Sukkot - Day 2 October 19, 2005 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
Good Yom Tov to everyone. Yesterday, I was very touched when I heard from one congregant who approached me in the Sukkah and said, "Rabbi, last week I was looking around the sanctuary and the place was packed. Two weeks ago on Rosh Hashanah, the place was also filled. But today, I feel especially proud to be a person who helps to keep the synagogue alive by attending the festival of Sukkot services. Believe me Rabbi, it’s not easy because I am giving up my vacation days." My response was, "G-d bless you, not only for keeping the synagogue alive, but because people like you help sustain and perpetuate Jewish traditions and values."
At this point, I would like to thank each of you for making an arduous effort to be part of the Sukkot festival services.
Today I would like to share with you the meaning behind building the Sukkah, particularly the relationship between the outdoor and indoor environment. There are many descriptions and traditional guidelines regarding the specific heights, size, and overall dimensions of erecting a Sukkah. Architectural considerations are clearly delineated. For a moment lets discuss the workmanship of a modern builder.
Take for example, Frank Lloyd Wright, the renowned architect of the 20th century. He designed museums, homes, commercial buildings, and many other intriguing edifices. The beauty of these works was his special capability to put his feeling and passion for the natural environment from the outdoors into the shapes of indoor structures. His style was known as organic architecture. If you look carefully at his tremendous accomplishments particularly at this time of year – the famous Water House in Pennsylvania whereby streams of water flow through the inside of the home, we can perhaps better appreciate the Sukkah hut design. Frank Lloyd Wright’s work was characterized by horizontal lines, overhanging roofs and natural textiles. He believed one’s home, after all should be the safe haven, where one could exist in a state of peace. At home, one should be able to relax, attain an open mind and revel in the life force and positive energy that is all around.
Now imagine if Frank Lloyd Wright was an invited guest in the Sukkah of Kneseth Israel, like the upspizims, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and so on. I’m quite sure that if he stood and looked at the natural wood of the Sukkah and peered through the Schakle – roof – he would marvel at the design enabling one to see the sky, stars, sun, moon through the slates of the protective ceiling. The beautiful part of our tradition is that even when our ancestors left Egypt, it was observed in an aesthetically artistic way. The Sukkah decorations and interior design uses palms, bushes, tree trunks and branches. Utilizing natural earth grown building materials enhances the rustic feel of the experience.
Today, stores carry Sukkah made from wood, fiberglass, canvas, vinyl, with all styles of bamboo poles and mats. The inside decorations of each Sukkah are as unique and diversified as a person’s fingerprints. Yet they all retain the basis building specifications from thousands of years ago.
During the holidays, learning and telling stories while in the Sukkah is part of the fun. I would like to share with you some phrases of the book, Chicken Soup for the Nature Lover’s Soul….Inspiring Stories of Joy, Insight and Adventure in the Great Outdoors, which seemed appropriate for the Sukkot holiday.
Some insightful comments were made by John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, whose mission was to protect natural resources said, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." Margaret P. Stark writes, "to experience the fullness of our humanness, we need to turn again to nature and open ourselves to what it has to say." John Burroughs, renowned ecologist who lived in the 1800’s, also wrote about nature. Can we relate to his remarks, "I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in tune once more." Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, "So we shall come and look at the world with new eyes." Our family’s favorite table-talk is to recite the 150 Psalms of King David while communing with the beauty of the great outdoors.
May the Lord bless each and every one of us with a full and deepened appreciation of the wonders of the Almighty’s universe. May we continue to marvel and savor the beauty and breadth of our rich heritage and customs that help us to enjoy life on the earth we occupy. Wherever we are, may we always dwell securely in peace and happiness whereby the saying, "Home, sweet home", becomes an everlasting reality. Amen.