On Taking Down the Sukkah: A Prayer, by Yosef Kanefsky

There’s something about taking down the Sukkah. It conjures up that phrase from the book of Yonah: “It appeared overnight, and is gone overnight”.  It is reminiscent of the final scene of “The Purple Rose of Cairo” in which, when the marquee in front of the movie theater is changed, the entire story in which the characters had been living and dreaming disappears as if it never was. Yes, a lot happened in the Sukkah this year. Lots of family, and friends, and even guests whom I was meeting for the first time. A lot of joy and laughter. But when the last bundle of bamboo poles came to rest on the table in the tool shed…… “poof!”

It’s not completely “poof” of course. Memories remain, and all the friendships endure, strengthened and nourished.  Yet something is irretrievably gone, never to return exactly the way it was. A year from now we’ll build the Sukkah again. It will look very familiar to be sure. But it won’t be identical.

Taking down the Sukkah feels to me like it ought to be a time of prayer.

God of our fathers and mothers: As the footprint that had been the Sukkah has returned to being just another corner of the backyard, my wife and I thank you for what our family’s Sukkah held this year. For the first time, it held not just one daughter-in-law, but two. And it held not just three generations, but four, as my father-in-law caressed his first great-grandchild beneath its schach. Our Sukkah this year was truly one of the Clouds of Glory, God. How can I repay all of Your kindnesses?

In the same breath though, I ask that you send healing of the body and spirit to my mother, who for the first time was unable to make the trip to be with us. I know that a person who is ill is exempt from the Sukkah, but that doesn’t mean that her absence isn’t felt.  

God, I do not mean this in a melodramatic way, but as I take down take down the Sukkah I always find myself asking, “Who will return to our Sukkah next year? Which of our children will be in town to help me put the sukkah up, and which of them will be many miles away, hopefully doing wonderful things wherever they are? What will be the state of the world the next time we take shelter beneath Your wings, in our sacred temporary dwelling? What will remain the same, and what will change?

I pose these questions only to You. For it is You who causes the winds of time to blow, and the rains of blessing to fall.

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