Monday, September 27, 2021

I was recently discussing the juxtaposition of Hurricane Ida that hit our community and the upcoming holiday of Sukkot with my sister. When I think of Sukkot, I think of the Lulav and Etrog, building the Sukkah, enjoying Simchat Torah, and essentially—I think of the experience of our lives being upended.

Sukkot is a time when we move our lives into a temporary home, one without most amenities. While this new home is typically connected to our house, which does include plumbing, electric, etc., we are given this mitzvah to use this dwelling not simply as a house, but as a home: to eat and sleep, rest and learn Torah in this dwelling as we recall the time we spent in the desert and as we celebrate the ingathering of the harvest.

This includes decorating, family time, a sense of community.

It also includes bugs. And cold weather. And wondering if it will rain.

It is easy when we must give up a sense of comfort to appreciate what it is that we have. I think about this regularly with regard to aches and pains. There are times when I pause and reflect how grateful I am not to have a toothache in any moment, as we typically only think about this gratitude once pain is over or we hear about someone else’s suffering. This occurred the night of the storm; as water was seeping into my basement, I felt overwhelmed and scared, recognizing just how much it was all beyond my power and control. Once the storm subsided I was able to feel grateful, noting how much more severe it could have been, reflecting on all that I have. But this is not simple. So many times when we are forced to face the lack of agency and control we may have in the world, we can become stuck, anxious or depressed.

On Sukkot we step outside our comfort zones and are given space to reflect on the reality that all of this—our homes, properties, health—is not really something we have accomplished, but from Hashem. This is a time to reflect on our relationships with Hashem and with our recognition of the agency we have and the ultimate way that we lack the ability to control.

This being said, we can also recognize that our lives include active choices: We do not forgo what we have or sit outside in a storm stating, “It is all up to God whatever happens to me.” Ultimately this statement is true, and yet we live life finding a balance between the pursuit of understanding this truth, while also making choices and seeking out comfort and health and growth—something that Hashem has given us the power and responsibility to do.

Being outside of one’s comfort zone requires—to be redundant—discomfort, but this does not mean that we should not attempt to find comfort amidst the pain. Rather, we can reflect on the way growth and change and life’s journey can feel difficult; seek out ways of easing some of this pain; and then also recognize our place on the journey, as the traveler choosing the journey rather than the creator of the path itself.

This coupling of understanding, pursuit and acceptance is what can allow for vulnerability and balance rather than placing blame, expecting to be able to be in control, or remaining too safe in our areas of comfort.

As you build and dwell in your temporary home and experience all that this offers—the fun and peace and chaos and stress—I hope that you can reflect on what you have, on what choices you can make, and that you can support yourself in others and be compassionate as you approach your expedition. Chag Sameach.

Temimah Zucker, LCSW, works with individuals ages 14-plus in New York and New Jersey (virtually at this time) struggling with mental health concerns, and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Temimah is an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work and a Metro-NY supervisor at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, please visit www.temimah.com.

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