My youngest child is a handful. His interests include climbing on tables, rummaging through cabinets, ripping open potato chips bags with his teeth, and throwing things.
He has gotten much better, but sometimes the boy is just impossible; at the park, he relishes the opportunity to scoot down the twisty slides backward or snatch away toys from older children, his tantrums can be nuclear, and we need to keep him far away from baseball bats and hockey sticks for safety. He walks up to the fridge and takes what he wants: an apple, a pepper, salami… He has an infectious laugh but also has a low, sinister chuckle. He thinks he’s 15, not three. He lives large and in charge!
Yes, he’s a handful.
Despite all this, when this “big man” gets tired or scared or sad or worried or just overtired, he is more than happy – desperate really – to be scooped up and held and cuddled by someone who loves him. Finally, he needs his mommy or his daddy. He does need help.
As he lay in my arms, trailing off to sleep, all angelic and sweaty (he sweats a lot) in my bed in his Superman pajamas, I learned a powerful lesson from my son about understanding my limits. That lesson? He’s a lot like us.
Sure, we don’t steal toys at the park or go down the twisty slide the wrong way; but like him, we like to do our own thing. We like to be in control, but that is an illusion. It could be a flat tire, a fluctuation in the market, an illness, or just a stressful day – but inevitably, we come up against something that will stop us in our tracks.
My son loves his autonomy but what he understands well is that he can always ask for help. When he treads out into deeper water or loses his security – the moment he feels over his head – he knows where he can run for support and love.
Sometimes I wait too long until my sense of control is stripped away and I have no other options. I finally realize that I need someone. My son is teaching me that it is okay to ask for help. It’s fine to want a hug now and again, to want to be loved.
Sukkos teaches this lesson well. When we go into a sukkah, we depart from the illusion that it is we who provide the safety and security. Our climate-controlled homes made of concrete, brick, wood, and steel make us feel safe, but they only stand as long as Hashem allows them to stand. Our houses are just as flimsy as our sukkos.
The walls of a sukkah may be made of any material: canvas, wood, brick, fiberglass, adamantium. The schach placed on top the sukkah must be made of gidulei karka – something that grows from the ground. Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch explains that from our perspective on the ground, we see walls, not the schach. Some walls bow in the wind and others stay rigid as stone. From Hashem’s view above, he sees our simple, primitive, weak rooftops.
To others, we may look strong like those walls, but to Hashem we are suddenly equalized as being infinitely weak and helpless. We are even more flimsy than our sukkos. There is no point in dressing it up in fancy clothes, status, or accomplishments; we are just helpless toddlers.
We play so many roles in our lives: father, son, brother, friend, teacher, student. Sometimes we get to be the giver and sometimes we have to take. Sometimes we help; sometimes we need help. It is okay to admit you need help; it’s actually a sign of strength, not a weakness.
It is okay to admit you need help;
it’s actually a sign of strength, not weakness
We subject ourselves to uncertainly when we enter the sukkah. Will it rain? Will the weather be nice enough? Will bees come? Will the wind blow things around? These are things we would never put up with in our houses.
The sukkah teaches us to let go and let Hashem take care of us, be attuned to what he wants more than what we want. Maybe it will rain, maybe it will be frosty, maybe the kids will freak out the whole meal because they thought they saw a bee – and you will learn that it’s not so bad. Every aspect is in Hashem’s hands, whether I’m getting a new venture off the ground, or just turning the key to start my car. Nothing happens without Hashem’s help.
It can be so humbling but at the same time so empowering to know that we don’t need to carry the load alone. When I remember this, that free-fall that I thought I was in, moments ago, suddenly turns into weightlessness.
We think that by having ultimate control, things happen, but there is a greater joy in not having to do a thing. This could even bring us to simchas yom tov and d’veikus with Hashem. Even if nothing went right, it went perfectly – as long as I choose to let Hashem in and see things from that perspective.
We left the yamim tovim of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur longing for closeness to Hashem. Well now we are close to Hashem, in that sukkah, under his protection. Next, we must take that understanding of what a sukkah does back into our houses.
Hashem never rests and is always there. He waits for us with open arms for when we have had enough and are ready to admit that we really do need him always. We need help all the time. We are not perfect. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to want a hug now and again. It is okay to want to be loved.
My son sleeps so calmly, bundled up under his blanket clutching a Frisbee. That serene look says it all. He knows he is loved and protected and knows where to run to. I am no less vulnerable than my three-year-old; why shouldn’t I sleep as soundly as him?
Simcha Loiterman sees the world from a critical yet open perspective. He feels very strongly that you can learn from everyone; everyone has stories to tell, lessons to teach and kindles a spark of goodness inside of them. He is available for speaking engagements and presentations. Visit his blog at thisisloit.wordpress.com to learn more of his ideas and opinions about our beautiful world.