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  • Writer's pictureRachel Shifra Tal

Sukkot, the Unifying Booth

And Israel shall dwell in the sukkah The verse speaks about one sukkah. There are no mistakes in a text written by the Creator of the world. But how, how can all of Israel dwell in one sukkah? This is a very powerful and strong message. We are all in the same sukkah. Let's take a nosedive into that tremendous statement. In a time where one cuts off their own relatives based on a difference of political views, where nations once united live divided; where if someone doesn't like what you think or say, they cancel you; where one opinion is allowed only; we need to rediscover the definition of unity. This divide is everywhere. It’s not just in politics and religion, there are even dog people vs cat people! My favorite question I get asked is what Jewish sect do I fall into? People will ask me point blank, am I religious. My answer. Nope! I am a Jew. Period. But no, they press, you must be orthodox because you do this that and the other. I don't recall hearing G-D make a distinction between Jews at Mount Sinai. I heard the nation of Israel. Yes, that is me. I am an American, an Israeli and a citizen of the world. I am human. And oh wow!! I see you are human too! So, you are a cat person? A dog person? Ok. You vote Republican, Democrat, abstain, liberal. Ok! You still look human to me! How can we bridge the divide between us? A great sage was asked, can you tell me the entire Torah while standing on one foot? The sage picked up his foot and said: “Don't do unto others what you don't want done to yourself.” Placing his foot back down, he sent the man to Yeshiva and said, now go study! This could be one way. Perhaps there is another.... The Torah it is said that one verse can have 70 interpretations! And all of them are correct! Why so many!? Well, this Torah is complete all by itself, but it is written on a parchment. To be read, the parchment needs to through the prism of people! No two people are alike! We are all made different! We each have our own unique set of fingerprints, no two alike!!! Incredible! We each one of us has a unique mission in this world! Judaism doesn't believe that if you don't do your part, someone else will come along and do it! No!! You are it! There was never from the beginning of time a person just like you!! Maybe that!! Or! One of my personal favorites! G-D made us in G-D'S image! Mic drop for that one! What is this a copyright stamp!!?? If G-D is one and only, who needs to know we are made in G-D'S image? We do!! This alone should command respect of ones fellow human! This same incredible Creator that made ducks, mountains and galaxies, made you! So why are we still divided? It did not work to force everyone to be and think the same. History adeptly shows us that. So how can you live with, love and respect someone who will be different from you? As the song asks, why can't we just get along? Here are a few ideas the Torah can give us on this enigma. Debate! Or as my epic marriage guru Rabbi Pamensky calls it, have a GOOD fight! One needs to know how to argue with an idea, not the person!! My brother and I love having debates! In fact when I was younger, he would switch sides and debate the other side just to keep the conversation going! I learned early on that the goal of a debate is to share ideas and open ones mind to the other. Not to win! I go into a debate only for the mental excitement of the experience, to deepen my knowledge of the other person and to learn something. Part of having a deep sense of self and personal truth is, you don't need to shout your truth from the rooftops or shove it down someone's throat. Just the inner knowing is and should be enough. G-D gave us two ears to listen, stereo surround sound! But we have only one mouth to speak, and this mouth is guarded by two gates, our teeth and lips. Our heart is beneath our brains physically, but we could totally have had our hearts on our heads! Why? First is G-D, then our intellect then our heart. All are crucial, one can't survive without either of the three! The same with our ears, they are higher on our heads than our mouth. A step further, the breath we use is our neshima the same word as Neshama. Our lungs are right there next to our heart. When we take in breath, our life force so to speak, we need to take in account our heart. Our heart is right there to remind us, the person we are speaking to, we must take their heart into account! On Sukkot we step out of our walls that we literally built around ourselves, we step into a sukkah, into the hand and protection of G-D. We tear down the wall between us! Between our beliefs our opinions and selves and G-D! One reason is to understand that we actually dwell in the sukkah year round! We are always to realize. Ein od Milvado, there is nothing except G-D. A unifying concept! I bless us all, when we speak to someone, that we think deeply about what they are saying, instead of what we will answer. May we feel the undivided and unconditional life that G-D has for us and emanate that outwards to our fellow human beings! Chag Sameach!

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