All rabbinic discussion about the sukkah is based on the distinction between what is arai (temporary) and what is keva (permanent). The sukkah, by definition must be arai—that is, it cannot appear so sturdy that it might be confused for a permanent home. The Rabbis of the Talmud argue about whether this constraint against the sukkah appearing permanent constitutes a limit on the height of the sukkah or on the materials that may be used to construct it (Sukkah 2a). In either case, the point is the same: the sukkah should be a structure in which someone can live for a week, but not in which he or she can live permanently. In contrast, a permanent house, we can assume, is noticeable sturdy, either because of its size or because of the materials used to construct it. Similarly, the requirement that the roof of the sukkah be permeable, combined with the explicit permission to return to your home if rain threatens to ruin your sukkah, implies that a permanent house is expected not to have holes in the roof and should fully shield a person from the elements (Mishnah, Sukkah 2:9) … The sukkah derives its significance from the contrast between it and the homes we live in during the rest of the year. If we did not have permanent homes to which we could return at the conclusion of the holiday, then the sukkah would lose its meaning… [and] it is not only the homeless who live constantly with the sense of housing impermanence manifest in the sukkah. The more than 17 million Americans who spend more than 50% of their incomes on housing, and who may be just one or two paychecks away from eviction, can similarly never be fully secure in their housing. For millions of people, the “temporary” experience of the sukkah has become a year-round reality.”
Suggested Discussion Questions:
Given this text, what do you think a modern Jewish definition of a home might be? What qualities should that home have?
Time Period: Contemporary (The Yom Kippur War until the present-day)