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Reb Mimi Feigelson calls for us to become a personal Sukkah, a Personal Leaning Post, for our friends, family and others> Nnot only the holiday but throughout the year. Her teaching is dedicated to Reb Mimi’s parents: her mother Frada Leah bat Miriam ve’HaRav David and her father Moshe Rafael ben Yitzhak Yosef and Leah.
If you think that parking in Jerusalem is a nightmare, can you imagine what the streets look like this week leading up to Sukkot?
How many parking spots have been taken up by a Sukkah? How many sidewalks have been taken up by a Sukkah?
The Halakha, the Jewish tradition, teaches us so many different details about what constitutes a sukkah. What its height has to be; what the schach (covering) is made of; what the walls are made of; how high they need to be. Can they shake in the wind or not?
But, I want to talk about a very different type of Sukkah that I experienced for the first time in my life a year ago.
My Imma, my mother, may she rest in peace, left the world a year ago on the second day of Sukkot. In the Halakha when that happens, when someone dies on Chol Ha’Moed whether Sukkot or Pesach, the burial is immediate, of course. She left the world at 6:00 in the morning and by the afternoon she was already laid to peace next to my father who left the world 35 years ago.
But, Shiva does not begin until the holiday is over. So, in a kind of way we were in this limbo situation and the minute we make Havdalah at the end of the chag, the second chag, in Israel Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret are one day, and the minute we make Havdalah, Shiva begins.
On the last night of Shiva, I shared some thoughts with the people who were there to comfort me and my sibling. I talked about a Sukkah of a different kind. A Sukkah that I had never experienced before. We exited the physical Sukkah, we had Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah where we don’t sit in the Sukkah.
But immediately we entered into a Sukkah of people. For the seven days of Shiva, the people that walked into our home created a Sukkah of people to protect us, to support us, to hold us. If you can imagine the Sukkah that we make for Sukkot has to be outside, has to be in the street, can’t have anything on top of it. It has to be between us and sky only the schach.
Here, I shared with everyone present for the seven days of Shiva, who walked into the house, created a Sukkah for us. It really hits me very close and I want to dedicate this learning to my mother Frada Leah bat Miriam ve’HaRav David and also to my father Moshe Rafael ben Yitzhak Yosef and Leah. Because Sukkot growing up was celebrated with so much love. It was one holiday that both my parents did everything way beyond in order to make our Sukkah the most beautiful and glorified Sukkah.
Even during the Yom Kippur War (1973) I remember my father was called up. He was translator from English to English because the flights from America bringing ammunition had pilots who were southerners and the Israelis didn’t understand their accent. My father with his strong Bronx accent would repeat, because he really did not speak Hebrew, he would repeat what the pilots and crew said in English to English because the Israelis could understand his accent.
I really want to dedicate this learning to the two of them who did everything beyond, and during the war my father made sure that there was a Sukkah in our home for our family.
I want to ask us all to think about – how do we stand in the world as a Sukkah for those we love? And who are those people that we really feel that they are our Sukkah?
I know that this year will be one like never before for myself because when I enter into this Sukkah, now this Sukkah that will stand for the duration of the holiday and when I come out of it, I am not have the seven days with people surrounding me.
But there are those that continue to surround me.
I want to invite us to be a walking Sukkah for each other as we enter into this new year making our way from Sukkot all the way to Hannukah which then again brings light and connects the inside and the outside. (We will talk more about that when we get towards Hannukah.)
For Sukkot – I want to invite us to be a walking Sukkah for each other. To stand and support in a way that people can lean on us. I invite us always to be a public leaning post for each other.
I know that my Abba and Imma, my mother and father, they were always my PLP (Public Leaning Post) – and they still are.
I wish you a Chag Sameach
Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.