July 19, 2021

Sukkah 12

As you will have likely noticed from my daily daf posts, I believe that spiritual messages are often embedded in the words used by our Sages to express technical halachic statements, and I personally take much pleasure in identifying and developing ideas relating to hashkafa (our spiritual outlook and attitude) from halacha (the rules relating our religious practice).
I mention this in light of a teaching in today’s daf (Sukkah 12b) relating to the rule – previously mentioned in Mishna Sukkah (1:4, 11a) – that ‘whatever is susceptible to tum’ah (i.e. spiritual impurity) may not be used for s’chach’, and as we see in today’s daf, this has a practical implication given the fact that any item with a בית קיבול (i.e. which functions as a receptacle) is susceptible to tum’ah and thus may not be used for s’chach.
However, the Gemara then raises the following question: ‘is a receptacle that is intended to be permanently filled considered to be a receptable?’, to which we are told that while – in this particular situation relating to arrow heads – the answer is ‘yes’ (which, according to various Rishonim, is due to the fact that that arrowheads are occasionally removed and replaced), the overall position on this question as discussed in Sanhedrin 68a is that receptacles that are permanently filled are not considered receptacles.
And why do I mention this? It is because we – as human beings – are the ultimate בית קיבול, and throughout our lives we serve as a receptacle for our souls, as well as for the wisdom, love and life experience that comes our way.
Admittedly, there are times when we would all like to be permanently ‘filled’ – meaning that we’d reach the level that we know what we need to know; that we’d experience love to the fullest every day, and that our life would constantly be overflowing with meaning and fulfilment.
But what we learn from this discussion is that in order to remain being a בית קיבול, our life cannot be permanently filled. Instead, it needs to be a rollercoaster where there are days when we feel that we are blessed with insight, and other days when we feel empty; days when we feel overcome with love, and other days when we sense a lacking; days when life seems complete, and days when we seem to notice the gaps. Simply put, to function as a בית קיבול, our soul needs to be in a constant state of flux, or as Rav Soloveitchik explains, ‘the beauty of religion, with its grandiose vistas, reveals itself to man not in solutions but in problems, not in harmony but in the constant conflict of diversified forces and trends.’
So if today you feel that you – as a בית קיבול – are full, then enjoy this moment while remembering that ‘this too will pass’, and equally, if today you feel that you are running on empty, then recognize that to authentically function as a בית קיבול, our soul needs to be in a constant state of flux.
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