For the week ending 11 October 2014 / 17 Tishri 5775

The Solidity of Fragility

by Rabbi Peretz Segal
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Religions throughout the world proclaim their power through the buildings they erect to celebrate their gods and idols. Huge in scale, majestic in form they decorate the globe with their splendor and bespeak permanence and power.

And the Jews, we call our "temple" a Sukkah. A Sukkah is a little hut with a roof that must leak, a roof that by its very nature cannot protect and will not last. A structure that becomes halachically invalid if it is too high and is disqualified if it has permanence. How strange to describe our most holy of places as a Sukkah. Surely we too would like to give honor to the Almighty?

Yes, because there is nothing more permanent than a Sukkah. Those temples are, or will become, ruins. The mighty walls, one day, will come atumblin' down and the high roofs will eventually cave in. If you want something to last forever, don’t trap it in physical form.

About a year ago I wanted to teach this lesson to a group of teenagers. “Okay, I want you all to make a paper airplane,” I told them. I had given them each a piece of A4 paper and watched as they folded the papers into different kinds of airborne (or semi-airborne) craft. “Right, now take your planes and tear them to pieces.” I watched the reluctance on some of their faces as they crashed their “masterpieces”. I then handed out a new sheet of paper to each of them and said, “Now, I want you to remake the planes that you just destroyed.” With a touch of suspicion, they did. I let them pause to examine their work. “What is stronger, more solid, longer lasting - the idea of the plane in your head or the actual plane in your hand?” I asked. “The idea!” someone called out. He had a blond bush of hair and keen grey eyes. “Why?” I prodded. “Well, because even once the plane has been broken, you can rebuild it if the idea remains in your head, but the plane that we tore up is gone forever”.

The flimsy Sukkah can never be broken, because it was never there to begin with. In its purest essence the Sukkah isn’t a structure - it's the expression of an idea, the simplicity of faith, the unity of G-d. The walls may fall but the Sukkah will exist for eternity.

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