Sukkah Weather

The Talmud (Avoda Zara 2-3) records a scenario in which the nations of the world approach God at the end of days to receive their reward. After each nation pleads its case and God ascertains that none of them did anything good for mankind in general (because their accomplishments were self-serving) and for the Jews in particular, the nations complain that they never had a chance to observe the Torah. Because God doesn’t want to be unfair, he offers them the “easy” mitzvah of sitting in the Sukkah. It’s easy because it involves no financial outlay — everyone can build one on his own roof. So they build their sukkot, and God makes it as hot as “tekufat Tamuz,” the summer months. But is that fair, asks the Talmud? Didn’t the Holy One just say that He wants to play it straight? Well, the fall season known as “tekufat Tishrei” can include days as hot as summer.

So the nations build their sukkot and run out from the heat, but not before giving the sukkot a few kicks. The Talmud again asks whether it is fair to criticize the nations, because according to Jewish law one need not suffer by sitting in extremely uncomfortable conditions. We then learn that the nations failed the test not because they left the sukkah, but because they kicked it. In the end they do not receive a reward.

My husband says that he didn’t understand the passage the first time he learned it. Having grown up with the cold and wet fall of the Pacific Northwest he could not imagine the sukkah getting so hot that you would want to run out. Then he came to Israel. Even with the extra month of the leap year causing Sukkot to fall in mid-October, the sun is blazingly hot at noontime. The schach, or shady branches that form the roof, does little to help.

In our old apartment we tried to delay lunch until after 2 PM when the sun went behind a building (this was nearly impossible when shul ended at 10:30). Better to build the sukkah in the northern shadow of a building, but we have never been so lucky. At least we are no longer in the parking lot, and have equipped our sukkah with fans.

The forecast for the holiday beginning Monday night includes rain (so I heard). I remember the year our old neighbors, who were brave enough to sleep in their parking-lot sukkah (made of wood to keep out stray cats), ran inside in the middle of the night because of a downpour.

We need the rain so badly, I won’t complain (bli neder), although according to this site there’s only a 20% chance. I reserve the right to complain about the heat, with no kicking.