“If the Lord will not build a house, its builders have toiled at it in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
We are at the brink of Sukkot, and all I can think about is the makeshift huts we dwell in every year, these temporary dwellings.
We have so many temporary dwellings in life. The womb. Our childhood homes. Often, and sadly, even our adult homes.
And, on a larger scale, this exile. The wandering in the desert. This eternity of waiting for redemption.
This past week, I’ve been watching people build their sukkot – which, to the untrained eye, look like weird outdoor huts without enough insulation. But, to me, they are symbolic of our complete and utter trust in God. Here, even now, in our modern world of mansions and luxury cars, we hammer and saw away, building our temporary humble homes, ones which are open to the sky, so we can look to the heavens without obstruction.
These sukkot represent our faith. Dwelling in the sukkah for these next several days will serve to remind us of how we had to lean on God in the desert.
In the midst of all of this, I kept looking at my balcony and asking friends if I could build a sukkah there. The question I kept asking was, “Can I?” The follow-up question, the true question, is “How?”
So, how do you build a house?
Do you gather cement, stone, and wood? Do you draw plans and blueprints, sketching over and over again what it will look like in your mind?
What about your spiritual house? How do you build the home of your mind, the home of your soul? This home must simultaneously reflect your own being within, a representation of the life you’re building.
We spend so much time building physical homes, or remodeling older homes, and yet we spend so little time building or remodeling our spiritual homes.
We repeat the same behaviors, we confine ourselves to the same routines, and we don’t dare to push beyond the limits of our own selves and grow.
We devote endless hours and money to furnishing our houses, redecorating on a regular basis, and yet we fall short when it comes to redecorating our minds.
Instead, so many of us allow old ideas to get dusty on the shelves; the cobwebs of ancient, preconceived notions multiplying beyond measure to obscure our reasoning. We are stuck repeating the same habits, saying the same mantras, and ultimately, refusing to let go of the past – with all its nostalgia and imperfections, its pain and traumas – in this sad cycle of repeating our same mistakes no matter how many times we are tested in the same classroom.
They say that the flaws you see in others are merely a reflection of the flaws within yourself. We are so busy looking at other people’s broken windows and dying grass that we aren’t paying attention to our rodent infestation and rotting floorboards. We aren’t paying attention, and so many of us won’t.
What happens when the wood is rotted through, when there is a crack in the foundation, and the house is in danger of collapsing?
Those are the moments when you cannot simply remodel but rebuild from the ground up.
So too in life, there are times when we must destroy the old self completely in order to construct a new self, a new home, one that will be completely and fundamentally different from the old.
We must always create a space, a vacuum, for Hashem.
Then He will build our house.
A house is built with wisdom, and it is established with understanding. With knowledge, the rooms are filled with all riches, precious and pleasant. (Proverbs 24:3-4)