While learning yesterday (Sukkah 10) and today’s daf (Sukkah 11) over Shabbat (given that today was Tisha B’Av), I was drawn to explore a phrase which is used on four occasions in Sukkah 11b – namely קציצתן זו היא עשייתן – ‘their detaching is their making’.
Specifically, this phrase is used in a discussion concerning the strings of tzitzit, in an examination of the laws of s’chach that have been detached from its original source in the ground, and with reference to the Arba Minim, and it raises the question of whether the very act of detachment is sufficient for a particular item to be considered ‘ready’ and ‘made’ for its given mitzvah.
But especially since I am writing this piece on Motzei Tisha B’Av, I would like to reflect on the message of קציצתן זו היא עשייתן in terms of our life journey – as individuals, and as a nation, and this is because sometimes it is through our attachment with people and places that we find ourselves, while other times, it is only through our detachment that we can truly discover ourselves. What this means is that for some people, the best advice for them to find their whole self is to find what and who they are missing, and for others, it is to disconnect from that which is holding them back.
Undoubtedly, the notion of גלות (exile) is a national expression of קציצתן זו היא עשייתן – ‘their detaching is their making’, meaning that God chose to detach us from our homeland in order for us to reconnect with who we needed to be. Yet just as a nation can be exiled in different ways, so too can an individual, as Shira Lankin-Sheps writes in her Introduction to ‘Layers: Personal Narratives of Struggle, Resilience and Growth from Jewish Women’: “There are many types of exile. There is the exile of being kicked out of your birthplace, the exile of isolation and silence, and the exile of feeling like you don’t belong where you are. Individual and national exiles blur in personal stories. Luckily, so do the blessings of redemption. Inherent in redemption is the promise of healing, a healing of things that pain us and keep us on the outside of what is sacred to us.”
Significantly, today’s daf debates the situations where the principle of קציצתן זו היא עשייתן – ‘their detaching is their making’ – applies, and in this same spirit, it is not always clear in life whether what we need is more attachment or more detachment.
Nevertheless, just as certain mitzvot can only be fulfilled with detached items, so too, certain life choices require that we make independent choices for ourselves, for just as we cannot outsource our own exile, so too, we cannot outsource our pathway towards redemption.