There are two seven day holidays in the Hebrew calendar, one in the spring, Pesach/Passover and other in the fall, Succot where the Jewish People are commanded to dwell in a temporary structure with a lightly thatched roof for seven days of happiness. But, how can one be happy exposed to the world, sitting in a little hut beneath the stars where cold, heat and rain/snow can penetrate? People make big parties and drink liquor to keep warm, but they are missing the point of Succot. The Sukkah depicts leaving your security and going out into the world where the Jewish People, lost in exile, are a scant minority,
How can we be happy while strangers watch our odd ways, like carrying around a bundle of willow and myrtle tied to a palm branch affixed with a strange fruit then waved in all six directions while singing Hoshana/Save Us? The way we eat and how we pray, all is exposed to the world; our 3500 years of service and tradition exposed to the world. Even more, during the times of the Temple, sacrifices were brought from the seventy nations of the world to the Temple. Only on the last day, the Eighth day after the seven days of Succot, is devoted to the connection between God and Jewish People.
The answer to this very obvious question is, the happiness commanded the Jewish People during this time comes from our closeness to the Creator exemplified by the thatched roof and the impermanence of the structure. The experience of the sitting in the Sukkah for seven days helps a person go into the world with the faith derived from this wonderful holiday. However, one is not suppose to suffer in the Sukkah, so if it is too hot or too cold or just too uncomfortable one is allowed to leave. But, those who stay are those who have faith in the commandment and thereby build faith from within.
Because I move a lot, each year is a new challenge. This year I have been enabled to be on a deck with a couch. Though small and meager, this little sukkah made from tapestries, affixed to a frame tied to the railings, has more than sufficed. It is cold but I am bundled up. I have everything I need because all I really need is to be connected to the Creator, then the rest of the world can not hurt me. There is a song I heard while in the high hills of Lebanon overlooking the higher hills of Syria, attached to an army outfit during the war in the early eighties.
A group of us sang this song over and over until the sun set and red pallor seeped beneath the tent then went black. The holiday of Succot comes to remind use that indeed, “The entire world is but a narrow bridge but the most important thing is not to be afraid.