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Sukkot: Transforming Trash into Love

Sukkot: Transforming Trash into Love

The roof of the sukkah conveys a timely message on how to feel God's protection in your life.

by

My two year old daughter came over to me the other day, handed me a tea light candle and said, “Abba, open it.” I looked at her with a smile and said, “Sweetie, it’s not closed.” She peered back at the candle and turned to me. “It’s broken!” she cried. “Chaviva, it’s not broken, we just need to light the wick with a match," I reassured her.

It dawned on me that we often perceive our lives with the same childlike naivety. We look around at our life circumstances and think that the "right" doors are closed. We hope and search for a magic key to open them up. When we're struggling and everything seems broken, looking at our obstacles with narrow vision, we miss the big picture.

Even when we can’t understand why we experience challenges in our lives, there is something very powerful that allows us to withstand and even grow from them. That "something" is emunah, loosely translated as faith in God.

Emunah is the cornerstone of the Jewish people. When God spoke to us directly at Mount Sinai, He only told us one thing: Believe in Me and don't believe in other gods. God could have chosen to relay any message at this world-altering event, and He chose this. Why? Because belief that God runs the world is the foundation of our religion.

Just as I helped my daughter see that the tea light candle wasn't broken, as Jews we must also believe that life isn't broken. It's been designed perfectly, just as it's meant to be. In the face of obstacles and challenges, we remember that this is all part of God's greater plan for us, orchestrated to help us grow and reach our unique spiritual potential. Living with this awareness of God enables us to thrive, not just survive.

Sukkot gives us an opportunity to deepen our emunah, our faith. According to the Zohar, the sukkah provides the “shade of faith.”

The palm tree leaves – or schach – that make up the roof of the sukkah have to meet certain regulations to be acceptable for use. The verse in Numbers explains that they must be the “trash of the threshing floor and vineyard,” meaning that the schach must be made of the secondary, undesired part of the plant, not from its coveted fruit.

Why should something seemingly so holy be made out of what we normally view as undesirable scraps?

The answer sheds light on the meaning of “the shade of faith.” Sukkot comes at the convergence between the beginning of a new year and the end of the harvest year. It's a time when we celebrate our new dreams for the coming year while reflecting on the previous year. At this juncture, we can look back at all the things we thought “went wrong” in the last year and consider how they connect to the bigger picture of where we're heading today. We can start to see the many ways in which the "trash" – the hardships and mistakes – of our past has shaped who we are today and paves the way for the next stage in our lives. This is why the schach of the sukkah is made from discarded materials – our trash.

We build our sukkah roofs, the part of the home that protects us from the heat, rain and elements, out of the unwanted parts of the plant to show us that God is constantly protecting us with the exact same things we may have perceived as junk. This is the shade of faith.

Life is not always easy and we can’t see the whole picture. But remembering that there is something more, something that goes beyond our limited vision of the world, we can begin to get a glimpse of how God see’s the bigger picture.

Our doors are never really closed and our lives aren't ever really broken. We just need to strike the match, the fire of our souls, so that we can start looking at the world in a new light. This Sukkot, let’s take some time to reflect on this past year and discover the treasures that may have been buried beneath the facade of trash. Consider how an experience or turn of events you perceived as negative has actually been a source of light and blessing in your life and discuss it under the schach of your sukkah, feeling God’s warm embrace from above.

Chag Sameach!

Adapted from Succos Inspired: Discovering depth, joy and meaning.

September 9, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 6

(5) Helen Schwab (Chaiah), September 27, 2015 3:02 PM

Wow!

Hashem's hidden ways! Thanks for writing this! As a frum recycler and composter, this really spoke to me! And this year, the least expected job offer turned out to be such a blessing!, so I hope to share this article about Hashem's hidden ways with 15 relatives in the succah! Chag Sameach!

Moshe Gersht, October 2, 2015 1:39 PM

My pleasure

I am so happy to hear! When I first learned about this idea, I too was running to share it. Chag Sameach!

(4) Aryeh Herzog, September 27, 2015 5:28 AM

Can you please post the sources of the Pesukim? Thanks and a Gut Yom Tov

(3) ESTHER LEMUWA, September 25, 2015 7:44 AM

I LOVE SUKKOT

LONG LIVE ISRAEL. MAY HASHEM SHOWER HIS BLESSING UPON US AMEN.

(2) Anonymous, September 25, 2015 6:19 AM

Thank you!

What a beautiful article about Sukkot, I never knew it had such meaning! Thank you:)

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