The Torah commands us to live in booths for seven days...
"in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Lord your Gd." Lev. 28: 43 (JPS)
Just another little bit of anamnesis, making the past present. So, we, today, are to live in little booths for seven days so that future generations may know that Gd caused the Israelites to live in booths when Gd brought them out of Egypt.
Is our doing so as efficacious now as it was then? Does our dwelling in a sukkah for seven days help insure that future generations will continue to know that Gd made the Israelites dwell in booths when Gd brought them out of Egypt? A good case can certainly be made for that.
However, I think there is a deeper possible meaning here. If things are to be truly anamnestic, then our dwelling in booths as our ancestors did means that we, too, are as if we had been brought forth from Egypt. So it is past memory becoming present. Or perhaps it is preparatory--making the future present through reliving the past?
We always talk about the "being brought out from Egypt." Our liturgy is replete with the sentiment. Yet is it the being brought out that is of greatest significance, or is it the subsequent events, with the eventual entrance into the promised land?
This gives us two possibilities to contemplate as we dwell in our sukkot. The first is that somehow, in our own lives, we have been liberated from a kind of slavery. Perhaps our acceptance of this tradition, this commandment, is a form of freedom in itself--the freedom that comes from making the leap of faith from just being in this world, to being a Jew in this world. Perhaps the serenity and simpleness of the sukkah is freedom from the tyranny and slavery of the modern world of work and technology. I imagine we can all come up with a surfeit of similar interpretations and analogies.
The other possibility is anticipation of what is to come. As we dwell in our sukkot, as did our ancestors, perhaps we, like them, stand on the threshold of something new and exciting. Perhaps even, dare I suggest it, on the threshold of the coming of moshiach, or the messianic age, however you choose to view it?
When we are in our sukkot, we can imagine a future that is, to us, milk and honey, that is a fulfillment of Gd's ancient promise to our people. It could be realized in many ways, from world peace, to the messianic age, to thousands of other scenarios. Like the other interpretation, it is open to myriad analogies.
That is how powerful a symbol the sukkah is, and how brilliant the commandment regarding it is. The power of memory of both past and future. Could we ask for a more complete experience?
Enjoy the completeness of past future and future past in your sukkah.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,
Adrian ©2002 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other musings on this parasha:
Sukkot 5764--Bayom Hazeh
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