Chol Hamoed
Chol Hamoed

Chol Hamoed

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Temporary but Secure

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

The human need for security, stability and control is incredibly strong. The feeling of being vulnerable is a most unpleasant one. It is a feeling that propels one to seek security and safety. The epic work Duties of the Heart, written by Bahya ibn Paquda in the 11th century, notes that all human beings rely on something to relieve the uncomfortable feeling of insecurity and vulnerability. Some rely predominantly on friends, others on family, others on financial resources and most on a combination of the above.

I write this as I sit in my home awaiting Matthew, a dreadfully powerful storm. I hope and pray for the safety of everyone at this time. I do not know whether our brick homes with hurricane proof glass and shutters would provide resistance to a direct hit from a category 5 hurricane. Despite incredible technological advances in our modern world we all remain vulnerable to natural disasters. We are all unfortunately vulnerable to illness and disease, heaven forbid. Somehow, even in our wonderful secure modern world, the feeling of vulnerability persists.

“Even though it is a mitzvah to rejoice on all the festivals, there was an additional celebration in the Temple on the festival of Sukkot, as [Leviticus 23:40] commands: “And you shall rejoice before God, your Lord, for seven days.” (Maimonides, Laws of Shofar, Sukkah Velulav 8,12)

Sukkot is the holiday which we refer to as Zman Simchateinu, the time of our happiness. We are commanded to leave our secure permanent homes and enter flimsy, temporary structures, exposed to the natural elements of sun, wind and rain. Surely we would be more comfortable and joyous in our sturdy secure homes?

The ten days of repentance from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur awakens us to the realization that we are completely and absolutely in the hands of Hashem. He is our protector and redeemer. This notion fills us with the joy and the confidence that it is not only our secure homes, financial resources and social support system on which we rely, but that our ultimate security can only be found by relying on our Father in Heaven. This is the tremendous joy of the Sukkot holiday.