Downsize your life…writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf

October 7, 2014 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf
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Some people feel cozy and warm in a small apartment. Others can’t find enough space in a mansion. What is it about our relationship with space?

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Forget our battle with time – a lost cause. There is never enough time. But space? How much space do we really need? Imagine the productivity per square foot/meter if we had a desk at the toilet bowel and a stove near the hand basin? Or perhaps a bed in the walk-in robe and clothes lines over the lounge sofas?

Admittedly, aesthetics would take a distant second place to pragmatics, but at least there would be plenty of room for important spaces like cemetries and lawns bowls.

Interesting thing space. At finals time there is very limited space in the outer and yet each of us sometimes displays plenty of empty space between the ears.

Then there are the space ships. These noble craft that navigate the edge of space where ordinary men fear to tread (float?) These Star Trek pioneers are proving that the there is plenty of space in an expanding universe. Quantum physicists have found even more space by simply borrowing areas from the dimension of time and ‘bending’ space into a time warp. No, lack of space is not the problem – it’s our inability to breathe in life’s value through our life constricting spray spacer.

This week, Jewish people world-wide are going to pay homage to space, and radically down-size their abodes. Gone will be the frescoed ceilings and columned room divisions. In their place will be palm branches and straw matting and other deliverances of nature. It’s called a Sukka – a small outdoor ‘cubby house’ with no roof to speak off other than natural brush and branches. Why?

The complex contemporary response to this vexing question is because we can. The more learned answer is because our ancestors lived in such temporary abodes while wandering forty years through he desert before reaching a modest mountain at the foot of which they exclaimed, when proffered the contractual document, the Torah, “You’re kidding, sign I this document?’ from which moment on this mountain’s name became known as Mt. Sign-I (recent spellings misrepresent it as Sinai).

Moving on from this unholy levity we should quote the deeper symbolism of a Sukka as taught in the profound books of Kabbala. The gematria (numerical equivalence) of the Hebrew word for the thatched roofing – Schach (pronounced Schach) – is 100. This relates to the 100 individual notes blown on the shofar horn on Rosh HaShanna (the recently celebrated Jewish new year). The spiritual vibration of the ram’s horn’s notes gives rise to the protective layer (spiritual iron-dome?) above, symbolised in the relative feebleness of the roof, deliberately so to demonstrate strength of faith in G-d’s creation.

Also noted in the mystical writings is the cloud of incense in the Holy of Holies on the unique annual Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), when the high priest entered there, alone, rarely ever exiting. (Allow your imagination to wander.) The rudimentary roof of a Sukka is a further symbol of the ‘cloud’ of incense that so tempted the Kohanim (priests) to seek the post of High Priest – just to experience the incense in the Holy of Holies, notwithstanding their unlikelihood of surviving the spiritual elevation it provided.

In the Sukka one eats, some sleep, studies take place, and profound introspection and meditation are practiced. This tiny one-roomed space, houses a family – happily, noisily, with much mirth and laughter and inevitable stepping on toes

For some thousands of years Jewish people have been practicing to down-size when necessary. Jewish people have actually been living in host societies, in Sukka-like conditions, ever since being exiled from the Land of Israel by the Romans of old (who obviously needed more space – I guess the tiny land called Israel was their tipping point!).

So when you pass by these strange temporary ‘dwellings’, inevitably non-confirming to council approved building codes and regulations, and therefore always subject to legal notice ‘to take down within eight days’ (hmmm, coincidentally the festival of Sukkot lasts eight days!), ask yourself the question: wouldn’t I be a much happier person if I down-sized my life? Do I really need all this space?

Rabbi Laibl Wolf is the Dean of Spiritgrow – The Josef Kryss Center, Australia

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