| Parshah |

Shell-ter

Why a succah that does not have four complete walls can still be kosher

“In Succos you should live for seven days…” (Vayikra 23: 42)

According to Rabi Eliezer (Succah 11b), the mitzvah of Succos commemorates the Ananei Hakavod that surrounded the Jewish people on all four sides as they traveled through the desert.

However, halachah permits a succah to have as few as two walls and a tefach (handbreadth) of a third. But if a succah commemorates the clouds of glory, which completely enveloped Bnei Yisrael, shouldn’t it need to have four complete walls? Why should any other configuration be acceptable? (Rav Dovid Hofstedter, The TorahAnytimes)

Solitude. Over the last half a year, that commodity has become precious. So when a random morning found me alone in the house, I breathed in the silence with pleasure. Settling on the couch, I began folding a basket of clean laundry while mentally composing a shopping list. I could almost hear the cogs of my brain working without the usual background noises of a large family cooped up together for too long. Eggs, milk, tuna.

Thump.

My hand froze, holding a sock in midair. Did something just go thump in the middle of the day?

Thump. Thump. Bump.

The couch shook slightly. My eyes roamed wildly around the room, searching for a predator. My body poised to spring to safety.

Bump. Whump!

Looking down, I nearly made eye contact with… a turtle. I don’t know who was more surprised — me, who jumped up like a maniac, flinging laundry everywhere, or the turtle, who promptly responded by withdrawing into the safety of his shell. I nearly began hyperventilating. A turtle. In. My. House.

Oh, I knew who was to blame. My upstairs neighbor was lucky I liked her so much, because it was her kids’ turtle that managed to escape their garden, descend to mine, and make its merry old way into my home. How it managed that, I don’t know. Nor did I care. What I cared was that there was nobody in either of our homes to save me from this reptile invasion. I grabbed the only thing at hand, the empty laundry basket. Being a brave and valorous soul, I hurled the basket over the turtle and fled.

The miracles of the Ananim provide us with a unique insight into Hashem’s involvement in our lives. Bnei Yisrael traveling through the desert were impervious to any potential harm, thanks to the Clouds. The challenge was to recognize the miracle, to realize that beyond the Clouds, the reality of scorching desert temperatures and winds still existed. Contemplating the dangers outside allowed Bnei Yisrael to rejoice and appreciate the shelter within the Clouds.

I was being held hostage by a beast in a basket. As time crept by, I finally ventured close to the couch. Peering through the slats of the basket, the turtle took one look at me, decided he was way more scared of me than I was of him, and retreated once again. Lucky him. He could glare at me from the safety of his nice secure shell. I briefly entertained the thought of throwing a laundry basket over my own head so I could glare back at him through relative protection. This critter was giving me jitters.

Alas, I had no such shield. So for the next four hours (four!), I was doomed to share my solitary space with a creepy crawly cooter who disliked me as much as I disliked him.

Perhaps that’s why a succah that does not have four complete walls can still be kosher. When the succah contains openings, we can look outside and realize how much better off we are in the succah’s shelter. Our level of appreciation for all Hashem does to protect us will grow.

Finally, a knock on my door heralded my salvation. My neighbor’s son nonchalantly scooped up the turtle, still hidden from dangerous me, and carried it gently home.

Right on his heels came my own crew, crashing and banging into the house with all the enthusiasm and chaos a bunch of boys create.

I much preferred their company to that of my uninvited guest. But, despite being mildly shell-shocked, I found myself wondering, and maybe even wistfully wishing, that I, too, could have a shell, a place where I could scuttle to shelter and safely peer out at a scary world.

 

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 712)

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