Sukkot – The Happy Place
There is an article on aish.com which mentions a fascinating psychological study. A selection of people were asked their preference of the following two scenarios. In the first scenario they earned $100,000 a year, while all their neighbors earned $50,000. In the second scenario they earned $200,000 a year while their neighbors all earned $400,000. The cost of living was equal in both scenarios.
You won’t be surprised to learn that most people chose the first scenario. But lack of surprise makes it is no less shocking. Relative wealth is more important to most people than objective wealth. It is not so much what I earn but how do I compare with the Jones. Most people would prefer to earn only half of what they could have, provided that it is double their neighbor’s earnings.
Relativity is not a theory in our world, it is the hallmark. We measure value, beauty and achievement purely on the basis of subjective relativity. We can’t see what is on our own plate because we are too busy focusing on the plate of the other.
Sukkot is the time of rejoicing – zman simchateinu. It is a time to be happy, not only for what we have, but also happy for what the other has. This takes a great deal of work. It means getting rid of our envy, that villain which eats our hearts out when someone else gets the promotion, when somebody else succeeds where we have not yet succeeded. It means to give up that coveting, that sense of entitlement. It means letting go and allowing life to happen without begrudging it. It means allowing ourselves to be happy.
We recite the benediction of lesheiv basukkah before sitting down to eat in the Sukkah. We fulfill the Mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah when we perform such activities that are relagated to one’s home, such as eating or sleeping. That activity establishes the Sukkah as one’s abode and our focus on Sukkot is to establish ourselves both physically and mentally in the Sukkah. The mentality we adopt is an acceptance of a simple life, surrounded by nature and enveloped in a fragile, temporary structure. No one envies another’s Sukkah. It is only temporary. This is the lesson that the Sukkah teaches us to carry with us outside and beyond the Sukkah. Life is temporary. We can make do with less and the wealth of the other doesn’t hinder our own capacity for happiness.