By Rabbi Dario Feiguin
B´nei Israel Congregation, Costa Rica
A three walls Sukkah
Before the joy of Simchat Torah, the dances and the songs, the ending and starting again the cycle of Torah Readings, once again we say Yizkor.
Today I want to share with you one idea from Rabbi Sidney Greenberg’s book, maybe because I have Yizkor in my mind, or maybe because the memory of a person that wanted to end with his life, with whom I spoke some time ago, or maybe also for the tensión that bubbles naturally inside of me trying to find a crack to mend what is broken.
Also, I think that the tensión between the life that I miss and the life I can’t stand, is not only mine. It is a tensión inherent to the human condition, and in consequence, it belongs to each and all of us.
Rabbi Greenberg remind us of the Midrash that says that when Job complains before God, God shows him a “three wall Sukkah”. Job is the biblical character that represents the archetype of the suffering tzadik. To him, according to the Midrash, God shows a Sukkah with three walls. Why three walls?
1) The Rabbi says that God wanted to remind Job, and also to remind the Job that exists inside each of us, that our Sukkah is lacking one wall. Of course all of us would love to have a Sukkah with four walls: happy marriage, healthy kids, good professional career, good health and long life. But today, nobody has a Sukkah with four walls. Suffering, failure, lack of health and frustration are very common for all. Nobody is exempt. And whoever says something different is lying. Because of that, the Sukkah with three walls is the norm and not the exception.
2) The Rabbis say: “A three wall Sukkah is kasher”. Regardless the missing wall, it is still standing. One way or another, life keeps going on. Life is filled with anguish, but also is filled with paths to overcome it. Some parts of the walls fall, and other parts are added.
As a Rabbi and Counselor, I can’t say that there is a single formula to get out of the existencial anguish. But I know that others made it, and that we can be as wise and as good fighters as them. We can choose to let go of the missing wall, we can choose to see that there are still three standing walls. Even when we loose our loved ones, they remain in our memory. We continue talking about them, crying for them, and loving them.
Harold Rusell, a Second World War Veteran, lost his hands in battle. He shared his experiences in a book named “The Victory is in my hands”. He says: “What is really important is not what we lost, but what we let go”.
In other words, it is not what dissapear in front of our eyes, but what we can keep, what we can become and experience, but we let it go.
We belong to a people that developed the art of survive in a three wall Sukkah. Regardless the lost of our land, the diaspora, the persecution, the tragedies, we did not loose our humanity, our compassion and our commitment to justice, freedom and peace.
And another thing. From the missing wall we can see the missing walls of the nearby Sukkot. From the experience of my lacks, I can be sensitive to the lack of others.
We are all vulnerable. We all have looses. All of us are short of affection and meaning. Life is imperfect and looks like that is also our condition.
I think it is time to accept it. Time to realize we are not omnipotent.
I think it is essential to be able to remember on Yizkor all what we have lost.
And I think it is essential to be able to visualize what we could have lived but we did not.
When we say the Birkat Hamazon for the festivals (the blessing after meals), we add a phrase: “Harachaman hu yakim lanu et Sukkat David hanofelet”, which means: “Merciful God, restore David’s Sukkah that crumbled down.
Because it is true: we would love to see the day when all sukkot are whole. But while that day arrives, we have to build a sukkah with three walls to remember what we lost, to recuperate what we could have retained, and to restore our own life, that resembles a sukkah, so it may be filled with beauty, joy and peace.
Shabbat Shalom v´chag Sameach!
Rabbi Darío Feiguin
B´nei Israel Costa Rica