My husband and son got up super early this morning to start the building of our sukkah before Max went back to base. Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Our next holiday is Sukkot, which begins at sundown on Sunday evening.
Sukkot is the feast of booths or tabernacles. Jews all over the world erect these temporary dwellings where for the next week, we spend much of our time, eating all our meals in this rather fragile structure. Some people sleep in their sukkah. Since moving to Israel, ours is about a third the size, only big enough for a large table. Still-
Dwelling in these tent-like booths, not only are we reminded of the nomadic wanderings of our forefathers in the desert, returning from a 400 year slavery in Egypt before they could return home to Israel, but we are reminded of the temporary nature and frailty of our own lives. When I lived on the East Coast of the US, Sukkot always fell at the peak of hurricane season. In California, Sukkot was usually marked by the beginning of the strong Santa Anna winds blowing in from the desert and the beginning of brushfire season with its choking fumes, ash and uncertainty. Many a year we would awaken to a downed tent, parts strewn over the backyard.
This year is especially difficult. A year in which the fragility of our lives here on earth is fully present. Two days before Yom Kippur we lost a dear friend and defender of Israel. Ari Fuld was a giant of a man. Immigrating to Israel from the US over 20 years ago, he proudly served in the IDF and remained a Commander in the Reserves. A proud American and a proud Israeli, Ari was running an errand to the grocery store for his wife, when a 17 year old terrorist stabbed him in the back. Being the selfless lion (Ari in Hebrew means lion) and defender of the people he so dearly loved, Ari ran after the terrorist, jumping over a wall, managing to fire off his gun to neutralize the punk before collapsing. The terrorist was already running after a young shopkeeper trying to stab her. Ari lived life to his last breath a hero.
Ari Fuld loved people. He loved the Lone Soldiers and was always making sure they were cared for and had all the material and spiritual support they needed. If I ever had a question about the army, I could ask Ari, as did many of the Anglo parents. He and his family would host big American style barbecues for the soldiers. Good memories.
A lover of the land, he delighted in taking people on tours, especially of Yerushalayim. He had so many insights and interesting stories. Each week, Ari would post a drash (homily/explanation) of the week’s Torah reading. It was almost prophetic that last week’s video clip was on the death of Moses. The unceremonious passing of the torch to Joshua. I went back to watch it again just a few minutes ago. I was crying as in the middle of his last post, he takes the time to bless his daughter as she leaves the house for Shabbat.
Ari was a faithful husband and father of four beautiful children. Thousands of people from all over the country showed up at midnight, the day before Erev Yom Kippur, to attend his funeral. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
Ari Fuld will be greatly missed. His passing is a testimony to the temporary nature of our existence. Our sukkot, like our bodies, no matter how strongly erected, how beautifully decorated are not here forever. Our spirits live on, and I just hope I can be a tiny bit as effective as Ari was in spreading the love and truth of this amazing country.
I leave you with lyrics from my favorite song for Sukkot, “Frailty”…. written by my dear friend in Los Angeles, Britta Kaye.
As I leave this wind blown room, I remember. That I do not leave it, Rather this is who I am. The room I build each year is merely an image. Of my perpetual existence In the state of Frailty.
As I leave this wind blown room, I remember. That You do not leave me, rather this is where You met me. I forget so easily, I was crafted in Your image. And to remind me, You joined me in the grip of Frailty.
As I leave this wind blown room, I remember. The shock of your arrival, the mystery of your life and flesh. In this flimsy box, you installed a treasure. And you lifted your face to me through the gift of Frailty.
Dedicated to Ari Fuld & Britta’s father, who also passed last week. May their memories forever be a blessing. G-d is a truthful and merciful judge….