What do you call a sukkah with a frame and no walls? A Pandem-ikkah? A Corron-ikkah? or, perhaps a Covid-ikkah?
The Sukkah this year at Congregation Shir Shalom is like nothing that I have ever seen before, and perhaps, will ever see again. Usually covered on all sides by heavy tarp, this year our Sukkah is bare. And, not because of an intense Buffalo wind that has blown the rest of it away, but because of a deliberate design decision in order to keep us safe.
Our Feast of Booths were never meant to be built in Western New York, with its occasional October surprise snow storm. We feel especially fragile here trying to replicate our ancestors journey through the Sinai wilderness to the Promised Land. This year, this feeling is even more pronounced as we not only battle the elements, but a deadly virus as well.
After much discussion, we decided that the best way to keep air circulating in the Sukkah was to have no walls at all. It may be heretical to present something as a kosher Sukkah that is definitely unkosher, but it is also a powerful reminder that we are not living in normal times. In doing so, we are making a statement that we are adjusting and adapting our traditions to current circumstances and even more importantly that we value human life above all else.
The holiday officially begins on Friday night and will extend to the following Shabbat. During that time, I encourage you to come by our front lawn. Take a picture of yourself in our Pandem-ikkah. Shake the lulav and etrog inside it. Mark this experience as a reminder of our capacity to survive and thrive in sometimes hostile environments.