We are poised to enter the realm of the Sukkah. It is not merely a hut in which we sit in to fulfill this joyous mitzva, reminding us, either of the shade we dwelled in during our sojourn in the desert, or to the Clouds of Glory we were ensconced during that forty-year trek. It is an environment whose very structure is infused with sanctity, which prohibits us from deriving peripheral personal benefit from the Schach, and possibly from the walls too.
The Talmudic term used to describe this aura of holiness is referred to as — חל שם שמים על הסוכה — The name of Heaven is conferred upon the sukkah.
We derive this from the verse that speaks of חג הסכות — The Festival of Sukkos, a seven-day period, לד' — for G-d.
The word for festival — חג, alludes to the sacrifice of חגיגה — which is brought to celebrate the festival, which like all offerings have sanctity. It being used in the same context of הסכות —Sukkos and being designated as a festival לד' — to G-d, teaches us that just as the Chagigah is imbued with kedusha, so too is the Sukkah.
What exactly is this 'name of Heaven' the Talmud utilizes to describe this sanctity?
We often refer to שמים — Heaven, when referring to the Almighty.
Heaven is a geographic location, not a description of G-d. Perhaps a place He resides, as it were possible, but not a description of His essence.
The Vilna Gaon teaches that the word שמים is the plural of שם — 'there'. Every geographical area has a point where one is standing 'here', and a counterpoint that which is 'there'. Similarly with distance of height. I stand 'here' at a point below, gazing at its peak which is 'there'. Each of these are finite with an endpoint that one cannot go beyond.
Heaven is eternally 'there', a space, an entity, we constantly strive to reach in our endless quest for closeness to G-d and His Torah.
When I was teenager, I lived near the Young Israel of Rugby, where the legendary Rav Avigdor Miller began to promote his Torah and wisdom to the many disciples that thirsted for truth and flocked to nourish their souls.
In that neighborhood there was an asylum for the emotionally and intellectually impaired known as Kings County Hospital. Rav Miller was asked once to speak to the Jewish patients there, who despite their challenges possessed intellectual capacities.
Legend has it that in his inimitable, and sometimes blunt style, he was posed the following question to his audience, "Do you know why you are all here?"
From among the crowd arose a voice, responding without missing a beat, "Because we are not all 'there'!"
When exiting our home and entering a Sukkah we leave the 'here' and grasp to gain a hold onto a point of eternity that is figuratively 'there', but on this festival within reach!
Reb Shimon Benisch was an inspired Chosid from Lodz, who experienced the dire Ghetto there, the gehinnom of Auschwitz, and the torturous labor camp of Kaufering, losing a wife and children, finally being liberated, and making his way to Israel where he rebuilt a beautiful family there.
He was a hero who despite enduring endless horrors remained a beacon of light and spirit to his fellow yidden, assisting them physically while encouraging them spiritually and emotionally throughout these incomprehensible ordeals.
His son Chaim, in his quest to pen a book that would record for posterity his father's greatness, interviewed many who were warmed by his father's remarkable persona and faith.
On one occasion he reached out to Aryeh Goldstein, a fellow member of the work force that was selected by Mengele from Auschwitz to serve in Kaufering, figuring he for sure had many interactions with his father.
He calls the number and after verifying the man's identity introduces himself as the son of Shimon Benisch who is seeking information regarding his father and is seeking to confirm that indeed Aryeh was there too.
Aryeh responded, "Yes I was there, but your father wasn't there."
Chaim, having heard from his father many details of his time in Kaufering is bewildered and asks puzzlingly, "What? You mean my father wasn't there?"
Aryeh answers, "Young man! Do you have any idea what the camp at Kaufering was like? Could you know what 'existing' meant in that hell, and what 'there' was all about? I and my friends were deeply in Kaufering, but your father!? He wasn't 'there' at all, he remained his entire life a chassideshe yungerman from Lodz…he kept his head well above the dark clouds in that space, clearly embedded in Heaven. Nu, this is not within the context of a phone conversation."
As we begin this time of joy we must not focus on the here and now — the many challenges we face daily, but must keep our heads high above the clouds knowing our true space if far from here.
A woman who had faced the death of a child and the subsequent unbearable grief of that loss, struggled to restore her faith, came to an epiphany. She shared the following poignant message.
The tragic loss solidified my Emunah. The awareness of Hashem as an actual reality came to me as a dawning understanding and kept me going. The dividing line between This World [here] and the Next World [there] is much flimsier than we think it is. The world we're in, the one when we're walking, talking, it’s a little like a stage. When someone passes away, you realize there is this whole other world, and there must be much more out there. I learned Hashem is vast, so much bigger than what we see and that is comforting. When you lose the illusion of control, you realize Hashem has your back, and He is the Dayan. Even if it feels like you're falling, He still has you. (Shira, In his Embrace, Family First Yom Kippur issue)
We must learn during Sukkos how we can leave the 'here' and all its frustrations, grabbing on to the hand of G-d, and always remain calm and happy 'there' with Him!
No wonder the Zohar refers to the Sukkah as the צלא דמהימנותא — the Shade of Faith.
To paraphrase the clever patient in Kings County, "Why are we not 'here'!? Because our hearts and minds are all 'there' — in Heaven, the real world."
צבי יהודה טייכמאן