Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

October 17, 2011

House of Faith

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 2:49 pm
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For a week every fall, Jews observe the holiday of Sukkot.  A central feature of the holiday is the construction of a temporary “booth” or shelter, called a Sukkah, in which to live, or at the least, enjoy meals.  The move from the comfort of a home to a fragile booth underscores the frivolity of placing one’s faith in the material, when in fact, all blessings and protection come from God.

After this year’s holiday, we will probably retire our family Sukkah, which arrived shortly after our first child did, 22 years ago.  Made of pre-drilled 2×8 foot panels, it was meant to be easily assembled, and withstand a week of the northeast’s fall weather for many seasons. It’s modular nature has allowed us, through two different homes and as our family grew, to assemble it in various combinations.  The markings on its beams like “face the garage” are wonderfully nostalgic as they reference objects no longer in existence.

I am feeling remarkably conflicted about putting this sukkah out to pasture, in favor of a newer, easier to assemble option.  Having schlepped the panels, used my Dad’s tools to coach reluctant bolts into the pre-drilled holes that seem to get smaller from year to year, and looking at the walls filled with staples from homemade and store bought decorations that have been the furnishings year after year, I should feel relieved that this is the last year for this sukkah.  After all, the veneer has peeled off some of the panels, many are warped and water worn, and they are not getting any lighter or less bulky to handle.

Our move, three years ago, from the home in which we raised our children, caused less sentimentality.  Yes, our youngest child’s first birthday was celebrated in the sukkah,  our children’s school projects hung from its slatted roof, we sat within its walls as a family, eating and singing together, but all those things were true of our home as well.  Why then, am I anticipating missing this now dilapidated sukkah?

The sukkah that Jews build for this week long harvest festival is reminiscent of the booths that God provided for Jews to live in when they wandered the desert upon their exodus from Egypt.  The sukkah is also attached, for me, to more recent memories.  It is my Dad’s toolbox I trot out each year to help construct this tentative structure.  Over the years, the family dynamic has shifted from young boys watching their parents build, to strapping teens and young adults doing the heavy lifting and “construction” while parental foremen offer instruction and guidance.  In 22 years there have certainly been arguments about what goes where, but there has also been unbridled laughter and lots of giggles about our family’s collective and individual carpentry talents – all genetic and learned gifts from my Dad, the head carpenter in the family.

This year, we shared our old Sukkah for the first time with our new daughters in law.  We felt hugely blessed watching the stars through the roof, enjoying the autumn sun.  Although my parents were enjoying the much warmer Florida sunshine, we remembered times that three generations sat together protected by these flimsy walls.

I think it is exactly its flimsy, jerry rigged nature that is why I am missing this run down sukkah already.  It has been, perhaps more than any other place in our family’s lives, where we demonstrate our belief and faith together.  Sharing time there, without all the creature comforts of home,  we have celebrated for years, a joyous holiday and our conviction that God, alone, provides our blessings.

In past years, every sukkah building was accompanied by the ritual of removing splinters that seemed inevitable.  We will probably not buy another wood sukkah.  They are too heavy for our aging bones to handle.  But I trust, whatever the next sukkah’s composition is, it’s message will continue to get under our skin, and we will forever share and truly appreciate blessed moments of faith.

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