Instead of my blue toyota, we now have a sukkah in our front yard, between the wooden fence and the bushes, where normally the car would be. Just like last year, people keep stopping by, asking what this is. Some are with their kids on the way to and from school, some are jogging, taking a breath as they reach the relative flat top of the hill, some are out for a walk with their dogs and other friends. Some are Jewish in variety of ways – by birth, by partnership, by family, by culture, by vague memory. Cautiously they slow down, peek around. They are curious why is this sort of tree-house on the ground; what are the palm fronds on top; why does it have funny writing on the walls, decorations from the no-ceiling and pictures of a far-away place they heard of or read in their church Bible.
We talk. “It’s a Jewish holiday”, I tell those who run and wave from the other side of the street, continuing on their journey. But some want more: “Are you fasting”? They ask compassionately, trying to show me they do know something. “Will you be fasting in here”? They look inside again, trying to confirm their guess, since we haven’t dragged our dining table out there yet. “Oh no”, I shudder. “Fasting was last week. We’re back to food and drink. Sukkot is a reminder of the Children of Israel traveling in the desert and”, I add, “of how life is fragile”, I share the Sukkot elevator speech. And then I pause: a reminder of how life is fragile? Really? Like we need reminders? Syria and Iran do that daily, and if we want to skip the news one day, we’re at an age that we can’t help notice people dying around us, or just simply pick up and move away too far. People get sick without prior notice, they lose jobs (yes, it happens), they change life styles. Reminder that life is fragile? And we celebrate that? I went back to watering the plants and waving with a quiet smile.
Now a few minutes before the holiday, when (most of) the food is ready, the table has moved in and all that’s missing are the guests, I can go back to that and add some.
I realized, that the important piece missing from my street “drashot is just one word. Or two; an obvious word but worth reinserting: sukkot is a reminder that our physical- materialistic life is fragile, and that we can and should open up to whatever is spiritual in ourselves and the universe around us – davka (especially) in a season where our tendency might be to get ready to close up and curl inside our coops.
And there is lots more, commentaries and stories and wonderful deep, meaningful, mystical things to learn. But if it’s spiritual, we won’t be able to access it just through words. The best is to find a sukkah, sit in it and take a deep breath; look up and see the stars. We have at least a week. The door is open. Stop by.