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    Was the Sukkah real?

    Sukkah meal, by Bernard Picart, 1722

    The sukkah was the portable shelter that was home for the Israelites during forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

    ts nature was the subject of a discussion in the Talmud (Sukkah 11b). Analysing the verse, “I made the Children of Israel dwell in sukkot” (Lev. 23:43), Rabbi Eliezer said that the sukkot were ananei kavod -­ clouds of glory. Rabbi Akiva said they were actual sukkot.

    Rabbi Chaim Druckman of Yeshivat Or Etzion explains that the two views complement each other.

    On their own the “actual” sukkot would have been too fragile to protect the people. But because of the Divinely-provided clouds of glory, the “actual” sukkot assumed almost miraculous strength and became able to withstand the elements and provide the necessary protection.

    Rabbi Druckman comments, “The sukkah presents us with the true source of our existence. The Jewish nation has passed, over the generations, so many great and terrifying deserts, snakes, vipers and scorpions, yet the nation withstood these through the strength of the ananei hakavod, through the strength of Divine Providence. Without it we would have vanished long ago.

    Rav Kook remarks that sophisticated weapons can breach the strongest of fortresses or the thickest armoured barriers, yet they cannot breach the strong wall of the sukkah. Though the sukkah may seem flimsy, it affords the greatest protection, for it expresses the eternity of God’s word.”

    Life in the sukkah presents the Jewish response to the fragility of human existence. We know well that anything can go wrong in life and often does. No-one has any guarantee of safety or survival.

    One can hire security guards, ride around in bullet-proof cars and live in a fortress with bars, bolts, deadlocks and back-to-base alarms. But there is no way of totally eradicating vulnerability. So why bother going on with life?

    The Jewish answer is not to give up, but to have faith in the Divine ananei kavod. It used to be said in Israel that survival depended on two things – bittachon (security) and, pronounced in the Ashkenazi way, bittochon (faith).

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