The Kabbalah of Sukkot:
Letting Go of The Roof
"You shall dwell in Sukkos (booths) for seven days… so that you will know, for all generations, that I had the Children of Israel dwell in Sukkos, when I took them out of the Land of Egypt; I am G-d your G-d." Leviticus
We live in a world of time and space, a world that constantly changes and moves. But all this movement cloaks a profound truth - the ultimate truth - that in essence, everything is one.
Kabbalah tells us that there is nothing – truly nothing - here but G-d. In order to allow us the experience of personal existence, G-d must hide that reality; contracting and concealing His infinite presence so that we can be. At the end of the concealment process we are left not only with space to exist, but with the sense that we are ALL that exists. In this ‘through the looking glass’ world, we live with the illusion that we are the true reality and that G-d, if He exists at all, is somewhere outside of us, separate and not entirely real.
But on Sukkos this illusion begins to break down. As we sit inside the Sukkah we experience an existential joy that stems from our soul’s awareness of a deeper reality – that we live not separate and alone, but within the Divine.
THE ILLUSION OF CERTAINTY
This past year has been turbulent. We have experienced breakdown and chaos, and it certainly seems as if more is still to come. Once, not so long ago, our world felt relatively solid and secure. But no longer. As politicians posture, the economy is crashing and the forces of darkness gathering. At times it seems as if the world is starting to spin out of control.
But there is another side to the coin. When life becomes unpredictable, it forces us to let go of the familiar and known. It leaves us without the comfort of the illusion, but open to a deeper reality, connected to a profounder level of truth. Being in this space of unpredictability and chaos gives us a potent opportunity to shift, transform and renew.
MY COZY BED
One evening, a several years ago, I was in my room getting ready for bed. I was going through the usual routine of brushing my teeth, washing my face, and looking forward to getting into my safe, snug bed.
But suddenly, just for an instant, my perspective shifted and I saw life from a different point of view. I saw that my feeling of security wasn’t just about being released from the pressures and demands of the day. My security stemmed from an illusion: that my routine, the familiar four walls of my bedroom and the coziness of my comfortable bed actually made me more safe and secure.
For one moment at least, the illusion was gone. I realized on a visceral level that the world stood on nothing but Divine will. And suddenly, at that moment, my four walls didn’t feel particularly solid anymore.
The truth is that no matter how we feel or what we pretend, our safety doesn’t come from routine. Life is never entirely certain. A mere hairsbreadth beneath the illusion, our lives are fluid, unpredictable and always new.
According to Kabbalah, our universe is actually not a solid, immutable reality at all. It exists in a fluid and dynamic state known as continuous creation.
The world exists at each moment only because G-d is consciously and deliberately choosing to bring it into existence here and now. Intrinsic to the very act of creation is the concealment of Divine Truth, because if we were fully aware of the infinite, all-encompassing presence of G-d, we – as separate, conscious entities with self-will and free choice – would not exist.
However, this concealment is only a starting point, not meant to remain in force forever. Our task, especially in these unprecedented, transformational times, is to seek out and perceive the deeper truth – that everything is Divine.
LIVING ON MIRACLES
Sukkot commemorates the journey of the People of Israel through the desert where they wandered, after the Exodus from Egypt, for forty years. The desert was an arid an inhospitable environment that did not support life. But nevertheless, the Jews survived. They lived with continuous miracles - manna that fell from heaven each day and Clouds of Glory that protected them from the blazing sun and heat. Their survival, on a moment-to-moment basis, was so clearly dependent on G-d that it was impossible to sustain the illusion that it was natural in any way
Over those forty years, the awareness of G-d as a real, constant, protective presence was implanted deep within the collective Jewish psyche. And even after thousands of years of exile, it remains imprinted in our spiritual DNA, awaiting only the right circumstances to rise to the surface once again.
THE WAR AT THE END OF DAYS
Those circumstances are upon us.
The prophets describe a time known as “the end of days” which immediately precedes the messianic redemption and the ultimate transformation of our world. During that time, a final war – the war of Gog and Magog – will occur, and after that war the world will forever recognize and embrace the truth of G-d and the Torah. There are many interpretations of exactly what and how this war will be; whether it will be devastatingly physical, or whether it can be fought and won through spiritual means.
But one interpretation is particularly significant today, as we enter the festival of Sukkot, 5770 years since Creation began.
According to this interpretation, Gog is an allusion to the Hebrew word gag, which means roof – the “roof over our heads” that represents the sense of protection and security that we derive from physical things.
As the world fast approaches the time when Divine truth will finally be completely revealed, we must undergo a transformation in consciousness as well. Our illusion of separateness and solidity must disappear. We must know – truly know - that our security and protection come not from material possessions or solid structures, but from G-d.
THE SUKKAH TELLS THE TRUTH
Unlike our everyday environment, the Sukkah reflects reality as it actually is. With its roof a simple canopy of leaves and branches, the insubstantial Sukkah invites us to abandon the illusion that physical things – the ‘roof’ – will provide us with the security we so deeply need.
In addition to being insubstantial, the Sukkah is temporary, encouraging us to step out of the limiting boundaries of a past- and future-based perspective and embrace the truly unlimited potential that is available only in the infinite NOW.
The Sukkah calls us to the truth that G-d is One. As enter the insubstantial, impermanent and intensely powerful embrace of the Sukkah, we acknowledge this truth not only with our minds, but with our bodies as well. We let go of the illusions with which we surround ourselves and embrace the essence of life as it actually is.
The Sukkah makes us vulnerable to the forces of nature. But paradoxically, this vulnerability is our greatest power. In letting go of our dependence on the physical, on the “roof”, we embrace our own true nature as partners in Creation, as Divine beings made in the image of G-d.
As we move our lives into the Sukkah, we are doing far more than fulfilling a commandment or commemorating the past. On some essential level we are living the future. We are embracing our Creator and our destiny. And G-d, as we sit within the fragile walls of the house with no roof, is embracing us.
(**Since the Torah forbids the erasing of G-d's name, it's customary to avoid writing it out