A classic case of same time, different place. In Israel Sukkoth almost always falls during one of the most beautiful times of year. The heat of the summer has begun to cool, but the rain and cold of winter won’t arrive for another six weeks. What better time to go out of doors, to sit in golden Jerusalem, or somewhere looking out on the hills of the Galilee, in that ancient booth, that memory-box we call a Sukkah? In Jerusalem people walk to and fro holding lulavim and etrogim in ornate cases, in tune with an ancient rhythm of life, appreciative of God’s blessings, feeling close and connected to the natural world and its bounty. Sukkoth in Israel in October – perfect!
But here in the States we are in the midst of one of the rainiest Sukkoth holidays in recent memory, and by the end of the festival it might actually be the rainiest (who keeps track of these things?!)! Tortured temporary booths have collapsed all over, literally bowing to the elements, in a way reflecting what happens to the lulav itself as it gradually decays during the seven days of the festival. I can see my congregation’s grand sukkah from my office window, even as I can see and hear the rain coming down steadily. An incongruity of sound and sight! This is weather to hunker down, the damp and chill, the cold and rain, a fine whisky’s warmth keeping the weather at bay.
The ancient sages were prepared. Even though they created our rituals in a different place and climate, they knew from the capricious nature of weather. It might rain, even on Sukkoth! Even in Israel! And so, being the pragmatic scholars that they were, they allowed the Jews to leave their temporary dwellings and return to a place that would be dry and safe and warm. But they were logicians! They demanded, perhaps needed a determinant factor, a clear test that could be passed or failed. And what was it? The soup! Could there be a more Jewish answer? This from the Mishnah (Tractate Sukkah, 2:9): “If rain falls, when may they clear out of the sukkah? From the time when the soup would be spoiled!”
We might add, the same for the scotch!
And that, too, is perfect!