When we moved into our new home almost a year ago (!), we were thrilled to have what looked to us like a ready made chuppah, or wedding canopy. A friend exclaimed, “And sukkah, too!” A sukkah is an impermanent, fragile hut, to remember our ancestors’ experience in the wilderness, where we were untethered to place or land or borders, while tied closely to each other, and to the traveling Mishkan, the dwelling place of the Holy of Holies. And indeed, we’re using it as a sukkah this year, our very first as a family. Not much to speak of, but we do sit and eat there. (Or at least I do.)
This weekend, I’ll be officiating at my fourth Sukkot wedding in the five years I’ve been blessed to officiate at these sacred events. Sukkot is the Jewish harvest festival in which the Torah commands us to spend seven days sitting or dwelling in a sukkah.
Sukkot follows closely, a mere few days, after Yom Kippur, when we lay open our most vulnerable selves, explore our shadow sides. It is the time when we cleanse ourselves or are cleansed of our sins, our past mistakes, and we start fresh. Following the soul-baring of Yom Kippur, Sukkot is a perfect moment to experience who we CAN be, the best in ourselves. And the perfect time to experience the joy of release, the joy the Torah commands us to feel on this one holiday.
And this is a perfect moment to marry the love of our lives, to surround ourselves with our community and make a commitment to building, sustaining a relationship of love, honesty and sharing. The sukkah—the fragile, temporary hut, represents the fragility of the material world compared to the solidity of faith in what philosopher Martin Buber describes as the I-Thou relationship with the divine and with each other, the relationship in which we are fully present to the other. What better time than Sukkot to commit to the solidity of a relationship that is not bound by bricks and mortar so much as by commitment to be fully aware, fully engaged with each other? The impermanence of the sukkah counterbalances the permanence of the wedding vows, of the belief that home truly is where the heart resides.
Similarly, the chuppah is the representation of the home the couple is building together. It too is an impermanent, transitory, fragile structure that gives the outline or the impression of a home. It has family and friends nearby, ready to be welcomed, but the true heart of the chuppah is its inhabitants, the people who dwell within, who carry each other in their own hearts.
May this–and all–couples marrying this weekend know joy, love and a lifetime of commitment to each other.