04 Oct A WEEK IN EXILE
At a black-tie affair, all the guests are wearing tuxedos or expensive gowns. They all look pretty much the same.
But there are two groups of people at this affair. One group, when they go home, hang up the tuxedo or gown in the closet. The other group returns it to the gemach or wherever they had borrowed it from.
One Rabbi used this example to describe the two groups of people in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. Everyone is there, everyone is praying, but there’s a big difference. Some people keep the “tuxedo,” the devotion they showed on Yom Kippur, with them the whole year. But other people “bring it back” right after Yom Kippur, and don’t keep it with them…
This is one of the purposes of the holiday of Sukkot.
The Midrash tells that the reason why we celebrate Sukkot right after Yom Kippur is because as we were judged on Yom Kippur, it may have been decreed that we must be punished with exile. Our residence in the sukkah during the week of Sukkot serves as our “exile” so we will not really have to go into exile.
Really? This is the purpose of Sukkot?
What if it was decreed that we will endure some other form ofpunishment? Why was the Torah concerned only about a decree of exile?!
Exile is an experience of instability and vulnerability. A person in exile feels unsafe. He doesn’t have a home, and he’s among foreign people in a foreign land speaking a foreign language. He feels vulnerable. He feels unprotected.
This is what the experience of the sukkah is supposed to be. We leave the stability and comfort of our homes and live in a fragile structure, where we feel vulnerable. This experience is to remind us of our dependence on Hashem, that we rely completely on him, that we are not independently capable as we might at times think.
And this might be the meaning of the Midrash – that we go into the sukkah in order to experience “exile.
One of the main purposes of this entire season is to remind us that we are dependent on Hashem. It reminds us that Hashem is the judge over the world and He decides what our lives will be, and this in turn reminds us that we must live the right way and pray to Him in order to receive what we need and what we want. The period of judgment is followed by Sukkot to ensure that the “’tuxedo” stays with us, and isn’t brought back; to make sure that this feeling of dependency doesn’t disappear after the end of Yom Kippur, that we keep it with us throughout the rest of the year.
As we sit in the sukkah with our families, let us use this opportunity to remind ourselves of our vulnerability, that we are totally dependent on Hashem, and this will help ensure that throughout the rest of the year, we will live with the proper focus, recognizing our responsibilities to Hashem and trying our best to fulfill them, each and every day.