A Shelter of Peace: Finding my Space

A D’var Torah given on Friday Night, Erev Sukkot at my internship. Actual delivery varied from text!

growing up in Michigan my biggest sukkot worry was that it would snow in the sukkah, or those other times when it would rain and the paper chain I’d spent hours piecing together would be ruined, soggy, gone. Sukkot always meant hot apple cider, chilly nights outside, mittens. And then I came to LA, it was warm, even comfortable in the sukkah, I didn’t have to worry about my paper chains being ruined- what a weird experience. It wasn’t until I moved to LA 6 years ago that I even learned that Schach, the word for what we cover the sukkah with didn’t mean evergreen. I came to LA and was very confused when there were palm branches on top of the Sukkah, Of course they didn’t have evergreen trees in the desert as they were traveling, but for me, it was a huge blow to my world.

A couple of weeks ago as I was learning more about Etz Chaim, I heard the following conversation: There was a problem with the Schach, the covering for the Sukkah. Apparently if it was delivered too soon it would dry out and become a fire danger. Now, some of you might be thinking, DUH, this is obvious, it’s dry, we live in a desert? I’d never even thought about that, I only saw the luxury in living somewhere that had weather above freezing for sukkot.

listening to this conversation I was again humbled at my place on this earth. Sukkot, this holiday we have just entered into provides us with a space to think about our journeys. While we may not be physically journeying from place to place with this temporary structure as our only shelter, we are journeying through life. We have just spent days thinking about who will live and who will die, praising God for the good in our life, wondering how we can help others. And now we have arrived at Sukkot and are again reminded of our temporary residence in the world. The sukkah, like our relationships with one another takes effort to build, requires constant care, checking in on, nurture in order to make it through just an 8 day celebration. The sukkah stands for us as a symbol of community.

Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Shelomeicha. Spread over us the shelter of your peace, of your completion. This phrase is part of the Hashkiveinu prayer said every night during Ma’ariv, the evening service. It has always stood out to me as a line of poignancy, one that speaks to me on many levels. Physically, we build the sukkah, we build this temporary structure to live in for the 8 days of the holiday. It becomes our home, our center. And on a much higher level, we think about a much larger structure, being wrapped, embraced in God’s arms, in God’s shelter of peace, of tranquility, of completion. The Sukkah is much bigger than what we can build in our own backyard.

We are on a journey, trying to find the space that we will call our own. The sukkah thtat we build is strong, but can only last for so long.

We ask God to spread over us his shelter of peace, to support us on our journey. Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Shelomecha. Over the next week as we celebrate the joy of the harvest festival, as we continue on our journey through life, finding our place under the shelter of peace, think about where your journey is taking you. We have this gift each year of 8 days to sit with ourselves, to think about where our journey is taking us.

And so, it is my prayer, my hope, the prayer of my heart that God spreads over you, over us his/her shelter of peace. That each of us finds our peaceful place, a place of center, contentment, happiness. That the loving embrace of God helps each of us to find our own place, our makom Kavua (set place) in this world, and we enjoy the journey to that place!

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach!

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