Monday, October 6, 2014

Thoreau's Cabin was No Sukkah

Thoreau's Cabin was No Sukkah

Rav Ezra Shapiro

My first time revisiting Walden I had a certain sense of nostalgia for Novordok.  A beis hamussar out in the woods, letting go of the physical trappings of society. A self galus freeing one from the demand of fitting into a previous role. Self achrayus, hitbodedut. Wasn’t Thoreau’s cabin a lot like our sukkah. Then as I brought it up with my father he commented how a brief perusal of Walden was very off putting in its lack of humility. A certain air of arrogance in Thoreau’s assuredness of everyone else being wrong.

As I thought about it Thoreau’s cabin it is nothing like our sukkah.

His cabin was an escape from community and society to display and experience the individual’s ability to be self reliant and independent. I have or can be the source of everything that I need.

Our sukkah is the exact opposite. We are escaping all that we have built and reminding ourselves that we are very dependent. We are not alone.

If Thoreau’s  cabin is a source of egoism, our sukkah is our source of humility. If Thoreau’s cabin is metaphorically self contained and closed, our sukkah is somewhat open above to remind us that we are not alone, and our door is open to the guests who we invite each day, guests from our past who remind us that we did not get to where we are on our own.
Bezrat Hashem Sukkot should lead to a Simchat Torah invested in humility, where we stand and dance as servants to the Torah and not, chas veshalom, that the Torah becomes a device for our own ideological arrogance. 

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