Featured in local papers on Thursday, October 9, 2008. Copyright 2008 by Yosef Y. Polter

What does the current economic crisis have in common with the recent hurricanes?

They both show us our vulnerability and highlight our false sense of security.

We’ve been led to believe that a house and good investments, i.e. material possessions, offer us complete security.  But as our country reels from the seemingly unending collapse of major financial institutions in recent months, we come to learn that maybe it just isn’t so.  Maybe our true security comes from somewhere else and maybe there is a completely different way to help insure that security.

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot, beginning this Monday night, October 13, might offer some insight.  During this holiday, Jews are enjoined to leave their well-built, climate-controlled, burglar-proofed and fire-alarmed homes to spend time, mainly eating, in a temporary outdoor hut, called a Sukkah.

One reason for this commandment is to remind us every year that our ultimate security does not come from the safety of our home, which also represents all material possessions including our financial portfolio.  Instead, we are always at the mercy of G‑d Al-Mighty.  The Sukkah actually commemorates G‑d’s shelter of the Israelites from the elements and their enemies during their forty years in the Sinai desert and how they were dependent on G‑d for their protection and security.

The main specification of the Sukkah is that the roof be made of branches, bamboo, or the like.  And though these branches need to be plentiful enough to have significantly more shade than sunlight inside the sukkah, the coverage shouldn’t be too thick.  There need to be at least some tiny openings through which we can see the sky.  This further teaches us that one needs to look heavenward (heaven being a metaphor; G‑d is really everywhere) for one’s sustenance, safety, and security.

Owning a home and having quality investments are certainly good things, but they are only vehicles for G‑d’s blessings.  Believing that these vehicles, in and of themselves, are the source or a guarantee of one’s security is a fallacy as we are painfully witnessing.  Hence, it is wise to trust in G‑d, the source of blessing, rather than the specific vehicles themselves. 

Consciously reflecting on this more often would inspire us to conduct our lives in a manner more congruent with the Divine will.  The Giver of life has no shortage of tools with which to sustain and protect us if He so chooses.

To quote the Psalmist: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me.”  Internalizing this thought increases internal peace of mind despite external events.

Bailout or no bailout, we are all going to feel the pain of this financial meltdown.  May we strengthen our trust in G‑d and follow His wishes to help us recover from these difficult times and may He show us His mercy and kindness with a resolution of the current crises speedily.  Amen

Best wishes for a very happy and meaningful Sukkot.

Rabbi Polter is the director of the Acton-concord Chabad Center, located at 148 Great Road in Acton, which has been serving area towns since 2000.   It is a non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible.  For more information about the center’s programs and services, call (978) 929-2513 or visit www.ActonConcordChabad.org