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The Succah’s Embrace

Orli Katz

Imagine being handed a can of paint and given a canvas over six feet high to decorate as you like. A child’s dream come true!

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock

Ilived in Des Moines, Iowa until I was five years old and I will never forget the succah my parents constructed while we lived there. It had blue burlap walls and was held together by twine threaded through a metal frame. The walls would billow and snap in the frigid Iowa winds, like the sails of a ship. 

To decorate the succah, my parents bought cans of spray paint and allowed all of us kids to paint rainbow-colored murals across the walls. Imagine being handed a can of paint and given a canvas over six feet high to decorate as you like. It was a child’s dream come true! We also hung Indian corn, homemade decorations, and winter squash from the rafters and our sechach was made of corn husks, which raccoons used to happily munch on every night. I remember it being so cold inside the succah that the wine in the Kiddush cup often had a skin of ice across the top. Despite the frigid outside temperatures, however, the warmth within, generated by our family gathering to celebrate the most joyous chag together, kept all of our hearts toasty and content.

Photo: Shutterstock

In stark contrast, when my family moved to sundrenched Miami, our new succah was the exact opposite. My father had the new succah custom built from the same material used to create refrigerated trucks, and a special air conditioner unit installed so we wouldn’t suffer from the blazing Miami heat. No more rainbow canvas walls. Now we sat like well-dressed Popsicles inside a custom-made freezer with stark white walls and palm fronds for a roof. The irony is that our new succah was so efficient at keeping us cool that we actually froze inside it and would frequently have to stroll outside just to warm up again! The succah was right next to our swimming pool, extremely convenient because we used it as our washing station for hamotzi. 

One year, right before a terrible hurricane was expected to hit Miami, my father tried to quickly dismantle the insulated succah before the storm, because flying debris, tossed around by hurricane velocity winds, is extremely dangerous. He and his helpers worked frantically to disassemble the heavy walls but they weren’t quick enough. As the wind picked up speed and rain began to pelt the ground, pieces of the succah literally went flying out of the men’s hands into the air! Parts of the succah landed in the bay and promptly sank, other pieces landed with a thud in the yard. The men quickly ran for cover and we all held our breath, huddling inside the relative safety of our home and davening for the hurricane to pass. Baruch Hashem no one was injured and even our home was undamaged by the ferocious storm. It made me realize that no matter what material our walls are made of, Hashem is the ultimate protector, and when we place our trust in Him, all storms can be weathered.

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