Permanent Temporariness – Sukkot
Huh? Could you say that again? Well, I actually almost called this piece temporary permanence. Or both. Oxymoron city! But this seems to be the most accurate variation to represent the thought. As the late Rabbi Joseph Lookstein once said in a sermon, "the only thing that’s permanent in life is change."1 (Maybe next year we can discuss temporary permanence.)
This theme is alluded to in the mitzvah of Sukka. On Sukkot we are to leave our permanent residence and move to a temporary residence.2 Yet even so, the Gemara teaches us, it may not be a broken down hovel.3 It is to be a nice, pleasant place to spend the week. We are to make it as similar to a permanent dwelling as we can for that 7-day span. We are to behave as if it is a permanent dwelling though we are very conscious of its temporariness.
Temporariness. What do we do about it? How do you deal with your own temporariness? Does mortality empower you, scare you or both?
In one of his greatest songs, David Bowie sings of his approach beautifully:
Interestingly, our homes have started to show a normalizing sense of temporariness. According to Professor Allison Clarke, "Ikea also suggests temporariness, which suits what the home interior has become - a place of transience rather than permanence”.6
Our symbol of temporariness is a sukka, which we must "fix up" and make it inhabitable and pleasant. We can make this sense of temporariness into something pleasant. We can find meaning in temporariness. We can accept this challenge. Or we can complain about it. Which would you prefer?
Temporariness exists. It is part of our life. We can use it to our advantage.
Have A Great Shabbat!