Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
How is it possible to be happy in the midst of uncertainty? The Torah portion of the week, parashat Emor, describes many festivals, among them the festival of Sukkot, and it is especially during that festival which is nothing but a celebration of wandering and impermanence that a command to be happy and joyful appears: “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God… You shall sit in booths for seven days.”
Our uncertainty during the forty years of wandering in the desert was much greater than it is in the time of corona. We lived without a permanent home, were being tossed about everywhere with no end in sight, with enemies every step of the way and, despite this, there was joy during the journey. These were forty years described by the prophet Jeremiah in the following famous words: “I remember you for the lovingkindness of your youth, for the love of your betrothal, for your following Me in the desert, in a land not sown.” We walked into the unknown but with a smile, love and devotion. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has a penetrating thought regarding this experience: “Faith is not certainty; faith is the courage to live with uncertainty.” The parasha brings us a yearly reminder: we do not run the world. Once, in the desert, we acknowledged this, when our plight was fragile and fraught with danger. No, it’s not solid walls around us that give us joy and it’s possible to be happy living in a flimsy sukkah. The main thing is the content and meaning we create as we wander along the way.