The Lord Is Your Shadow

Here is a paraphrased teaching of the Sefat Emet from Sukkot 5650/1889:

The holy Zohar calls the Sukkah, “the shadow of the Faithful One,” a term that can be explained in this way: that holiness is the shadow cast in the Sukkah—a shadow that is the profile of one’s faith…

According to the posture of its faith did Israel merit the sheltering, Sukkah-like clouds of Divine Presence in the wilderness—clouds that led Israel in a manner beyond nature…

Just so, it is said in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov that the verse, “Adonai is your shade” (Psalm 121:5), means that the Holy One reveals himself according to a person’s conduct.

Says the Ba’al Shem Tov:  Adonai is your shade, your shadow.  The Divine Presence is your silhouette, striking the pose of your conduct.

According to the Mishnah (Sukkah 1:1), a valid Sukkah must have more shade, more shadow than sun.  What are the qualities and characteristics of shade, of shadow that draw the attention of the Mishnah?  Certainly, shade offers protection from the sun, but blocking out all sunlight renders the Sukkah invalid.  Light allows for shade to appear.  Shadow is only revealed in the light. Shadow takes shape according to the arrangement of roof covering in each Sukkah—unique in each, present in all, abiding and shifting through the day.

Consider how you project Divine Presence into the world and how that revealing shadow shifts with the arrangement of your deeds—growing, gathering under foot and lengthening again.  An irony in the shadows:  A prayer-poet of the High Holidays refers to human life as “a passing shadow.” In the Sukkah, it is Divine Presence that is the shadow.

The God of ever changing presence is called “The Temporary One” by Rivka Miriam in a poem called “Sukkot” (click here for poem in Hebrew and English):

The Temporary covers us.
The Temporary is green. Yellow, brown and gray is the permanent.
The Temporary covers us. Let’s make ourselves beautiful for Him.
Let’s leave Him here. He will shade us from the sun. From the cold, gather us.
Let’s leave Him with us. He will cast an anchor.
Who is a better father to us than Him?
The Temporary covers us.
Our fixedness will not frighten Him. Just the opposite
We will bring Him seven of our community’s elders
Those tied by the cord of continuing.
Day after day they will pass before him, in cloaks, in turbans.
Dwell with us, Temporary, dwell.
Your place is with us.
We are the offspring of the ever-turning sword.
And who is a better father to us than You?

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