Sukkot in the college years

At first glance, college might seem like a very static time of life. One’s body is perhaps no longer growing in leaps and bounds as it did so recently.

And yet intellectually, emotionally, and perhaps spiritually, college is a time of great vulnerability and change. One learns to face disappointment and success, and essentially begins the great growth into emerging adulthood. College can also be a time of immense self-absorption — at this time a person is uniquely focused on himself and asserting his wants and needs.

At times conflict can arise between friends, roommates, or teammates as they struggle to assert their own needs and recognize the needs of others. Living in community is hard work, but it is necessary.

The holiday of Sukkot reminds us of the fragility of life. The sukkah is not a sturdy construction. Its walls do not provide us with much protection; its roof does not provide shade or shelter from the storms.

Life brings with it many unexpected disappointments, challenges, tragedies. Yet life also reveals the beauty and magnificence and awesome nature of the world.

Living in a sukkah takes us out of our own self-absorption and allows us to focus on the miraculous nature of life, to recognize that there is something greater than ourselves. It takes us out of our loneliness and encourages us to eat with a community.

Chag Sukkot sameach. May you be blessed to share it with others.

Andrea Steinberger serves as rabbi at the Hillel at the University of Wisconsin, Madison – The Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Student Life.