Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Shabbat Sukkot- God's Glory

Uf’ros aleinu sukkat sh’lomekha, v’tak’neinu b’eitzah tovah mil’fanekha, v’hoshieinu l’ma’an sh’mekha.
Spread over us Your sukkah of peace; direct us with Your good counsel, and save us for the sake of Your name. (From the evening liturgy)
Vayomer har’eini na et-k’vodekha. And he said, “Show me, please, Your glory.”
Shemot 33:18
Sukkot most often refer to the huts in which the Israelites lived while in the midbar; as the text says, “ki basukkot hoshavti,” “for in sukkot I made them dwell.”  The natural assumption is that the Israelites dwelled in some sort of structure, and is the reason we continue to build huts every year, remembering our exodus from slavery.  These huts must be temporary, easily put up and easily taken down, although the definition of easy is in the eyes of the builder.
Rabbi Akiva supports this saying the Israelites each built a sukkah mamash, a physical sukkah.  But many commentators explore the multi-level meanings in the word.  Rashi teaches that the sukkot were not the booths, but the A’n’nai kavod, the clouds of glory, which hovered over the camp.  Ibn Ezra combines the dual meaning, “they made… sukkot… and this is the custom...  And if Israel should ask why this mitzvah is in Tishrei… it is because a cloud of glory was over the camp. This, to me, balances our t’fillot with our practice. Our evening liturgy, in Hashkiveinu, asks for the glory of God’s “sukkat sh’lomekha,” canopy of peace to be spread over us. On Sukkot, we read of God’s glory being shown to the Israelites even as we dwell in sukkot mamash in our own backyards. But our sukkot mamash are not mere huts. They are things of beauty. We spread above us a cornucopia of produce and decorations to bring glory and inspiration to the holiday.
While the evening liturgy links the spreading of the sukkah above us with good counsel and salvation, the Shabbat Torah reading begs for God’s glory. Perhaps when we sit in our own sukkot, looking up through the roof, which both protects and exposes us, we should hope to be inspired by what we see around us. Whether it is the colours of the sky blending with sunshine and clouds, the infinite colours of the changing leaves, or the vastness of the night sky, this is God’s glory, and our inspiration to look beyond our own walls and be a vital part of the world around us.

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