This article on the portion of the week was originally published in 2015.
We are currently in the cosmic window known as Sukkot, and at this particular time of the year, it is more important than at any other time for all of us to try to step a little bit aside from ourselves. Now is the time to allow others a little grace; the time to learn how to breathe instead of scream; the time to give people the benefit of the doubt, and instead of judging, perhaps to say, "You know, maybe…"
Through the sukkah, we are bathed in this kindness and mercy, and there is an Energy present now with us that can bring us to a place where we can be a force of mercy and kindness for others. I want to tell you a little story to bring home the point.
"The things that we can do but are too busy to do are far more important than the things that we can learn."
Once there was a great sage who spent most of his time learning, studying, and meditating. He was a powerful spiritual man, and eventually the people in the town began to know of him and started to come to ask him questions, to get blessings, to be close to him.
Three people came, then 10, then 30, 50, 100 people. Before long, they were arriving at the sage’s door in droves. Eventually, he was so inundated with visitors and their demands that he became totally exasperated.
He said, "God, I do not have any time for me. I do not have any time at all anymore. I cannot learn anymore. I cannot communicate with You like I used to. Please give me a little space."
When a righteous person asks, Heaven opens and answers. Slowly but surely, the crowds started to drift away, and there were no more lines, no more people asking, questioning, demanding. The sage felt great because he was now back to where he had been before. He finally once again had the time to study all the things that he needed to know to learn to become one with the Creator.
Then it came to Sukkot.
There was a custom in the town that when people came to visit during Sukkot and had no place to stay, they would stand at the back wall of the synagogue, and as people left the service, they would ask these visitors to join them at their dinner as an expression of kindness. Each townsperson would take maybe one or two people home to join them in the festive meal.
Excited at the prospect of sharing during this powerful time, this beautiful and pure righteous man walked to the back of the room. But much to his disappointment, nobody would go home with him. They all said, "Thank you very much," but they had gotten invitations to go other places.
Broken and sorrowful, the sage walked home to his house and to his own sukkah.
There is a ceremony we do each night during Sukkot called the “ushpizin” (Aramaic for “guest”), where we ask for another one of the Patriarchs to join us in our sukkah.
The first night we invite Avraham, the quality of Chesed (Mercy). As the sage called for his supernal guest Avraham, he noticed and felt the energy of Avraham, but the Patriarch remained outside the sukkah and did not enter.
Confused, the sage walked to the door and said to Avraham, "What have I done that you refuse to enter my home?”
And the great Patriarch replied, "You did not do anything. I just cannot come into a place that is empty of mercy."
Immediately, the sage understood. He said, "I am sorry. I realize now that the energy of all my learning and meditation does not compare with that single small soul that maybe I could have helped by allowing my door to be open."
From then on, the sage changed and became a different person.
The things that we can do but that sometimes we are too busy to do are far more important than the things that we think we can learn.