Addressing a crowd of about 200 young professionals last week, I shared with them what I see as the unique privileges and challenges of their generation. On the one hand, I argued, they are the most worldly, successful, and best educated generation in the history of their respective families. And at the same time, I argued, they are also the most vulnerable and lonely of generations. They get married much later in life, have smaller families, and live in a time and place in which most marriages end up in failure (here in California). On the one hand, many in this generation are “conquering the world,” in terms of their academic, professional and financial achievements, and on the other hand – many of them end up bereft of the basic emotional, mental, social and familial fundamentals of life, which many in previous generations took for granted. Theirs is the generation which is plagued with staggering (and largely undiscussed) rates of depression, anxiety, alienation (social estrangement), and loneliness.
A sukkah represents many things in Jewish consciousness and spirituality. It represents soulful attachment to the Divine, and also – the faith that the Almighty has in us – in our ability to do something deep and worthwhile with our lives. A sukkah also represents the fragile and temporary nature of human existence, both in time and in space.
And lastly, a sukkah also represents the sheltering refuge of community and spirituality. The sukkah represents the redemption of solitude that we find in leading an active Jewish life. Redemption from the social and psychological solitude of a self-absorbed and isolated lifestyle, and also – redemption from the cosmic solitude of a spiritually vacuous mode of existence. Western modernity has given us many priceless and precious gifts – chief amongst which are democracy, human rights, and individual liberties. But it also left us with a pervasive spiritual and communal deficit. The sukkah of an active spiritual and communal existence is a worthy remedy for the maladies and malaise of secular modernity. So irrespective of your generational pedigree, join us in the sukkah, both concretely and metaphorically, this Shabbat, and all year long, thereby emerging socially invigorated and spiritually enhanced.
Shabbat Shalom and moadim lesimcha,