One of the main thrusts of the modern effort is to tame
nature, to bring it under control and to make everything
predictable. We can light the night, warm the winter and cool
the summer. We can hedge and insure against financial risks.
We can even discover higher order in seemingly random events
through statistics. We can build ourselves homes that can
withstand shocks and quakes.
Progress is rapid and relentless. The greater bumps have been
smoothed as lesser discomforts are also brought under
control. Plastic surgery can change appearance. Diseases
become more curable and preventable (though there are still
notable exceptions). New materials and technology render our
homes more comfortable and more secure.
On Succos, we turn away from all this, ensuring that the
aftereffects of the achievements of our generation will be at
least partially neutralized by demonstratively leaving our
permanent physical homes and living for seven days in the
shade of faith that is thrown by the primitive materials,
"the refuse of the granary and the winepress," that
constitute the sole roof over our heads.
Life is very temporary for that one week, reminding us that
all life is only permanent in contrast, but in truth it too
will pass before long. We must not become too enthralled and
overwhelmed by the trappings of modern living. It is in the
Succah, that symbol of impermanence and making do, that we
have the privilege of living in a house of Hashem.
From that vantage point we can look from our temporary homes
to our "permanent" homes and refresh our perspective on the
true nature of life.
This year the message of Succos is amplified by the fact that
the first day is on Shabbos, and that it all takes place in
the first month of the shmitta year. One of the key
lessons of Shabbos is that in Hashem's world, it is not just
what we do that is important but also what we do not do. As
we build our Succahs and prepare for the yomtov, we also
accept the limitations of Shabbos and the responsibilities of
"Hashem blessed the seventh day" -- With what did He bless
it? That the mon did not fall that day. What an
important and difficult lesson it is for us in this world,
that we even had to learn from the mon -- the bread
that fell straight from Heaven and was itself spiritual in
nature -- that in following Hashem's words the fact that the
mon did not fall on Shabbos, the day that is entirely
kedusha, was the crucial source of blessing for the
rest of the week.
This is surely one of the important lessons we can draw from
shmitta, that all our striving must place spiritual
values at the fore, and that to this end we must be as ready
to refrain from work when we must as to do our work when we
May we draw these lessons and fully internalize them. Chag