Cloud Based Connection

The start of Sukkot marks seven months of Covid- 19 lock down. This gives me pause to think about where we are in history at this moment. For most of us who are not working on the front line of Covid- 19 we are out of harms way at home, but we are still not out of the woods. In some ways I see that we are reliving the time of sukkot in the Torah.  About this time we read:

You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in sukkot, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:42-43)

We are reliving our time in the wilderness having left Egypt but not made it yet to the Promised Land. We are in the space between averting risk and still not being totally free.

The porous structure of the sukkah speaks to our vulnerable state of being during this period of time between unknown and known. The sukkah is both a time and the location for sheltering in place. But what was the original structure of the sukkot? About this we learn in the Talmud:

Rabbi Eliezer teaches that the sukkot of the desert experience were “clouds of glory,” which hovered over the Children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness. Rabbi Akiva disagrees saying,  “The sukkot were real booths that they built for themselves.” (Sukkah 11b)

Both rabbis assumed that this holiday was to be a time to connect with God, but were the sukkot divine and virtual according to Rabbi Eliezer or real sukkot according to Rabbi Akiva? Both Rabbis celebrated sukkot in real sukkot, so what was the difference?

Our Covid-19 social distancing reality has made us aware that we actually want to connect.   When this started I doubted it possible to connect in a deep way virtually through a computer screen. Being forced to engage with each other through the internet seemed forced and inauthentic. After having to move many in-person conferences online and had more zoom meetings than I can count I can say it works. It might not be what we wanted but it is much more then we expected.

Blue Internet Cloud Icon , Transparent Cartoon, Free Cliparts & Silhouettes  - NetClipart

In this timely and timeless moment of Sukkot we are all vulnerable and open.  The virtual can itself be real if we are open to making the connection. As we shelter in place we realize that we are in a time of sukkot  in which Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva are actually agreeing. The cloud based connection can be a safe alternative to make real connections.

-revisited from Sheltering in Place: COVID-19 as a Time of Sukkot

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