Let’s talk about Fragility & Strength

Between Us

Here are three ways to Make It Yours this week:

Our sukkah has seen better days.

I proudly built it 15 years ago and each year, we assemble it with a few bolts here and there, a bit of schach on top and voila! – a temporary residence fit for family and friends. As the years have gone by, however, the wood has been warping and the bolts don’t line up quite the way they used to. It’s become increasingly fragile and shakes and shimmies in the wind a bit more than it should. It’s time to remodel – or replace – it, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

The sukkah (notwithstanding our attempts to brace, bolt and batten it down) is by definition, a temporary structure. Its fragility is the point: to remind us that lasting strength comes from our relationships with G-d and other people, not from wealth, material possessions or even the presumed security of our homes. Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen seemed to summing up the essence of Sukkot when he wrote, “Your home is regarded as a model home, your life as a model life. But all this splendor, and you along with it…it’s just as though it were built upon a shifting quagmire. A moment may come, a word can be spoken, and both you and all this splendor will collapse.”

In strength, there is fragility and in fragility, strength. Especially when one’s world changes dramatically; often, as Ibsen said, “in a moment.” Earlier this week, my colleague Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, in a poignant letter to his congregation, announced that he and his wife of 20 years, Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, are divorcing because he has come to understand that he is gay. I am moved by their courage and honesty. I wish for them and their family strength during this most public airing of a private moment and welcome their leadership and guidance as we pursue our goal to help create and support an even more welcoming, inclusive and sheltering Jewish community of Greater Washington.

Looking through the openings in our sukkah roof, we are reminded of the words in the Hashkiveinu prayer: “Give us refuge in the shadow of Your wings…. Blessed are You, Eternal God, whose shelter of peace is spread over us, over all Your people Israel, and over Jerusalem.” May it be so.

Steven A. Rakitt, Chief Executive Officer
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