In the Little Shtetl of Vaysechvoos: The Moving Sukkah
This can’t really be happening, can it?
“I don’t understand!”
“Is this a joke? How can this be, it’s crazy, I tell you!”
The people of Vaysechvoos had seen some strange things before, but this, this could definitely be called the strangest happening yet, and right around the holiday, no less! What could it mean?
Everybody had been busy for days, preparing for Sukkot. Besides their own family’s sukkahs, almost all of the townspeople had participated in the construction of the booth at the shul, laboring carefully to make sure it was large enough to hold several families at once and decorated “just so.” The result was one of the finest sukkahs anyone could remember. Each person looked forward to the evenings when they would take supper in it and sing songs of joy with their neighbors.
But the first night of Sukkot, when several families arrived at the shul, they found the sukkah missing! The situation seemed preposterous, for whoever heard of such a thing happening?
“We’ve been robbed!” Malke, wife of Feivel the carpenter, gasped.
“Now, dear,” said her husband, “I ask you, who would want to steal a sukkah?”
“Well, how else do you explain it? Sukkahs don’t just get up and walk away!”
Fortunately, it didn’t take long to locate the missing booth. In fact, it was leaning against the south side of the shul, perfectly intact, just as they had left it…but not where they left it. For the people had built the sukkah along the north wall of the shul—at least, they thought they had. “Maybe this is where we left it after all?” asked Rivkah, wife of Mendel the tanner.
But no, everyone was pretty sure the sukkah was positioned on the north wall. However, things being as they now were, they decided to leave the sukkah on the south wall and eat together in it, just as they would have if the sukkah hadn’t moved.
The next day, though, conversations were completely centered on the odd occurrence. Many thought that someone must be up to some mischief, so naturally the most mischievous people in the shtetl were questioned. But nobody would own up to having moved the shelter and nobody even appeared particularly suspect. Besides, who would want to move the sukkah? And how could they even do such a thing, when surely such an effort would require the making of much noise, and the rabbi lived only a few feet from the shul and was a notoriously light sleeper and his wife was an even lighter sleeper…no, it just didn’t make any sense that someone would have or could have moved the sukkah.
Leave well enough alone. That was the general consensus. But at the end of the day, when more families came to the sukkah to celebrate together, they saw that the southern wall of the shul was bare. There was nothing by it but grass! It was soon discovered that the sukkah had moved again, this time to the eastern wall.
Naturally, the townspeople became speculative.
“It’s a miracle!” some whispered to each other.
“But what can it mean?”
Several eagerly offered explanations. Feivel the carpenter said, “Well, you know, perhaps the Almighty is trying to teach us that we should build our homes on firm foundations.”
The people listened to his opinion, but few thought there was much to it.
Mendel the tanner said, “I have a theory.”
“So, nu? What’s your theory?” asked Malke, Feivel’s wife.
“Maybe, just maybe, the Almighty is saying that we spend our whole lives chasing after things, but really, we should slow down, for the things we chase are futile.”
This seemed only slightly more credible than Feivel’s explanation.
“It could be that the Almighty is mad at me,” said Leah, one of the young girls in the shtetl.
“Now why would that be, Leah?” asked her mother.
“Well,” the girl said timidly, her face turning bright red, “when we were decorating the sukkah, I took a piece of the fruit and ate it.…I’m sorry, Mama! I didn’t know the sukkah would move because of it!”
Her mother and others reassured the frightened little girl that surely, it was not for this reason that the sukkah had moved.
The Sage finally spoke up, putting a stop to the speculating, theorizing and hypothesizing. He reminded the people that Sukkot was a season of joy, a time to put aside their daily troubles and thank the Almighty for bringing them through another year.
“And after all, if the Almighty-Blessed-be-His-Name wants to move our sukkah, he must have his reasons.”
The people nodded in agreement. And each day of the feast, the sukkah continued to move to a different place. But the people of Vaysechvoos took it all in stride. There were worse things, after all, than a moving sukkah. And so they all engaged in the usual Sukkot festivities; they ate meals together in booths and were joyful. In fact, it could be said that the mystery of the moving sukkah only added to the joy—for, as some said, a miracle was a miracle was a miracle, whether they understood it or not. Every day, the people would venture out and ask each other, “So, where has it gone to now?” It became something to look forward to.
On the fifth night of Sukkot, as Feivel’s family sat together in their own sukkah, his youngest daughter Chavelah suddenly said, “Papa, this is the best Sukkot ever!”
“Why’s that, Chavelah?”
“Well, because the Almighty keeps moving the sukkah, and even though we don’t know exactly why, it’s just good to know he’s so close to us during this holiday.” She smiled and took a bite of bread.
And so while it could easily be said that the year of the moving Sukkah was indeed strange, it still remains one of the most special feasts ever celebrated in Vaysechvoos.
Director of Communications, Missionary
Susan Perlman is one of the co-founders of Jews for Jesus. Susan is the associate executive director of Jews for Jesus and also director of communications for the organization. She also serves as the editor in chief of ISSUES, their evangelistic publication for Jewish seekers. She left a career track in New York City to help launch Jews for Jesus in San Francisco in the early 1970s. See more here.