We have a most unusual sukkah. Really. When people come to visit and I invite them to have make a “leishev basukkah,” the usual reaction is, “Where is it?”
“Here. You’re in it,” I say with a smile.
In response to their confusion, I point upwards, toward the ceiling. The sky is visible between the wooden slats.
When we moved into our apartment ten years ago, we moved around a few walls to create an extra bedroom and enclosed the porch. Instead of building a permanent roof over the open section of the porch, the contractor installed a sliding roof, which could be easily removed to create – voila! – a sukkah. And it really is “voila!” Erev Sukkos, my husband removes the false ceiling, slides the roof off, and spreads the slats across the empty space. It takes him less than fifteen minutes.
Our sukkah is tiny. My husband can, and does, sleep in it, but only on a very narrow mattress, otherwise he might just roll out. We can, and do, invite guests – four thin people can fit around the table, and two not-so-thin ones. Because it is so small, I don’t hang decorations on the walls. Every centimeter
But our sukkah is kosher. We can make a “leishev basukkah” in it. And that’s the ikar.
Before we moved to our present apartment, we had two fairly large sukkos; one for sleeping and one for eating. Erev Sukkos was chaotic; I ran a marathon between preparing the meals, greeting our guests, taking care of the children and desperately trying to prevent the stray pieces of schach from overtaking our lives. The moment Yom Tov began, I would collapse in exhaustion on the sofa and sleep until it was time to start the seudah.
I loved every moment of it. Yes, physically it was a huge amount of work, but it was also exhilarating. I loved the magical evenings sitting in our sukkah. It was constantly crowded with family and guests, and laughter, and singing and divrei Torah.
Yes, I loved every moment of it then, and I love every moment of it today. The small, quiet, just-the-two-of-us sukkah with an occasional guest is what I need, and want, now; while the crowded and chaotic sukkah, brimming with family and non-stop company, was what I needed and wanted then.
Before starting high school (or “seminar,” as it’s known in Israel) I take each of my granddaughters shopping for a new grown-up school bag, followed by a tall ice cream sundae (with lots of whipped cream!) in Geulah. Eight years ago, when I took my oldest granddaughter shopping for her schoolbag, I really enjoyed the shopping part (of course I enjoyed the ice cream part as well). We walked up and down the streets of Geulah, comparing bags and prices, looking for the best deal. This summer, however, as I stood crushed into a tiny corner of a crowded shop, watching my granddaughter, together with half a dozen other teenagers, agonize over which bag was the perfect one, my only thought was, “How much longer will it take?” (At the cash register, the shopkeeper quipped, “Finding a shidduch is nothing compared to finding the right bag).
That is part of the challenge of my stage of life. Of course I really wanted to enjoy some quality time (and an ice cream) with this granddaughter. It was pure nachas to share her excitement as she stepped into young adulthood, as symbolized by the purchase of a schoolbag suitable for a young lady, rather than a school child. And it goes without saying that spending time with family is top priority. But at the same time, I crave the safe haven and quiet of my own daled amos. I need my “tiny sukkah” every day of the year.
A lot of construction is going on in our building right now. Two families are renovating their apartments, and another two families are building large sukkah porches off their living rooms. A couple of people in the building suggested that we also add a sukkah porch.
But I don’t want to.
And the reason is simple.
I like our little sukkah. No, to be more accurate, I’d say that I love our little sukkah. It’s small and cozy, which means that we can’t have a lot of company. And that’s perfect for me and my family, now, at this stage of my life.