother-in-law!) But I always miss her. I miss that closeness. I miss that unique bond.
And I think there’s actually a parallel between this experience and Sukkot. Sukkot is a time of intense bonding and connection with the Almighty – with no distractions. It’s not that we can’t have a close relationship all year long but this is a special opportunity. No one and nothing else counts. It’s only this relationship.
The analogy works here too. This is a special time with just this child. Everyone else has to step aside briefly (and hopefully with good grace). Their needs are delayed; just for this short time, the focus is only on their sister. It’s rare, it’s intense. As is our connection with the Almighty on Sukkot. It’s the culmination of days of preparation and work and this relationship in this moment is all that matters. We spend as much time in the sukkah as possible, just basking in the joy and wonder of it all. We are bonding with our Creator – in ways trivial (great dessert!) and profound (recognizing that He is all there is).
And then, suddenly, the holiday is over. But we just can’t quit cold turkey. We can’t face the emotional chasm. So the Almighty gives us the holiday, Shemini Atzeres, an extra day. He gives us a transitional period, an opportunity to adjust to the change and to figure out exactly how to make this new closeness part of our lives. A gift to fill the void.
And it goes farther. Unlike with our newly married daughters, even when the holiday ends, He is eagerly awaiting our call. (Now I know exactly what to do with all that extra emotion!)