Today is the first day of Sukkot, the Jewish harvest holiday and the first of the Shalosh Regalim
(literally, "three legs"), the trifecta of biblical holidays that directly involve the commemoration of the biblical exodus from Egypt. This will be the second year we will be eating in our very own sukkah (pictured up above is a smaller version of it) and possibly sleeping in it, since my son is so jazzed about that tidbit of info he learned about from religious school (woohoo! Camping trip on the porch this weekend. Yeah!). We still have to hang some fruit and veggies from the ceiling and get some decorations up, but we have the little hut up and it will remain up into the next week.
Rabbinic interpretation of Jewish law decrees that the sukkah must be a temporary structure to symbolize the wandering nature of the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt. The ceiling must be made of leaves and branches, called schach, that allow one sitting in the sukkah to see the stars in the sky through the branches. The holiday coincides with the harvesting of the first fruits in Israel, so the fruit and vegetables hanging from the ceiling are symbolic of this. The time and, more importantly, the place in which I and my family live, however, make it impossible to celebrate this holiday and not have FEMA trailers in mind.
Granted, the kidding has been a tad dark in its humor. "To really make a FEMA trailer a sukkah, you'd have to take the wheels off, take one wall off, and replace the ceiling with leaves and branches," Dan has said. Considering the formaldehyde leeching out of the pores of the walls, making those kinds of renovations might well be a vast improvement in one sense.
Being in the sukkah these days, however, serves as an extra reminder to me of all those in this time and place who have no permanent home at this time. Those who are still forced to wander aimlessly, whether they are doing so physically or whether they are stationarily aimless in a box with wheels. Those who cannot find mental peace as of yet, even though they are physically grounded in a new, permanent home. Those who are unsettled by world and local events and constantly afraid of what each day will bring.
I guess, overall, it's reminding me of the fragility of the human race.
It is customary to invite ushpizin - guests - into the sukkah to enjoy the hospitality of the ones who have constructed it. I invite all who venture down the gray brick road to catch a glimpse of the little rectangular hut as they pass by. Don't be strangers. Knock on our door or call ahead and accept some of our hospitality for a while. May we all be so honored, and may we all get the chance to return such honor to others in the course of our lifetimes.
Chag Sameach - a happy holiday.