The Bible Says What? ‘Dwell in a succah for seven days?’

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The Bible Says What? ‘Dwell in a succah for seven days?’

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner takes a controversial passage from the torah and looks at the Reform response

Laura Janner-Klausner is a senior rabbi at the Movement for Reform Judaism

An assortment of different succahs
An assortment of different succahs

Today in London, as I write, the sky is grey and miserable. If it’s not already raining, it probably will be any second. The wind is howling. I’m concerned I’ll be blown off my bike. Yet autumn is the time when we have to head outside and dwell in precarious huts in our gardens? Surely not!

Being part of the British Jewish community is a privilege, but that often doesn’t extend to the weather. Fully keeping the commandment of dwelling in the succah in October can seem a totally outlandish request.

So what does this ritual – often really meaning braving the elements for five minutes to sip grape juice – really mean for us?

We are privileged in so many ways that we may not notice. Succot is a time to take stock of that privilege. While we might grimace at the thought of trudging out to make Kiddush while exposed to the elements, many have no choice but to brave the conditions.

Much like our ancestors in the Torah, there are still so many in our society and our world who lack the basic security and safety many of us take for granted.

Tonight, around a quarter of a million people in the UK will be homeless, looking for shelter. In 25 years’ time, it is estimated that will have doubled. Even those with a home may lack one that is truly secure, as the horrors of Grenfell showed all too clearly.

The real essence of Succot for us as British Jews is not how long we spend in a succah, but confronting our human vulnerability and the stark reality faced by some of those around us.

Our discomfort, however
momentary it may be, is a wake-up call. For us, this is a ritual we can stop. For many, it is a reality we must help them to end.

Laura Janner-Klausner is Reform Judaism’s Senior Rabbi

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