Why doesn’t the Sukkah need a mezuzah?

Rabbi's Message - September 21, 2021

Rabbi Tina Sobo

We are commanded to dwell in Sukkot at this time of year.  But why is it, that unlike all other Jewish dwellings, the sukkah does not have a mezuzah?  On the 15th day of Tishrei, possibly with break the fast dinner feeling like it is still in our bellies from Yom Kippur, we begin the holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths).  Traditionally we erect a sukkah, a shelter that reminds us of the booths in the desert when we left Egypt and in the fields during the harvest.  Sukkot is the time of our rejoicing, of feasting, of giving thanks, particularly for the abundant harvest.  From an agricultural perspective we celebrate that we are “set” after a year of harvest for the winter.

The mezuzah that we put on our homes symbolizes permanence.  This is our home, where we live, where we store our possessions.  Why would a sukkah, which the Bible tells us to dwell in, not also fall in this category?  Precisely because one aspect of Sukkot is to bring us more in tune with the impermanence that exists in life.  The Sukkah is supposed to leave us vulnerable to the elements, unlike the walls of a permanent house.  It can not be left (completely) in tact from year to year.  Its roof cannot provide full coverage, but rather let rays of the sun through, and thus also the rain, or even snow!  It is for this very reason, that although it is our dwelling for the week, it is not a true home.

 Within Jewish law, the definition of permanence for a dwelling is what distinguishes the need for a mezuzah from what qualifies as a sukkah.  We explore our permanence versus transience, rootedness versus wandering.  By drawing our experience closer to nature, we likely will come to appreciate the safety and security of our permanent home.  

One’s level of privilege often translates in our society into one’s perceived sense of security and safety.  Perhaps, this Sukkot, as we spend time in our Sukkahs, whether Temple’s, your own, a friend’s, or even something sukkah-like, take a moment to consider the vulnerability we feel when the sheltering elements of our life are set aside.  When we open up to vulnerability, what do we find?

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