Monday, October 13, 2014

Sukkot - Vulnerability with Hashem

Rav Dovid Lessin

“Vulnerability” is one of the most frightening words in the English language.  It is something we instinctively try to protect ourselves from, and yet social psychologists have shown that vulnerability seems to be the birthplace of creativity, joy, and personal growth.  Without it, one’s avodas Hashem becomes stale, monotonous, and dull.  What is vulnerability, what does it have to do with Sukkot, and why is it so important in our avodas Hashem?

Vulnerability means to open oneself up, often emotionally, in a way that leaves one undefended and exposed.  It means taking a risk where one is susceptible to the unknown, where one is unprotected, and where results are not guaranteed.  Why would anyone want that?

The answer is that when making oneself vulnerable, one is opening himself up to the possibility of change.  In interpersonal relationships, vulnerability fosters closeness, intimacy, and connection.  This is true for a simple reason: When one builds up the courage to step outside what is familiar and comfortable, one can then become more than he was before.

When we leave our homes and go into our dirat arai, we are making ourselves vulnerable to Hashem.  We are saying that He is our source of protection, and we are placing our trust in Him.  If it rains, we view this as a form of rejection.  If it does not, it is only because He is taking care of us.

On Sukkot we read Megilat Kohelet, where Shlomo HaMelech reminds us of our profound vulnerability in this world.  We leave the megilah with the sense that even our best efforts may result in failure, because our fate is really not up to us.  We toil and we try, and Hashemdecides.  We are truly in His hands.

ברכות יב teaches us the rule that hakol holech achar hachatima, that everything is determined by the ending.  The culmination of Sukkot is Hoshana Rabbah, when our primary focus is on the arava.  The arava doesn't have anything unto itself - it receives its stature from the outside, through being mevatel itself to something much greater, the agudah achat of all the minim together.  When a person makes himself vulnerable, he is opening himself up to becoming attached to something greater.  The opposite of vulnerability is the illusion of self-sufficiency, that I don’t need anything other than myself.  When we act in that way, we can’t be attached toHashem.

This is also why Dovid HaMelech’s ushpizin is on the night of Hoshana Rabbah, the culmination of Sukkot.  Dovid represents tefilah, where we express our deep desire to subjugate our will to the will of Hashem.  In order to truly daven, one must develop a felt sense of vulnerability, that His will, and not mine, is what determines my fate.

As we sit in the sukkah, perhaps we should think of a way in which can open ourselves up to doing something that may not be familiar, but that will allow for change and growth.  As we try something slightly unknown, we can rest in the knowledge that Hashem is with us every step of the way.

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