October 16, 2018

Sukkot’s Blueprint for a New Home

At this moment, I can see the sky through the holes in my roof.

That’s not because I’m celebrating the holiday of Sukkot early. It’s because for several years, our roof has been leaking, and we’re now having it replaced. Lacking a roof makes you feel vulnerable. It makes you feel as though the elements are suddenly a part of your life that they simply weren’t before. It makes you worry every time the skies grow cloudy and it annoys you every time the weather gets too hot.

Lacking a roof makes you unhappy.

By contrast, the holiday of Sukkot is always a joyous time. It’s particularly joyous with children, as I’m now learning: their wonder at the beauty of the sukkah, their happiness in decorating it, their excitement at running out each meal to dine in it. What makes the sukkah so special, in contrast to your house lacking proper covering?

It’s the feeling that the impermanence is temporary. Soon enough, you’ll be able to go back in your house and live under a roof again. You’ll be able to feel the stability and protection of living in a home. Were Sukkot indefinitely long, it would be a difficult holiday.

That’s the message of Sukkot. Our world is the sukkah; our home is the broader sphere of the spiritual realm. In our sukkah, we rely on God to ensure that we’re not subject to the elements — we can protect ourselves to the best of our ability, but we’re never going to be able to avoid the vicissitudes and difficulties of life. But our lives are a mere moment in time, a time filled with great pleasure and great pain. Before and after our lives lies a fundamentally different eternity: solid and permanent, predictable and understandable. That is the promise of Sukkot.

What does this say about our politics? Something similar.

“We’re living in a political sukkah. But it doesn’t have to be that way — if we understand the lesson of the sukkah.”

It’s difficult not to be depressed watching our politics. Every day seems to bring some new storm of divisive nonsense: allegations dressed up as facts, opinions dressed up as facts, rage dressed up as facts. Every new day brings spin and anger, countered by more spin and more anger. Outrage follows outrage. It feels as though the cycle will never stop.

It will. We’re living in a political sukkah. But it doesn’t have to be that way — if we understand the lesson of the sukkah.

The reason the sukkah is only temporary is because we earn our way out of it. The Jews wandered the desert for 40 years living in booths because they refused to trust in God and live by His values. They would not believe that a more permanent state of affairs could be in the offing; they rejected the Land of Israel, believing themselves incapable of conquering it. And so God led them back into the wilderness. 

We must believe that a more permanent state of affairs is possible, but to earn our way back to that state of affairs, we have to be true to Godly values. Those values include a belief in telling the truth, no matter the consequences; valuing and having compassion for other human beings, even while fighting against sin; and recognizing that we are incapable of shaping reality to our whim. If we do that, we’ll build a new roof for ourselves, with God’s blessing. We’ll live together in the home we’ve built with one another. Impermanence will give way to permanence, uncertainty to certainty. 

With that promise, let us sit together on Sukkot and plan a more permanent home: a home where we share a common set of values and fight for the same goals. Then we can learn to enjoy the journey, even as we long for the destination.


Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show” and the author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”