As a little girl, I used to travel a lot with my mother. Before each journey, there was always that moment when we stood by the opening of the door, and I watched as my mother placed her hand on the mezuzah and prayed for a safe trip and a safe return. “Elana, kiss the mezuzah,” she would tell me. I would reach up on my tippy toes, touch the mezuzah, and then kiss my hand.

I went to college, and the mezuzah came with me. I got married, and the mezuzah came with me. My husband and I moved, and we moved again and again and again. But no matter where the location, no matter what type of apartment we moved into, one thing stayed the same—the mezuzah we affixed to our door. I went to college, and the mezuzah came with meThe mezuzah gave our place of residence an identity; the mezuzah told everyone who passed by, “This is a Jewish home.”

When I enter my home, I reach up to kiss the mezuzah. I leave it, I do the same. I tell my children as they leave for school, “The mezuzah!” They reach up on their tippy toes to touch and kiss the mezuzah. The mezuzah connects us to our faith. The words written on the parchment contained inside the mezuzah case declare the oneness of G‑d; they are the words of the “Shema” that we lovingly say very day.

However, for one week of the year, the entrance of my home doesn’t have a mezuzah. For a week, I eat and I drink, I sit and I chat, I sing and I read in a place where there is no mezuzah. What? During the holiday of Sukkot, my sukkah doesn’t have a mezuzah. Why?

A mezuzah symbolizes permanence. However, the word mezuzah contains the word zaz, to move. When you look around your home and you see all your possessions, what do you think? “These are my things. This is my home. I live here.” This is fixed, here to stay. But really, we are wrong, and the mezuzah on our door teaches us that this world is only temporary. Our sages teach us that this world is merely a corridor to the next, an illusion of stability. But when we die, we take nothing with us. The only things that we keep forever are our good deeds, our mitzvahs, our acts of faith and belief in G‑d.

The only things we keep forever are our good deeds

During the holiday of Sukkot, we are commanded to leave our homes and worldly possessions and go live in the sukkah. For seven days, we dwell in this temporary residence that cannot have a permanent roof. The sukkah represents the clouds of glory, the Divine Presence which protected us for 40 years in the desert. It teaches us that the only thing we need is G‑d. The sukkah is so powerful and so holy that we don’t need a mezuzah to remind us that everything in this world is really temporary. We are merely passersby in this journey of life, as the wise King Solomon teaches us in his book, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), which we traditionally read during Sukkot:

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . . I accumulated for myself also silver and gold, and the treasures of the kings and the provinces; I acquired for myself various types of musical instruments, the delight of the sons of men, [and] wagons and coaches. So I became great, and I increased more than all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. And [of] all that my eyes desired I did not deprive them; I did not deprive my heart of any joy, but my heart rejoiced with all my toil, and this was my portion from all my toil. Then I turned [to look] at all my deeds that my hands had wrought and upon the toil that I had toiled to do, and behold everything is vanity and frustration, and there is no profit I am surrounded by the clouds of gloryunder the sun . . . All go to one place; all came from the dust, and all return to the dust . . . And I saw that there is nothing better than that man rejoice in his deeds, for that is his portion, for who will bring him to see what will be after him?

And this is why, for a week, I enter and leave my holy sukkah, and my hand doesn’t reach up to touch and kiss the mezuzah. I sit in my sukkah, and my eyes glance up at the bamboo which is my temporary ceiling. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I am surrounded by the clouds of glory. I’m protected and safe. I enjoy the moment and know that this I will always take with me.