The Sukkah: Lesson of Hope Derived from Tragedy

By Rabbi Stephen Stern

Until the tragedy that occurred on September 11, I have always been puzzled as to why on the holiday of Sukkot we are enjoined to rejoice more than on the other pilgrimage holidays of Passover and Shavuot. "You shall be exceedingly happy," the Torah tells us.

But what is there to be happy about? What possible exhilaration can occur from going into a flimsy hut, devoid of creature comforts, and being exposed to the elements? Rather than some great reward, the Sukkah experience feels more like exile. I am commanded to eat, sleep and study in the Sukkah, away from my comfortable chair, good lighting and balanced temperature.

Rabbi Stern teaching the children, in the sukkah, about the lulav.

But the events of September 11 have taught me that these comforts, which I as a Baby Boomer have helped to make household necessities, are neither permanent nor so terribly important. Just watching families living in and around the World Trade Center being uprooted from their homes, with scores of businesses destroyed and jobs lost, has given me a new sense of appreciation for what G-d has granted me, and a realistic perspective on what is important in life.