This is how it began.
A year ago, Yehudah Dukes of the Jewish Learning Network, paired me up with Robert. I lived in Australia and Robert, in the woods of Maine. But we got together every week, Monday morning in Melbourne, Sunday afternoon in Maine, to learn Parsha [weekly Torah portion] over the phone.
It was inspiring for me—and sometimes the highlight of my week—to feel Robert’s eagerness to learn and understand how Torah lives in the 21st century.
I dreamed of meeting Robert. Upon my arrival in the States, I started planning. I wanted to take a Sukka Mobile to him. Then I thought that a Sukka that drives so far deserves a Sukka party. We set the date for the fifth day of Sukkos but we needed a venue.
The holiday was just a few hours away and I still didn’t know if this dream would come true until Wednesday morning. “I have a house, the hosts are Jewish and it has both water and electricity – don’t take that for granted!” It was Robert on the line. I felt a surge of adrenalin run through my body. I was bursting with joy that I hadn’t anticipated. “There are ten people registered and there will probably be another ten,” Robert continued.
5:15am, Monday morning, Danny and I got up. At 6:15 we were on the road and by 9:30 the Sukka was mounted on our newly-rented pick up truck. Now, after eight hours of non-stop driving, we turn onto Honey Rock Road. The forest floor beneath us is unpaved and the mountain is so steep that our wheels are now spinning. Danny and I notice the endless rows of trees. This is the final stretch of our journey. “Where are the people?” I wonder, as I survey the seemingly empty mountain peak above us.
The Jews of the woods just over the peak were now eagerly awaiting our arrival. Never before had the woods of Maine seen a Sukka Mobile. The people were all outside, in the rain, together, as they stared at the alien entering their planet. I, too, was overwhelmed seeing so many people standing together to greet us.
One by one, we shook Lulav and Esrog, made a blessing in the Sukka, and made our introductions. Then, we moved into Paul and Pam’s house where we set up a buffet of kosher food from Brooklyn. For the next 45 minutes, there was lots of conversation, with many catching up on what had happened since they had last met during Passover.
I spoke for five minutes. “Looking for an excuse to get together, Sukkos is most appropriate,” I began, “for in a Sukka, everyone is equal and thus united. Each of the four kinds is necessary to complete the Mitzvah. If one of the kinds is missing, if one Jew is absent, the Mitzvah cannot be fulfilled.” I ended with a story.
The room was still and silent. The atmosphere was warm, and nobody wanted to leave. They asked us questions about Judaism and about life. “What is Moshiach?” “Why study Torah?” “Who is a Jew?” “Why have the Jews suffered so much?”
We addressed the questions one by one. “Although we cannot explain our suffering,” I explained, “it is important to serve G-d with joy.” And so we sang.
Before leaving, we stepped into our Sukka to eat our own dinner, in the pouring rain. Paul and Pam joined us. We ate quickly and went back inside to continue the conversation.
At 9:00pm, we left to New Hampshire. We spent the following morning in Downtown Manchester, the afternoon, on the boardwalk of the university of Connecticut and at 12:00am, the Sukka arrived home, almost in one piece.
Paul and Pam sent us a letter of thanks. I thank the Rebbe for teaching us to reach out to others, and give us the privilege of experiencing G-dliness in our lives.
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