| Family Reflections |

Out in the Open

Out of our homes, we take a good look inside us and discover what we’re really yearning for


This Succos is different from all others. In past years we did something unusual; we moved our tables and chairs to a flimsy, outdoor hut, where we prayed, ate and socialized. This year, though, there’s nothing strange about this activity. A succah almost seems like a normal place to live in because we’ve been living outdoors for months in one form or another.

Since coronavirus struck, we’ve gone through many adjustments. In different countries and at different times, we’ve found ourselves alone and isolated indoors, then placing tables on driveways for walk-by kiddushim, then socializing and celebrating in backyards, davening in parking lots and finally, tentatively, moving indoors again, though often in smaller and more sanitized groups than before.

Whereas Succos used to come once a year to shake us out of our complacency, toss us out of our solid-looking homes and remind us of our dependence on Hashem, a sudden plague has done that for us already.

On Shaky Ground

Hashem has shown us that nothing can be taken for granted — not even toilet paper. We’ve had to renegotiate our religious activities, our jobs, our homemaking, our parenting, our marriages — everything. Our feet are no longer on solid ground.

This “ungrounding” can actually be a good thing for our spirituality. After all, the material world is a limited, distracting, one, and when the grip of materialism is loosened, it can become easier to accomplish more in the spiritual realm.

A lot of us stopped dressing up for strangers, since we didn’t have to leave the house to go to work or take the kids to school or programs. But if we wanted to, we could still dress up for ourselves, our kids, our spouse, and Hashem. Doing so reminded us that we’re important, our loved ones are important, and we’re here on an important, holy mission.

Similarly, without the structure that used to push us through our days, we had to decide how to use our time. For most of us, it was a period when no one except ourselves and Hashem would be aware of our activities and their ultimate value. We had nothing to hold onto — except our free will.

Trapped inside our homes with ourselves, alone and often lonely, or with our family members, often feeling crowded and overwhelmed, we came into close contact with things we may have previously avoided — like the quality of our relationships, the state of our minds and hearts, and the purpose of our existence.

Yes, some of us were so busy we had no time to analyze or think, but even then, without our usual escapes, we were actually forced to feel. Some of us felt grateful to be alive. Some were overworked and exhausted as never before. With the exception of the masters of emunah and bitachon, many people lost their sense of security.

Now What?

Because we’ve been through all this, sitting outside is different this year. This year we really feel that our only shelter is Hashem. We know how vulnerable we are. We know that our homes, our money, our power and our friends, can’t protect us. We know that all we’ve got is the succah — the bond we have with our Creator.

Hopefully, this knowledge can help us going forward. No one knows what will be. But we know that time is precious and we must accomplish what we can, while we can. Now is the time to focus on gratitude and love. Now is the time to see the big picture and bring it to life. This year, the succah can bring us more clarity than ever.

We’re in Your hands, Hashem. Please help us fulfill our mission. Help us love more deeply and more kindly. Help us let go of resentments and petty complaints. Let us merit to go back into our homes and shuls, back into our steady structures. Let us host people at our tables in the winter when the cold sets in.

Please put an end to this plague and to all plagues. Please heal our broken hearts, remove our stress, ease our fears and bring us joy. Please bring the redemption now.

These and many other prayers will fill our succah this year. May Hashem heed our prayers.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 712)

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