Well, we got our Succah up (wasn't too difficult, being that it's principles of engineering were the same as those of Lego(!)), and what is perhaps my most beloved holiday begins tonight. I always liked Succot more than others holidays because there are just so many interesting actions and thoughts to ponder, and in my opinion the main purpose for the commandment of these actions is to cause one to ponder.
So ponder I shall! One particular nuance that I enjoy reminding myself of, and one that I think plays a central role in this festival, is what some of the sixteenth century Kabalists said about the Succah; that it is a holy place due to the fact that in a kabalistic sense the aura of G-d (שכינה) is there, and therefore one's level of respect and awe while in the Succah should be the same as it would in a place of worship (דינה כדין בית הכנסת). A 'Succah' (דבר שמסכך) is defined only by the 'סכך' itself (by the 'shade' itself). It is defined as being under the shade and protection of this temporary roof, commemorating G-d's protecting cover over our ancestors in the wilderness, and known in kabalah as 'צילא דמהימנותא' (the shade of belief').
But then again, we know that that which it says in the Torah "בסוכות תשבו שבעת ימים" means that one should live in the Succah as one lives in their house. The Mishna and the Talmud explain that every aspect of living should be transferred to the Succah, from eating to drinking to sleeping! From enjoying one's idle time in good conversation to writing blog posts using the neighbors wi-fi (well, the Gemara didn't actually mention that, but..)!
So we therefore are faced with a paradox of sorts; one the one hand we have the injunction to live in the Succah in the most mundane of ways, being instructed to bring all of our daily squalor into the Succah, and on the other hand we have this idea that one must be in the same awe of the place (due to G-d's presence there) as we would in a house of prayer (it's known for example that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn didn't feel comfortable sleeping in his Succah at all due to it's holiness)-?-
But that itself is obviously the lesson. That after seven days of feeling that "well, I can't fully 'let my hair down here because 'G-d is here' ", we then return to our actual bedrooms. And the obvious dawns on us; is G-d not also present in my bedroom?!
I was once by the kotel (I was doing that whole '40 day thing' once) and on Shabbat, a not religious guy asked me what I thought was a legitimate question; isn't praying by the kotel a type of idol worship? I thought the question was "how can we say G-d is in the Temple as opposed to other places?", but I soon realized he didn't know there was ever a Jewish Tmple there, and thought everyone was praying to the wall (*sigh*, Israeli public schools!). But in essence it's a good question; how can we suppose G-d was 'more' in the beit hamikdash than outside of it? Without all the discussion, one answer is "He isn't! It's all about our perception of it!
Which also reminds me of all the times I have had to sleep in Synagogues; I would say to myself "I'm so self-conscious now- then why not when I sleep in a bed?" Is G-d not as 'present' in the Succah as in the bedroom?! In the house of worship as in the night club?! Before a Rabbi as before a comedian?! By the Kotel as on Ben Yehudah st.?! We have to reshape some perceptions, friends, as we sit 'בצילא דמהימנותא'.