The Advantage of Being An Alien
Poor Lord Monboddo! The Scottish jurist, natural historian and linguist, was visiting the King’s Bench in London, when the hall began to collapse, fixtures plummeting from the walls and ceiling. Judges and lawyers panicked and ran pell-mell, fleeing for the exits. Lord Monboddo sat very still, watching all the commotion. “I thought it was an annual ceremony,” he replied when asked why he remained so imperturbed, “with which, being an alien, I had nothing to do.”
Our 1963 Succah was attacked by a swarm of bees, and all of us, except my father zt”l ran into the house as quickly as possible. Our guest, ‘a la Lord Monvoddo, enthralled with sitting in a Succah for the first time, didn’t notice the bees, and wondered what his role in the strange ceremony was: Should he run into the house with the crowd, or sit calmly with the Rabbi. My father looked up at him, smiled, and offered him so more food.
I grew up with a Succah, and assumed that walking on the streets with the Four Species was a normal part of life. I didn’t know enough to realize that for most people on the Baltimore streets, our Succot behavior was alien.
There is a part of me that, before Succot, wishes I were an alien to all these wonderful and exciting Mitzvot. I wish that it was not natural for me to move into a Succah, or to wave the Four Species. I wish for the excitement of a newly observant Jew sitting in a Succah for the first time, and waving his first set of Four Species.
Then Succot begins, and the “First Time” excitement is there. I am an alien in the world of the Succah meeting all the strange feelings for the first time. No Succot is like another. I am a different person than a year earlier, and the Succah, Lulav and Etrog are “First Time” experiences each day of the Festival.
I love that “First Time” feeling; the powerful Succot gift that allows me to experience Z’man Simchateinu as the joy that comes with new experiences and being a “new” me.
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