Seeing Stars

Rabbi Heshy Roth

Written by a friend

The scach (roof of the succah) must allow gaps so we might view the stars through it. This is to assist us in witnessing God’s stellar creations suspended in the heavens, and recall His majesty. We are to realize that God is essential to our shelter. Why then must a succah's covering exist at all? Would we not see the stars all that much clearer, had no roof been constructed? What is the philosophy behind the succah’s “partial” covering, if in fact, any covering obscures the skies?

We are to leave our permanent homes, and dwell in the succah – a minimal dwelling – so as to demonstrate our true dependency is on God, and not the physical protection provided by a sturdy roof. Doing so, gazing through the sparse Schach, helps us achieve this objective. Why then have scach at all?

God does not want man to reject HIs natural world and its laws, and simply sit back waiting for miracles; that God should do everything for him. No. God designed the natural world for a reason: that man use his mind and harness it, as God says in Genesis 1:28, “…fill the Earth and subdue it.” Man must act in accordance with reality. Reality teaches us that we do need shelter, and that there are methods by which to procure that, and all our needs. We are to engage in these methods, be it natural science, engineering, math, etc. However, we cannot depend on physical shelter alone, without God. Scach is a fundamental lesson: it combines man’s attempt at sheltering himself with the realization that his efforts always require God’s assistance. Scach – a structure which man creates but allows gaps to see God’s stars – demonstrates the combination of man’s obligatory attempts of physical shelter, with God's providence (the gaps). Thereby, man reflects on God’s heavenly bodies, and reminds himself that just as his brick home is equally dependent on God, so too, all else is not exclusively in our hands. 

The true lesson of Succos is that man abandons the fallacy that he can address all his needs without God.