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Shabbat Chol Hamoed Succot 5773

In Succot shall you dwell for seven days… (Vayikra 23:42)
What is a Succah? I think many of us could offer a technical definition or an instruction manual for constructing a Succah but what is a Succah? To understand a thing well one is advised to visit the first time it is referenced in the Torah. Where is “Succah” first mentioned in Torah?
After surviving a threatening confrontation with his arch enemy Esau, the Torah records the following: “And on that day Esau returned on his way to Seir and Yaakov traveled to Succos and built for himself a house and for his cattle he made Succot therefore the name of the place is called Succot.” (Bereishit 33:16-17)
The verse is a little odd. Yaakov built himself a house (which sounds normal enough) but because he made Succot for his cattle the place he traveled to was to become known as “Succot”. Is that the reason to name a place? The Ohr HaChaim answers, “Perhaps because he did something new by showing his compassion for the cattle…that he did something that no one had done previously, that he prepared a Succah - a shelter for animals. It was that novelty that caused that the place should be called so.”
This may help us to gain an insight into the essence of our Succot, the ones we dwell in for seven days or so. After a near head on collision between two super-powers the Torah depicts Esau going back home and to his old predictable ways. Yaakov, however, did something beyond the norm, outside his home. He didn’t walk away from his brush with death the same as he entered. Neither did he become bitter from the experience. Rather we observe he became better. The symbol or the symptom of that improvement was his innovation in creating an expanded arena for compassion in the universe. That is the Succah!
After the life and death surgery of the “Days of Awe”, a Succah, like a clean parchment or canvas, becomes a place where everyone can express some renewed sense of gratitude or idealism in an individual way. The inner world of each Succah, like each person, is decorated differently.
A Succah is a place not just for artistic expression but rather a space that holds a newly harvested crop of inspiration and idealism that will be nourished from for a whole year. A Succah is a serious and fun world with limitless possibilities and so are we when we exit the ordinary and begin thinking inside the box.          Rabbi Label Lam

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