Beloved Friends, 

 This Shabbat we are midway through our celebration of Sukkot also known as Z’man Simchateinu, The Time of Our Rejoicing. It is also a time of vulnerability as we leave the security of our firmly built homes and expose ourselves to the fragility of the booth we are commanded to build and dwell in for seven days. For many of us, maybe all of us, this seems to be our constant state in this time of uncertainty and fear…instability, and chaos.   It is all too easy to lose ourselves, our sense of self as we move from crisis to crisis and from trauma to trauma. How important it is, especially now to create for ourselves and for one another a Sukkat Shalom, a shelter of wholeness. 

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov tells the following famous parable that helps point the way to this construction. A prince once took leave of his senses and thought that he was a turkey. He felt compelled to sit naked under the table, pecking at bones and pieces of bread, like a turkey. All the royal physicians gave up hope of curing him of this madness. The king grieved tremendously.

A sage arrived and said, “I will undertake to cure him.” The sage undressed and sat naked under the table, next to the prince, picking crumbs and bones. “Who are you?” asked the prince. “What are you doing here?” “And you?” replied the sage. “What are you doing here?”

“I am a turkey,” said the prince. “I’m also a turkey,” answered the sage.

They sat together like this for some time, until they became good friends. One day, the sage signaled the king’s servants to throw him shirts. He said to the prince, “What makes you think that a turkey can’t wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey.” With that, the two of them put on shirts.

After a while, the sage again signaled, and they threw him pants. As before, he asked, “What makes you think that you can’t be a turkey if you wear pants?”

The sage continued in this manner until they were both completely dressed. Then he signaled for regular food, from the table. The sage then asked the prince, “What makes you think that you will stop being a turkey if you eat good food? You can eat whatever you want and still be a turkey!” They both ate the food.

Finally, the sage said, “What makes you think a turkey must sit under the table? Even a turkey can sit at the table.” The sage continued in this manner until the prince was completely cured. 

For me, this is a story of how one person can bring wholeness to another. How one person can help create that shelter of wholeness for another. I pray that in these last days of Sukkot we can continue to build that kind of Sukkah, that kind of shelter bringing wholeness and healing. 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sukkot Sameach, 

Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, D.Min., D.D.