Image: A wooden door with a rusty padlock. (Pixabay)
There was once a man in Anaheim named Yacov who built a beautiful sukkah. It had an expensive carpet, and golden furniture, and Israeli art on the walls. It was so beautiful, that the man decided after the holiday that he wanted to keep his sukkah forever.
Still he worried. What about the golden furniture? What about the carpet?
So he put a door on his sukkah, and a great big lock, and he locked that sukkah up tight. He slept on a pallet in the sukkah every night.
The sukkah was a kosher sukkah. It had a flimsy roof of palm fronds. He worried about that roof, and thought to himself, “Thieves may come in by that roof!” So he got some lumber, and he nailed a roof on the sukkah to keep it secure. He closed that roof up tight. And he slept in the sukkah every night.
And when he was in the sukkah, he noticed that he could no longer see the stars, or the moonlight, and he felt a little sad, but he had to keep his sukkah safe! For he loved his sukkah very much. And he slept in the sukkah every night.
Then a neighbor complained to the city, and a building inspector came. The building inspector said to Yacov, “Yacov! You have no permit for this structure!” And Yacov said very importantly, “This is a sukkah! You can’t penalize me for a sukkah! It’s my religion! First Amendment!”
The building inspector said, “I think I need a note from your rabbi.” And Yacov lay awake in the sukkah that night.
The next day, Yacov went to his rabbi, and said, “Rabbi, I built the most beautiful sukkah. Would you come and see my sukkah, and tell the City of Anaheim that they have to let me keep it?”
The rabbi said, “Yacov! It’s almost Chanukah! What are you doing with a sukkah?”
Yacov said, “Rabbi, come see it. It’s the most beautiful sukkah ever.”
So the rabbi shook her head, and visited Yacov’s house. She saw the structure in the yard, with the big lock on the door and the wooden roof above. “Is that your sukkah?” she asked.
“Yes, and it’s beautiful!” Yacov said, beaming. “Come in and see!” He unlocked the door, and opened it, and the rabbi peered into the dim interior. She saw the golden furniture, and the art, and the carpet. She saw the pallet on the floor. She looked up at the roof.
“Yacov, my friend, this is not a kosher sukkah.”
“What? It’s the most beautiful sukkah in the world!”
“No, Yacov, I cannot see the stars. And whoever saw a sukkah with a lock on it?”
“But I have to keep it safe, Rabbi! I love this sukkah, and I am going to keep it forever!” The rabbi sighed again, even deeper.
“Yacov, my friend, the day you decided to keep it forever, it stopped being a sukkah. The sukkah is here to teach us that nothing is permanent. We cannot keep things forever. We must appreciate beauty in the here and now, for we do not know what will come tomorrow. Let me ask you this: What treasure have you been neglecting, while you tried to keep the sukkah?”
Yacov began to cry, and the rabbi cried with him. They sat on the golden furniture and cried.
So Yacov took the sukkah apart, and put away the furniture. He rolled up the rug and went inside, where his wife was waiting, and his children.
Note: I have published this story in a slightly different form in years past.