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The Sukkah Is Now

The Sukkah Is Now


The sukkah is a strange place. Do it by the book and you’ll be sitting at your most elegant furniture with the finest linen tablecloth, your most expensive porcelain and silverware set before you, as though this were your palace where you will rule forever. Until you look up.

When you do look up, you’ll see your roof is a precarious assemblage of disposable organic inedibles that provide little if any protection from the rain, easily blown away with the first strong wind.

And, by the book, you have to look up.

Tell me, of what does this remind you? In what other temporary structures do we live as though they were permanent?

I can think of two: Our bodies. And the biosphere of planet Earth.

Our bodies, because for the first 40 years of the journey called life, most of us will not even consider the specter of a final stop. It is simply too overwhelming for us to digest: There was a time when I did not exist, and there will be a time when this “I” into which I have invested so much will simply vanish. And so, rather than come to terms with our mortality, most of us sit through life as though the movie never ends.

So too the biosphere. Something about it—or about us—provides the impression that as there is today, so there will always be water to drink, oxygen to breathe, fish in the sea and elephants roaming the savanna. As a child relies upon its loving and forgiving parents, so we trust the earth will never cease to grant us its bounty or to accept the garbage we bury in its bowels. We nod to the data that screams otherwise, bow our heads to the experts—yet something of our human intuition will not let us to absorb the notion that this world that fostered us could somehow be vulnerable to our actions. So we continue living upon it as though it were an absolute, as though the very act of existence assumes that this shall always be.

Until we look up. And there will always be those events in life that force us to look up.

Once you look up and come to the realization that we are travelers on a finite road, that nothing shall ever return as it was, that there is not a single object onto which you can grasp and rely with utter confidence, for none of it will ever be truly real—once you know all this, how then should you live?

You might say, “Who needs this transient world, this dark pit of nothingness? Let me escape to a higher reality. Let me ignore as much as possible this mirage of life.”

As many enlightened people before you have said.

Yet the Torah asks otherwise. That were you to be the most enlightened being, still you must live in this disposable hut as though it were your permanent home. You must embrace this fleeting moment, celebrate it and cherish it as though nothing else exists, knowing that everything was created for this moment alone, that its Creator eagerly awaits the act of beauty you might do here and now, within this body and upon this magnificent planet.

Know that this moment will never return, and treasure it as eternity.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Jeff Shapiro Bala October 4, 2017

The Succah is now. Maybe you've said; are you also doing the non-linguistic, pictorial part of your post? Reply

Paul Cornwall UK October 5, 2017
in response to Jeff Shapiro :

Jeff, Back in 1980 I had a discussion with an Israeli gentleman about language differences between English and Hebrew. The example used was a missing tense in English, to be in a continual state of .. From then I aimed to try and understand differences between the Jewish faith and my own, In recent years Chabad has helped this. Photography references attempted to bring some common ground, I was actually thinking about my mothers oncology appointment next week. The illustrative aspect - the "Pomato Grafted Hybrid" clearly indicates the challenge of connecting given widely different viewpoints (it was certainly not intended to cause offence) - Back to today's future hope then, I was interested to ascertain how an early Celtic Cornish Christian community established itself observing Jewish not Christian holidays, for c 500yrs, apparently without hand building a Pomato..could they have had Jewish help back then? - would it be relevent today? - best regards Reply

Paul Cornwall UK October 3, 2017

Rabbi Tsvi - For me, an occasional gentile visitor to Chabad, there is something of your heart that is consistently present in your essays. A kind of warmth I think, like photographs taken at some family moment on a golden evening. Perhaps a set of candid informal, stills of wedding guests, that are less about the dress code, more about the smile and the catchlight in a subjects eye, a spark of hope for the future...

Your essay "The Sukkah is now" cries out (to me at least) with words that express a great hope you have of the wider corporate Sukkah arriving soon.

I was surprised to discover that science is unsure of the exact mechanism allowing the grafting of trees - apparently it works better with identical/close kinds of tree, yet amazingly it is also possible to grow potatoes from the rootstock and tomatoes above ground on a single grafted tree - what do you think, are we gentiles comprised of the same four kinds as you are? Reply

Trish Delaware October 3, 2017

I really like the reminder of our body being temporary in addition to all I might normally think of in its transience. Thank you for sharing your insights. Reply

Rabbi USA October 3, 2017

No offense - but the premise that the universe will end (irrespective of the fact we must be responsible) goes against the G-d given promise.

Please seek the fine line between poetic lyrics.... Reply

Tzvi Freeman October 3, 2017
in response to Rabbi:

Rabbi, nothing that you see around you is forever, other than your good deeds.

The Talmud states (Rosh Hashanah 31a) that this world last only six thousand years.

After that, time continues (see Guide for the Perplexed, Part 2, 29:6), but the world will not look at all as it looks now, as the prophet says (isaiah 66:22), "For as the new heaven and the new earth which I will make shall endure by My will —declares G-d— so shall your seed and your name endure." Reply

Sharona Northbrook October 3, 2017

This came at the right moment as I grapple with my aging parents and my own frailty. Thank you. Reply

jim dallas October 3, 2017

Rabbi Tzvi, in Torah hebrew are the most delicate intricacies of sensitive awareness, your English and subjects rival that and are treats to read. Wow, and the comments recognize the art and also raise excellent thoughts. Thanks to all. Reply

Suzette Bernard Paris September 30, 2012

Very beautiful and touching. It reminds me of who I am and my personal duty towards Who G-d is. Reply

Peter White Donegal, Ireland via September 29, 2012

Beautiful Beautiful commentary by Rabbi Tzvi - thank you sir. Reply

Henry Brown Miami Beach, FL September 27, 2012

Sukkah Thank you for this beautiful insight.
Have a wonderful sukkot.

Izzy September 27, 2012

To Bill Kelly I'm so sorry to hear that; may we soon have the arrival of Moshiach where you will be reunited with your wife down here on earth once again. Remember the soul and the body (after Moshiach arrives) WILL be eternal. G-D bless. Reply

Anonymous October 2, 2017
in response to Izzy:

Could you explain to me which of our resurrected bodies will be eternal? Will it be my body at age 13, at age 25, at age 50 or at whatever age my body was when it died? Not a trick question. Reply

Tzvi Freeman October 3, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

We don't know everything. We live mostly with questions.

We are given to know that which we need to know in order to do that which we need to do. Reply

Jose Gadol Thornhill, ON September 28, 2010

The sukkah is now Absolutely fantastic this linkage between the temporary bodies and the sukkah.

Don't exactly see the fact the fact that this world is finite as a problem. Wasting anything is bad but everything is from above. Reply

Kayo Tokyo, Japan September 28, 2010

Thank you for guiding us Thank you for teaching what our lives really about. It was good that I read this. I will try to implement your teaching to my everyday life. Reply

Bill Kelley Tifton, GA, USA September 28, 2010

Why did G_D make a temporary world How can you appreciate a positive without experiencing a negative? We, being rescued by G_d clearly know what it is to not have a cable bridge break and drop us down to distruction. Frankly, I would much prefer to passionately LOVE being with G_D forever than to have it be "OK, this is nice."
Before my wife died from cancer last year, we had a 42 year long honeymoon. We both loved coming home to each other. How could I ever consider accepting a "Oh, you home already." situation? Reply

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