A Shelter of Faith

Yael Eckstein  |  September 29, 2020

Yael Eckstein and family in sukkah for Sukkot

With the High Holidays behind us, Israel remains in lockdown due to the soaring number of coronavirus cases in the Holy Land.

At first, I was disappointed when I began to prepare for Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which begins on Friday night. Our sukkah has always been like Abraham’s tent, open on all sides and full of guests and joy on the inside. This year, we won’t be able to host any guests.

However, the more I thought about it, I realized that Sukkot is the perfect holiday to provide the encouragement we need right now. The holiday of Sukkot celebrates our vulnerability. It reminds us, just as the coronavirus has, that we are not in control – and teaches us to find joy in trusting God.

God Is Watching Over Us

When the holiday begins, my family will move into our sukkah just as the Bible prescribed, “Live in temporary shelters for seven days…” (Leviticus 23:42).  We will eat our meals in the sukkah and spend time playing games, making music, and enjoying each other’s company.

As we do every year, we will drag out mattresses and sleeping bags at night and sleep in the sukkah. We know that it might rain, and sometimes it does. We know that a stray cat may sneak in, and sometimes one does. We know that we may get mosquito bites and that there is no alarm system attached to the sukkah door. Nevertheless, we know that God is watching over us and we go to sleep feeling happy and secure.

According to Jewish tradition, Sukkot is deliberately celebrated in autumn so that we can experience God’s providence while exposed to the elements. This time of year most people move from outdoors to indoors in order to escape the cooler weather and potential rain. However, instead of taking shelter inside our homes, we move outside into rickety huts featuring intentionally sparse rooves. Jewish law dictates that while the sukkah roof must provide some shade, it must also let in rain.

Lessons of the Pandemic

All year round, we are easily fooled by the illusion that we are safe because of our sturdy homes, our solid rooves, and everything else that gives us a false sense of security. On Sukkot, we remove the illusions and see the truth – that there is no one and nothing to rely upon other than God.

Appropriately, the sukkah is known as “a shelter of faith.” It teaches us to take refuge in God alone.

And isn’t this exactly what the coronavirus pandemic is teaching us? Before Covid-19, we might have been fooled into putting our faith in our powerful leaders, strong economy, and cutting-edge medicine. But now, we can see the true reality. No matter which country you live in, the professionals and politicians are doing their best, but no one knows exactly what to do or what the future holds. We can look only to God for our protection.

The Time of Our Joy

This realization is incredibly freeing. It allows let go of fear and worry, knowing that God has us in the palm of His hand. In the Jewish tradition, Sukkot is known as the “time of our joy,” because there is no greater joy than having complete trust in God, no matter how difficult our situation may seem.

So, this year, while I will miss the many guests that we usually host on Sukkot, I will embrace this time with my family and rejoice in knowing that God is my shelter. “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him” (Psalms 18:30).

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein's Signature

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