Have you ever been shopping with a kid? At some point, the kid gets tired and is done with shopping.” I want to go home,” he or she wails. You know, home. That place where there are snacks and toys, smiles and cuddles, where one feels safe and loved. There’s a fuzzy pink cloud surrounding it – the child remembers the good things more than the others, and the smaller the child is, the more ‘home’ seems like a place of safety. After all, the things are familiar and belong to the child and are placed in a known way. The whole layout is comfortable and familiar, not overwhelming. There aren’t too many people there – and the people there love you. It’s a good place, home. No wonder the child cries for it.
Often, we am tempted to agree – or at least I am. ‘I know where you’re coming from, little one,’ I think to myself. ‘If I was less mature and grown up and responsible, I would totally join you in that wail.’ We wish for home when we have those challenging days in the office, or when the commute makes us scream inside, or when the line-up is way too long. Sometimes, even in our houses, when the chores are keeping us up or the bills are piling up or the kids are being overwhelming or we are discussing (never arguing, it’s counterproductive, right?) the kids and the chores and the bills with our partners, we long for that place of security and comfort. “I want to go home,” we wail in our heads, plaintively. No point saying it out loud – we’d be told we are home. But that primal cry – almost a baby’s wail is so fundamental, so much a part of people that I know more than one adult who, in the supposed comfort of her or his house, has said, “I want to go home.”
Oh, we try, even as adults. We have an office that’s all ours – or maybe the car – or at least a bag that no one else is to touch. ‘If I have my bag, then I have my stuff, then I have that feeling of safety.’ Maybe we pick a person instead and know that the love that person offers is our familiar, calm oasis of safety. ‘When I’m with so & so, I’m home’ we think. We defend our ‘home’ as hard as we can – ‘Please stay out of my bedroom.’ ’Don’t touch my purse.’ ‘You can’t leave.’ Those are all the grown-up versions of ‘I want to go home‘ that are culturally sanctioned. It doesn’t always work, of course. The kids wander into the office, or dump the purse upside down, the well-meaning partner pops into your car or your travel bag to put something away, the person you’ve been depending on gets sick or bored or simply leaves. None of the places we, as adults, call home are truly permanent or safe.
And then there’s Sukkot. This is a time when we deliberately move into a house that is NOT permanent, that cannot be permanent or safe or protected. When the house has no door to lock. When the rain WILL come in and so will random neighbours and squirrels, so your stuff won’t be safe. Where we cannot possibly feel at home using any of the ways we’re used to. And then, God tells us to be happy. No, seriously, it’s a rule to be happy on Sukkot. How the heck is that supposed to happen? It feels so much as if God is mocking me again. (One of God’s favourite pastimes, according to me.) ‘Na-na-na, boo-boo – you don’t get a home! And you have to be happy about it!’ That’s what I hear in the ‘leShev BaSukah’ blessing.
And then I remember the praying I had been doing on Yom Kippur, just 4 days later, where I called God my loving Parent – and I get it. (I know, this is obvious. What can I say, I’m slow sometimes.) Because when I’m with God – with that awesome Power that can love me and guide me if I let it – when I can access the love and comfort that God provides, then I have that sense of ease and security that I’ve been looking for. Then, even in a drafty, rainy (but extraordinarily well built and decorated! Yay, family) Sukkah, with no stuff or familiar layout, even in the midst of chores and bills and screaming people – so long as God is there, I am home.