“O n the 15th day of this seventh month, is the festival of Succos, seven days for Hashem.” (Vayikra 23:34)

On Succos we have two mitzvos: sitting in the succah and shaking the arba minim. These two mitzvos represent the two aspects of man. Shaking the arba minim represents how man is always in movement, always working toward a destination. Sitting in the succah represents a totally different side of us — no movement, just sitting there. (Rav Itamar Shwartz, Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh)

I love Succos. The action, the preparations involving the whole family — building, cooking, decorating — the way we’re all working together.

I bentshed licht that first night of Succos, savoring the cool breeze blowing through the sechach, rustling the paper chains and carrying the woodsy smell of pine and earth.

Then I turned to Yitzi, who was watching me wide-eyed. “Ready to set the table?”

Together we brought out the special sets of disposables I’d bought. He twisted the napkins into original shapes while I plated gefilte fish and two types of salmon. Salads, dips, and the honey jar all contributed to the sweet and spicy aromas as we finished our setup.

“When everyone comes home, we’ll make Kiddush in the succah!”

“And sleep in the succah!”

He bounded out the garden door, turning cartwheels in anticipation of camping out.

I went into the house for a few quiet minutes before the meal.

We find two Names of Hashem that reflect the two facets of our life’s mission. One facet uses movement, as we do mitzvos. The other’s objective is to utilize introspection, which employs lack of movement, as we recognize Hashem’s existence and connect to our understanding of Him. This is a more elevated and deeper relationship. (ibid.)

I’d barely settled on the couch when the front door burst open and my husband ran in.

“We need to make Kiddush fast. There’s a storm rolling in.”

I looked up, startled. “I was just outside, it’s gorgeous out there.”

“Not anymore. Kiddush fast!” He raced out the back door to the succah, but it was too late. In shock, I followed him out to a scene of total disarray. In the few minutes I’d been inside, a wild wind had whipped up. The sechach was rattling, decorations were flying in all directions. The patio furniture was flung across the floor and as the wind rose higher, twigs and branches came winging past us.

“Too late for Kiddush. Get everyone inside. It’s dangerous out here.”

“I never saw something like this before! One minute quiet, the next it’s like a tornado!”

“Let’s see if we can wait it out and still manage Kiddush.”

We peeked through the window in time to see a whole sechach mat go flying off into the sky, borne aloft by the shrieking winds. The sound of the honey jar shattering added to the chaos.

“Good thing I bought disposables. They’re disposed of now.”

The depth of our avodah on Succos is to combine these two facets of ourselves and integrate them together. We need to use the movement of mitzvos to reach an inner place of repose — of internal recognition of Hashem. (ibid.)

Within a half hour, it had ended. The air was quiet, but the devastation was complete. Half our succah was passul; the sechach hung at odd angles. The table was destroyed, bits of colored paper littered the floor, and everything was covered with a thick layer of dirt.

Wordlessly, I cleared off all the food. The kids ran for the broom. We swept and reset the table. Just a bare Kiddush cup and two challah rolls on a plain white tablecloth.

I felt like crying. We’d spent so much time and effort preparing with such simchah. And now, jarred gefilte fish and white plastic utensils?

“Why didn’t Hashem like our decorations?” sniffled Yitzi.

“He took our decorations to Shamayim so He can see them there!” Binyamin decided.

Yitzi’s eyes lit up, cheered at the idea of his paintings reaching the Heavens. But what about me? I’d thought my purpose this past week had been preparing, cooking, and decorating. Yet as my husband began Kiddush, I realized we didn’t need outside props. It was all about sitting in Hashem’s succah.

I love Succos. The serenity envelops us all together. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 562)