Building Smarter (from October 2012)

Shalom Sons of Israel!

After the High Holiday season, the Jewish people do not rest! Just a few days later, we begin Sukkot. Tishrei, the first Jewish month, is jam-packed with holidays, and for some, this is intentional.

In Ma’or VaShemesh, the Chasidic Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Halevy Epstein (1753-1825) connects Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot through Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. Ma’or Vashemesh describes the birthday of the world (celebrated on Rosh Hashanah) as connected to the temporary structures (in English, we often call these Sukkot “booths”) built just for the holiday of Sukkot.

In Kabbalah, it is often taught that God’s universe emerged from Binah—God’s trait of Wisdom. The birthday of the world is a celebration of Binah, and Binah is celebrated again during Sukkot. The connection between these two times involves a bit of complicated wordplay, but in the name of Wisdom, it’s worth the study!

In Hebrew, vowels are usually not written into words. The word Binah is generally spelled בינה (imagine seeing BYNH in English). When the letters of the word Binah are reordered into בניה (BNYH), at least two different Hebrew words can be formed from this series of letters: beniyyah (meaning, the act of “building”), and baneyha (“her children”).

Ma’or VaShemesh teaches that every Sukkah (“booth”) is surrounded by a light composed of Binah. Through this, the Supernal Mother (namely, God) creates a roof upon BNYH—to be understood as both “the act of building,” or “the children of our Parent in Heaven”) (p. 857).

Just as the Torah teaches that God created the world through speech, Kabbalah teaches that the letters of the Hebrew Aleph Bet compose different parts of our universe. And when it comes to Binah, the letter Heh (from God’s Hebrew name) holds the Divine Wisdom that holds together the booths of Sukkot for God’s children.

In fact, when building a Sukkah, the minimum number of walls that is permitted Halakhically (by Jewish law) is equal to the number of line segments in the commonly printed version of the letter Heh (ה): two nearly full-length walls (see the Heh’s line segments at its top and its right side; they nearly make half a square!), plus 1 wall of shorter length (see that bottom-left corner of the Heh). The Sukkah, designed after the Divine letter Heh, must contain at least 3 incomplete walls.

Every Sukkah we build represents Wisdom. It represents Binah. It represents a Divinely designed universe and a wisely Divine universe. The Sukkah represents God’s presence when God’s children are lost in the wilderness, and it represents a piece of God that joins us each year for Earth’s birthday party.

In fact, when it comes down to it: when we build a Sukkah, we invite God into structured wisdom and into wise structures on Earth—always reminding God and always reminding ourselves that God and God’s children are eternal partners in creation.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Building Smarter (from October 2012 Bulletin of Congregation Sons of Israel) « Jonah Rank on WordPress
    Oct 14, 2012 @ 02:24:14

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