Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters. — Leviticus 23:42
Throughout this week, my family and I will join Jews around the world in celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Please enjoy these devotions, which were prepared for you in advance, about this joyous holiday that immediately follows the High Holy Days.
There is a story about a businessman who was traveling for work and stopped at the home of a famous and well-respected rabbi. When the man entered the rabbi’s home, he was shocked to see that there was barely anything in it.
The businessman couldn’t help himself and asked, “Excuse me for asking, but are you in the middle of moving homes? Where are all of your belongings and furniture?” In response, the rabbi asked the businessman, “And where are all of your belongings and furniture?” The man replied, “Why would I have those things with me? I’m just passing through here!” The rabbi smiled and replied, “So am I.”
I love this story because it so poignantly puts our earthly life into perspective. We are only passing through. And when we grasp that life is merely a short and temporary experience leading to eternity, we make better decisions and live more meaningful lives.
This is one of the main messages of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which is celebrated this week. The Bible directs us to leave our permanent homes and live in a temporary shelter called a sukkah. No matter how uncomfortable it might be to live in the sukkah for an entire week — in some climates it’s too hot, in some it’s too cold, in many it rains — we know that it’s just for one week. We don’t fuss over the lack of fancy furniture or comfy beds, because again, it’s just temporary. The rabbis teach that the sukkah is a metaphor for our lives all year round.
Life is temporary; we are just passing through. It is a test and an opportunity to do good and to be good so that we might enjoy something truly eternal. Too often we get caught up in things that don’t really matter — like our material possessions or a petty fight with another person. But when we grasp the brevity of life, our priorities shift, and we focus on what truly matter. Ultimately, when we are clear about what really matters, we become better people and our lives are far more fulfilling.
How might this clarity affect the way you spend your day today?