Sukkot and our day-to-day lives

Former NY Mayor Ed Koch once related an anecdote from the time he was a circuit judge. A case came in front of his bench in which a person was complaining that his neighbor was adding an unauthorized structure to his (the neighbors) balcony. The defendant explained that the structure was a Sukkah and part of his religious observance. Since, however, the law was at the time on the side of the Plaintiff, Judge Koch ruled that the defendant had 8 days to remove the unauthorized structure.

Ed Koch's ruling was quintaessentially Jewish. No way to deal with the situation head-on? you find a way around it! As Jews we always try to find a consensus in what we do, especially when it comes to community needs - and finding the way around issues is what we very often do to get there.

So the Sukkah in that balcony is like our daily lives. Many times we do things based on our own choices without realizing they affect others; so when it is pointed out to us, we ask for time to change. Unlike the Sukkah in the balcony, our personal decisions tend to be impulsive many times and not subject to formal legal issues. We subject them, however, by our own choice, to the rules of acceptable social behavior... we know very well that each decision we make will affect how others see us. 

Sukkot is about getting together under the sukkah. Archeology tells us that the custom of the Sukkah is connected with the shortage of housing in Jerusalem at the time of the Temple when everybody came to the city for the Festival; Tradition tells us that it is reminder of how we lived during the 40 years of wandering in the desert. I say, it doesn't matter. The Sukkah is an opportunity to remember that we need to thank every day for what we have, and remain humble; it is also a reminder that to get together as a community we do not need big buildings - just each other.

Hag HaSukkot Sameach!



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