You shall dwell in Sukkot seven days. All citizens of Israel will stay in Sukkot, so that your generations may know that I caused the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 23:42-43)
The Torah lets us know that Sukkot has great meaning. But it does not tell us exactly what meaning we are to glean from our ancestors’ experiences in the desert. We do not live in fragile booths today. We are lucky to have the stability of a land in which to live and permanent communities of which to be a part.
But I think that the idea of the Israelites together in the desert, living in sukkot that likely were whipped by the wind and rain, is important to us today. I can say that for the last few years, I have been seeking a community where I felt wholeheartedly comfortable in. From my theater and orchestra communities in high school, to my activist circles in college, to my community of social workers in grad school. In St. Louis, I was involved with the Jewish young adult community and felt at home for the first time in a long time. But of course, I left and came to Israel. Last year, while I lived in stable structure, my physical community in Gedera was not my own. I felt that it was temporary because it was, and while I tried to immerse myself in this new community, it didn't have everything I wanted, despite a host family and good friends. Again, I left Gedera and moved to Jerusalem. While I'm still trying to figure out what kind of community I want, and while in each community I live, I can find a support system and new friends, I know that they are all temporary until the time that I "settle" in a community for longer than a year.
In some way, I can completely understand how the Israelites in the desert felt - they just left a seemingly comfortable situation. Yes, they were slaves and had a difficult life, but how terrifying it must have been to be in the desert. Not knowing how to survive, except through the dependency on Moses and his connection to Gd! Don't you think some of the Israelites must have wanted to turn back around and say, I think I might prefer a permanent structure to the wind and rains and hunger in the desert?
Of course, the community moved together and they had each other. Many of us came to Israel with no support system in place. I knew absolutely no one before I decided to make a leap of faith and come to Israel last year. And I think it has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. While we dwell in this and every sukkah during this Sukkot, despite the rain or the wind, we should remember how difficult it was for the Israelites in the desert. Like the Israelites, we must recognize that we may be terrified, but it is up to us to make the best of our situations and constantly search for meaning. I think that the meaning we should glean from thinking about the Israelites in the desert is that we should constantly strive for the community we need, even if we have no idea how to find it. Only Gd knew the exact place that the Israelites should go, physically, spiritually, and ethically, but the Israelites followed Moses because of their faith. We have no idea where each of us will end up, but we must have faith in our own actions and in Gd to get to the physical and spiritual places we may not even know we need to go. Chag Sameach.