Ghosts As Guests
It is a myth of the lazy storyteller that ghosts primarily inhabit desolate houses and crumbling castles. No ghost ever walks down the stairs and corridors of the places I visit; no specter looks in from the other side of the window. However, when I return to my sukkah, I encounter ghosts. It is in the strangeness of their fleeting presence that I feel haunted; it is in the familiarity of their absence.
I can see and hear the muffled footsteps of my sukkah guests. I know them intimately, though in another plane of existence. I speak, of course, of the Seven Ushpizin, the Seven Guests who visit us, according to the Zohar, each day of Succot.
Why would I possibly describe a visit from Abraham or Isaac as strange when they are such an essential part of my spiritual existence? How could I possibly say that a visit from Moses, Aaron, or Joseph, as haunting?
I am haunted by the strangeness of their visit because I have no idea what I would say to any one of them if I met them in person. I love Abraham’s creativity, Isaac’s determination, Jacob’s clarity, Moses’ sense of the eternal, Aaron’s appreciation of the majesty of every detail in creation, Joseph’s loyalty and, King David’s all encompassing personality. I study their lives. I strive to emulate them. Each is a very real character in my life. However, I perceive each of them as a giant, whose presence would fill my succah; each, a larger than life character who would overwhelm me with their presence.
I welcome each at the beginning of the evening meal, as I sit in my sukkah staring up through the holes in the s’chach at the dark sky sprinkled with the flashing lights of the stores. The setting itself is perfect for a ghostly visit; a little strange for a visit from someone so important to the way I live my life.
I’m even slightly embarrassed over the quite imperfect way I have assembled my sukkah. How strange that I choose to welcome these awesome visitors in a flimsy booth rather than in my home! I can just imagine these people who have successfully built a nation that has lasted for thousands of years wondering how one of their descendants/students could be such a poor builder.
That is, until I remember that their visit is intended as an invitation, to me, the host, to join them in the Society of Builders. Each of them offers guidance in becoming a better builder of a better world.
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