You won’t find it in the dictionary. It is how we take our new found insights and extend them outward. As soon as Yom Kippur is over –we start on the construction of a small hut structure called a Sukkah—which we will dwell in for seven days. Our Sukkah is located on our patio which faces the street. We needed to get permission from the Homeowners Association the first year we put it up—not that it is an eye sore—it just has the look of a temporary dwelling—which is the point of the mitzvah; to build a Sukkah that is temporary quarters for the family.
High Holiday introspection leads out to an awareness that we are all homeless without a deep relationship to each other and to God.
This past Sunday we celebrated “back to school” brunch at the home of Nancy Steele and our students brought canned goods to donate to Jewish Family Service and we were fortunate to listen to Louise Boris, the chief program officer for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. We were all shocked when Louise provided the answer to the following question: What is the average age of a homeless person in Colorado? The answer: 9 years old.
Long gone is the stereotyped image of the hobo sitting inside a railroad car. Now it is a family living under the viaduct. Louise recalled for us how last month the Coalition distributed hundreds of back packs to homeless grade school children. A backpack is similar in a way to the Sukkah.
In the movie, Up in the Air, the main character has an interesting take on life as viewed through a back pack:
How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel them?
Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things, the things on shelves and in drawers, the knickknacks, the collectibles. Feel the weight as that adds up. Then you start adding the larger stuff: clothes; tabletop appliances; lamps; linens; your TV.
The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now and you go bigger: your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there. Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two-bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it?
The Sukkah reminds us of what is essential on our journey of the coming year and reminds us to be aware of those whose homes are on their backs.