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One of the elusive goals of human beings is to become "secure." We search for financial security and certainly hope for physical security. The promise of every Israeli politician (and American, British, French, etc.) is to provide physical security for the citizens of the country. Yet, even in times of peace and quiet - rare as they may be - humans are always gripped by a certain unease regarding their lives. This undoubtedly stems from our realization of our mortality and of the volatility of events and circumstances. But whatever its cause, it is part of our daily life, a feeling of unease and concern, especially regarding those events of life over which we have no direct control. The great holiday of Succot confronts this exact problem. A canvas or wooden hut with a roof of greens or slats is not a picture of security. Rather, it seems to emphasize the fragility of our existence and the vagaries of time and place. Here in Israel, we are almost always assured of decent weather on Succot, though there have been notable exceptions. However, Jews living in the Diaspora are not only insecure because of their succah, they are insecure because of rain, heat, cold, hurricanes and other such problems, over which they do not exert any control. Thus it is easy to imagine Succot - the "holiday of joy" - turning into the holiday of discomfort and anxiety. And this therefore is precisely where the deeper meaning of Succot arrives to comfort and reassure us.

The succot booths that the Jewish people lived in during the forty-year sojourn in the Sinai desert were seen as a sign of Divine protection. They were not the flimsy buildings as those seen by the naked but they were "clouds of glory" that strengthened Jewish character and belief. The very fragility of the booths reinforced the idea that man can somehow find security in life through faith, belief, good works and mature conscience. The great Temples of Jerusalem, of Solomon and Ezra and Herod have all disappeared in spite of their architectural strength, magnificence and splendor. But the small succot booths have survived and served to connect Jews to their glorious past and wonderful destiny. The rabbinic responsa over all of the centuries dealt with and still deals with the construction of the succah. From South Africa to Latvia, from Siberia to Hawaii, Jews constructed their temporary dwellings, confirming the permanence of their faith and strengthening their inner self. This alone can create a sense of security and self-worth within people. In times of persecution, our enemies always attempted to prevent and tear down our succot. The succah became the focal point of anti-Jewish activity. The halacha provided a leniency regarding the obligation of sleeping in the succah because of "danger from non-Jews." The succah became the symbol of Jewish tenacity, its very flimsiness representing the iron will and character of the Jewish nation.

I recall the impression that the photographs of the succot of the soldiers of the IDF in the Golan and Sinai during the horrific battles of the Yom Kippur war made upon me. A halachic ruling concerning a succah on a tank is not mentioned in the Mishna. Yet the succah on the tank was part of the arsenal of Israel that saw us through that terrible and dangerous time. It illustrated that we were not going to go away but that rather we were staying and building and expanding our little country in every way possible. Only secure people think that way and only secure people can truly face up to the dangers and uncertainties of life. There is a powerful verse in Psalms that represents people's houses and mansions as being their graves. No matter how well constructed and ornate the house may be, it is not permanent to the dweller. Only the temporary succah, subject to all of the changeable conditions of time, weather and society offers us a sense of permanence and stability. The rabbis of the Talmud taught us that "all of Israel will yet sit in one succah." That succah will be the one of peace and security, faith and happiness.

Chag sameach.

Berel Wein

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