Other nations - even our allies - have been threatening us that we are in danger of political and international isolation. According to Moses, isolation is not something to be afraid of. Indeed, for the Nation of Israel, it's even desirable. Moses declares in his final blessing of his people shortly before his departure from the physical world:
And Israel shall dwell securely, alone (Devorim 33:28).
Every year, we read the above passage on Simchat Torah, the day following the termination of the Succoth holiday, when we complete the annual reading of the Torah and begin anew.
Let’s ask ourselves two basic questions: First, what’s the connection between the above-mentioned passage and Succoth? Second, what’s the eternal teaching of the above passage?
Succoth is concrete proof that the Nation of Israel is the nation of emuna and therefore above nature. The holy Zohar calls the Succa, “The shadow of emuna”; in other words, who one dwells in the Succa is literally enveloped in the Divine Presence, tzila d’mehemnuta, the shadow of emuna. Spiritually, there is no safer place on earth.
How seemingly odd…
Jewish law requires that the Succa be a temporary dwelling. The roof of a succa must be natural material that grows from the ground, such as river canes, tree branches, palm leaves and the like. The average Succa roof can’t support the weight of a cat. A strong rain is enough to chase a family out of the Succa. A good strong wind can send one’s Succa roof into orbit around the neighborhood.
It sure is.
The Succa is a place to learn and acquire emuna. We leave our permanent dwellings at a time when the weather starts getting cold. We learn that the only real security we have over our heads is not the roof of our permanent dwelling, but Hashem. For seven days a year, Hashem wants us to teach us how to completely entrust ourselves to His care, as King David says (Psalm 31:6), “I place my spirit in Your hands.”
The intrinsic message of the Succa is that with a Jew, the illogical is logical and the supernatural is natural. Hashem’s relationship to His chosen people is on a completely different level than His “way of the world” relationship with the nations.
Normally, one feels secure under a concrete roof. But with bunker busters and non-conventional weapons, reinforced concrete no longer gives a person a feeling of security. That’s the point of the Succa: under the palm-leaves or the river-reed roof – knowing that we are enveloped in the Divine Presence – we feel true security, for beneath a thatched roof in the Divine Presence is ever so much safer than under a concrete and steel roof in an environment devoid of holiness and therefore without the protection of the Divine Presence.
Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Eyes devoid of emuna see the Succa as some type of Jewish play house. But, with eyes of emuna, we know that the Succa is the real deal; that’s why the pious almost never leave their Succa for an entire week. Who wants to leave the Divine Presence even for a moment?
During Succoth, the nations of the world look at us like we’re crazy, but that doesn’t deter the believer from happily erecting and dwelling in his Succa. That’s the answer to our first question, namely, what’s the connection between “And Israel shall dwell securely, alone” and Succoth? We, the nation of Israel, know that our national security doesn’t depend on armaments and fortifications. On the contrary – the only safe place in the world for a Jew is in a place where the Divine Presence hovers, and that’s the Succa! Symbolically, we alone dwell in the Succa; no other nation does. By dwelling alone, we live lives of emuna while protecting ourselves from both ideological and physical assimilation. The natural law that pertains to the nations of the world has nothing to do with the Nation of Emuna.
This brings us to our second question: what’s the eternal teaching of “And Israel shall dwell securely, alone”?
The subject of national security is one that never leaves the headlines of Israeli media. Especially in recent times, when no border can be termed “calm” and even countries who have no border with us such as Iran and Turkey threaten us, politicians are knocking themselves over to find solutions to national security. They haven’t been succeeding very well, as current affairs bear witness.
The moment our leaders recognize that for Israel, national security depends on two conditions: one, that we dwell alone – both physically and ideologically – within the Divine Presence and without outside influence. That means that our homes and our land must be places of holiness, and like the Succa, worthy of the Divine Presence. So with all due respect to democracy, the Land of Israel cannot stand public displays of debauchery in any shape or form, for this is national suicide.
Second, our national security depends on emuna. We must realize that as the chosen people, Hashem requires us to live our lives according to the spiritual rule of emuna, which supersedes any natural concept of security such as military advantage. So by learning emuna, we strengthen ourselves and our country. That’s the key to our national security. Chag Sameach!
* * *
We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams.