My most potent Sukkot memory didn't happen on Sukkot at all, but it has all of the important Sukkot ingredients: unity, protection, joy, and faith. It smells so strongly of Sukkot that my mind has stored it in the Sukkot box, despite the fact that it happened about three months before.

I was cooking for Shabbat when the first bomb fell The day that the Second Lebanon War broke out was a Thursday, the seventeenth of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, a lesser-known fast day commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temple. I was cooking for Shabbat when I heard the first bomb fall. Our entire four-story apartment building shook, the windows rattled, and my stomach flipped. Some of the men from our building went down to the basement to clean out our very dirty, unused shelter. Once we realized that the katyushas that had fallen were not a freak accident, but clearly a planned attack, and that they were falling rather close to home, I took my son and my baby and headed down to the shelter. I had never ventured in there before, and scrutinized the dark concrete shell. It was not the most pleasant place to be, but was clearly much more secure than our high-up apartment with northern exposure. After sitting down there with the restless children for half an hour of quiet, with no other bombs falling, and none of my neighbors worried enough to be down there with me, I decided to go back home to put the baby in her crib for a nap and finish my cooking.

Things seemed to be back to normal. The baby was sleeping contentedly in her bed, the house filled with the aromas of the coming Shabbat. An old friend of my husband's called to ask how we were managing. As my husband was laughing and telling him we were doing fine, another katyusha fell. My husband slammed down the phone, grabbed our son's hand and flew out the door and down the stairs. I ripped the baby out of her crib, and with my heart pounding and my body shaking, ran down the four flights to the basement. Three more katyushas fell within the next ten minutes, each one shaking the building more violently then the last. Family by family, all of our neighbors joined us. Plastic chairs and mattresses on the floor created a camp-like atmosphere. We were very clearly all in this together. We sat there together: Russian immigrants, the Sephardi rabbi and his family; the lady with the characteristically-Israeli eggplant-colored hair who works in the supermarket sat with her two young teenage sons next to the kids of the American psychologist, who was out of town at the time. My friend and neighbor was there with her three little boys, aged three and under, but more frightened than anyone was the French lady who sat squeezing her daughter's hand and staring wide-eyed straight ahead. Someone braved her way up to her apartment and brought back books of Psalms. There was no differentiation between those of us who considered ourselves more religious or less – all of our lives were in the same hands, and the books were accepted as readily as were the warm, slightly over-browned croissants that the French lady's husband brought downstairs as soon as it was night and the fast was over.

We sat there together:talking, praying, trying to laughWe sat there together for a long time. Stories started to come in about where the katyushas had fallen and what damage had been done. We were all grateful that while they were destroying property, they were not taking lives. We sat there together: talking, praying, telling stories, and trying to laugh. Neighbors I had seen many times, but never spoken to, were now my best friends. What a feeling.

By 11 PM, the kids who had been playing nicely thus far were truly falling apart, as was I. It was clear that nobody planned to sleep down there any time soon. Even though we were still hearing violent sounds in the not-distant-enough distance, I realized that I had to take my family home to bed. I set up all of the beds in the safest room of the apartment and said my prayers that night like never before and never since. The following night mattresses were set up in the shelter. The novelty had worn off and people were tired. We slept that Shabbat all of us together on those mattresses on the floor.

After Shabbat was out, we had had more than we could handle, and like many of our neighbors, we went south. Less than a month later, the war was over and we and our neighbors returned home, but it was clear to all of us that something had changed. We had shared something real and come out victorious. From a military perspective, it's not clear that the war was a huge success. But from my prospective, living in an apartment building with a very diverse group of people, it was a huge accomplishment. Together, we experienced the sheltering hand of G‑d. Together we have been transformed, each in our own private way, but grateful to the others who were part of the experience.

Part of the criteria for a sukkah is that while it must be solidly assembled, those inside it are still somewhat vulnerable. The greenery on top must be thick enough to provide more shade than sun. It's a nice place to sit, but it won't shield you from the rain, or from a very hot sun. Strong winds have been known to topple whole neighborhoods of sukkahs.

In many places where Jews live and have lived, Sukkot comes at a time when it is already cold and rainy. Why does G‑d ask us to be so vulnerable, so exposed? He could have easily made the holiday in the spring, when the weather is pleasant, or allowed us to put a more substantial roof on our little huts, but He didn't.

There is something very precious about vulnerability There is something very precious about vulnerability. The real truth is that we mere mortals are terribly frail characters. There are so many things that could go wrong with us internally or externally at any given moment. Our bodies and worlds are so complex that very few of us understand the many workings that we so deeply depend on. When we find ourselves in a situation where we don't feel covered, it forces us to examine where we put our trust. Do I believe in my physical crutches? My computer? My car or bank account? Do I understand that all of these are gifts and tools from G‑d to help me reach a higher purpose?

When I feel exposed in some way do I lash out at those around me in an attempt to cover myself at their expense? Or am I able to see that we are all in this human experience together, with one Father for us all?

Are we able to allow our vulnerability in our relationships with others to be a space that can be filled with something fresh and new, or do we rush to stuff it with something familiar?

When I sit in the sukkah, or any other place in my life that leaves me a little bit more open than is comfortable, do I take the time to allow myself to feel that I am still under the wings of the Divine Presence?

I don't suggest going to a war-zone to feel what I experienced but, better, this holiday find a sukkah filled with an eclectic group of people and open yourself to what they, the holiday, and the experience have to offer. Even better, build one of those cute little huts in your yard, and invite me and my neighbors. I'll ask the French lady to bring her delicious croissants.