THE FALLEN SUKKAH OF DAVID
R’ Gedaliah Aharon Kenig
INTEGRATING THE MIND THROUGH PERFECTED FAITH
The sukkah is associated with King David. It is thus called the “Sukkah of David.” It could have been called by another name, like the “Sukkah of Israel” or the “Sukkah of Moses,” yet our sages connect sukkah to King David.
The fourth evening of the holiday of Sukkot marks the yahrzeit of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, who is referred to as the nachal novea mekor chochma—“the flowing river, source of wisdom” (Prov. 18:4). He proclaimed an astounding concept to the world: “There is no such thing as despair!” Nothing in the world is beyond hope.
How can such a claim be made when everything points in the opposite direction? Everyone experiences situations textured with despair to the point that it appears the entire world has ended. Everything seems black, with no glimmer of light. The despair these situations engender is called the “Fallen Sukkah of David.”
Yet Rebbe Nachman asserts, “There is no such thing as despair.” Although it is impossible to avoid difficult situations, the mind possesses a special power that can prevent one from falling completely during hard times. On Sukkot we pray: “May the Compassionate One raise for us the ‘Fallen Sukkah of David.’” Conceptually, the Sukkah of David represents a spiritually cleansed mind connected to a higher spiritual level, a place beyond our own intellectual perception of the world.
INTEGRATING THE MIND
According to the kabbalah, the sukkah represents the levels of perception beyond the conscious mind called makifim or “external intellect.” In contrast, pnimim or “internal intellect” is the knowledge we have successfully acquired. These two levels are dynamically related; when the higher intellect enters our mind enabling us to understand it, the new insight becomes encompassed within our internal intellect.
Makifim are those levels of understanding that transcend intellectual grasp. They surround and hover above the conscious mind, radiating understanding into the internal intellect. It is this upper level of intellect surrounding the mind that is called sukkah. This is similar to a physical sukkah, which completely surrounds us. During the holiday of Sukkot, we are required to enter the sukkah with our entire body, which includes the head, our intellect. Without the entire body entering the sukkah, the mitzvah of sukkah remains unfulfilled.
“David merited the crown of malchut—kingship.” The physical universe and everything that occurs within it, is part of the lower level of the World of Action, and connected to the kabbalistic sefira of malchut. Malchut itself possesses a type of “intellect” expressed as the animating intelligence contained by everything in the world. This intelligence corresponds to King David and the lower internal intellect mentioned earlier. The crown of King David, however, symbolizes the higher surrounding intellect, corresponding to the concept of sukkah.
When we don’t understand why things are a certain way in the world, the power of faith should be exercised. Faith draws down the highest light into any situation. If you believe that there is a God Above Who governs the world, you won’t dismiss something as meaningless just because you don’t understand it. On the contrary, despite your current inability to understand, you will know everything is functioning according to a Higher Plan which is just and fair. This faith will then illuminate your entire reality. In every situation, you now connect the upper surrounding intellect, called sukkah, to the lower internalized intellect, corresponding to your current perception of how the physical world operates. When you believe that whatever happens is governed from Above, it is clear that it is good.
“When I dwell in darkness, God will be a light for me.” Even if I am sitting in darkness and don’t understand what is happening, if I nonetheless believe that everything is just and fair because it is supervised by God, then this faith is a light for me. Despite the darkness, it does not even occur to me to despair, since the same governing Power that brought me here to this situation or state of mind will do everything for my good and ultimately take me out of this darkness.
Through this expression of lower intellect, you will now attain the higher intellect, called sukkah. The merging of these two intellects is called the “Sukkah of David,” which occurs when your perception of the way the world operates (Malchut David) is joined with the upper surrounding intellect (sukkah). The opposite occurs when the two are separated, a division caused by thinking everything is under the jurisdiction of nature and human agency. “David” is separated from sukkah—our perception of this world is separated from the upper intellect, faith in Divine governance of the world. This state is called “The Fallen Sukkah of David.”
Thus, when Rebbe Nachman says, “There is no such thing in the world as despair,” he is drawing down the highest light into the human heart to give us the ability to understand that regardless of the difficulties we experience, there is a higher Power in charge of every detail in the world. The process of attaining this level of understanding is called “raising the fallen sukkah of David.” Sukkat David is the rectified state of mind where the upper and lower intellect are united.
TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT
God created us in order to know Him. How is it possible for a limited physical human being to know God, Who is infinite? It is only possible to know God through facing the difficult challenges in life, and strengthening ourselves to get through them.
During times when it is extremely difficult to find God, one may fall, since it seems that God doesn’t exist. The difficulty of the search itself brings one to a state of nothingness. By strengthening oneself during these moments, the very obstacles which prevented perception of God, can be transformed into a vessel for Divine light.
Sometimes we undergo bitter situations where our understanding disappears completely. Even though we want to believe in God, we live inside a dark cloud. However much we search, we cannot find Him. This is a very dangerous situation, because we are unable to see God in spite of a sincere desire to find Him. What can we do?
Rebbe Nachman has advice for this dilemma as well. Cry out, “God! Where are You? I don’t see you, but I believe You are here! Where are You?” These cries will eventually enable you to return to your proper place, because the question of “Where are You?” indicates a belief in the existence of the thing for which you are searching. You believe God is present, but you just don’t know where. The repeated cries of “Where are You?” from the depths of the heart are answered with,“Here! Deeply inside, where You have always been.”
“The whole world is filled with His Glory.” One begins to sense God’s direct supervision over every detail. Anything that seemed unjust or unfair is now understood as being orchestrated in a wondrous way for the good. Only by passing through darkness and obstacles can we draw closer to God, which is a fulfillment of the Divine will.
Sometimes during difficult times, we say, “Oy! This is too much! I’ve had enough obstacles and darkness! I’m finished!” This way of thinking is erroneous, since we were not created to remain on a single level. On the contrary, we were created to continually ascend from level to level. Difficult situations are necessary in order to progress and come closer to God. The message of Rebbe Nachman is that it shouldn’t even occur to a person to despair and think, “I can’t go on.” Strengthen yourself over and over again, and eventually you will make it through.
There is always a limit to difficulties because God doesn’t leave us in difficult straits forever. The only purpose of obstacles is to create a vessel to receive light. Material obstacles and the vessels they can create have measure and definition. However, God’s light is unlimited. We need only to strengthen ourselves and not give up. Sometimes one becomes so weak in the last moment and loses everything. This is a shame, since at that very moment a vessel is being completed to receive a higher light. At the end, the darkness can become so overwhelming that we think we are lost and give up completely, God forbid.
Constantly strengthening oneself is the secret to our existence. There is no book in the world that can tell the entire awesome story of what the Jewish people have undergone since inception. Yet, despite everything, we continue to exist. This is only because of our patience, trust, and will to strengthen ourselves anew each time, despite constant suffering. We will continue to develop, and with the help of God, we will exist until the end, when the purpose for which we were created will be fulfilled: To know the unlimited light of the Infinite One.
Vessels to receive light are formed through obstacles. By overcoming the obstacles, the obstacles themselves are transformed into vessels of pleasantness. Rebbe Nachman calls this pleasantness “supernal delight,” which can now flow into completed vessels. The delight that the upper intellect can experience is more pleasant than anything in this world. This is the meaning of “May the Compassionate One raise for us the Fallen Sukkah of David.”
Rebbe Nachman is proclaiming to the entire world a message that everyone must hear. There is no such thing as despair! There is no situation beyond hope! The Jewish people have always found themselves in difficult situations, and today is no different. Instead of losing hope, we must strengthen ourselves with perfected faith, especially during the days of Sukkot, when we bring our entire physical being into the sukkah. We will then be worthy of being illuminated with a new light, which will reestablish the “Fallen Sukkah of David forever.” Amen. ♦
Translated and adapted from a shiur given in Tsfat.
1. Kohelet Rabbah 7:2
2. Micha 7:8