The Layers Project Magazine

Insights Into The Lives of Jewish Women

Sukkot: Leaning into Vulnerability

Ariella Azaraf, LCSW | Categories: Emotional Wellness

Have you ever thought about how each season has a psychological component?

During the cold winter nights where you don’t want to leave your apartment, the strong desire to stay inside, snuggled under your blanket, naturally makes your headspace fill with thoughts. The long days and early dark nights make it difficult to get up and moving, to engage in things that make you feel good. The draggy winter months are a time when Seasonal Affective Disorder comes up for some when people have a tendency to sleep too much and have much less energy.

But then Chanukah pops up in the middle of the winter season, bringing light and life to the darkest time of the year. Tapping into the spirituality of the holiday naturally infuses your headspace with happiness and positive thoughts to help transport the dreary winter days to a place of love and light.

September is the month of natural anxiety; for some people, it is the beginning of a new school year and for some starting a new job. The holiday of Sukkot follows the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur. We spend all day in shul praying, fasting and feeling hopeful for the new year ahead. We have hopes, wishes, and anxieties for what the new year will bring.

It is a month that brings up a lot of unknowns. That anxious voice creeps in, creating thinking traps that can go from thoughts to a very real reality within seconds.

Sukkot is a holiday of leaning in and embracing vulnerability. We leave our homes to step into the unknown- we don’t know what the weather is going to be like, we don’t know how everyone is going to fit into the sukkah, but…we just make it work.

Dr. Brene Brown writes in her book, The Power of Vulnerability: ”When we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.” Dr. Brown writes that there is a myth that has evolved in our culture that vulnerability is a weakness. She clarifies through evidence-based research that vulnerability is a measure of courage when we allow ourselves to put down our guard.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, open and real with how we are feeling it enables us to feel happy. Creating the space for vulnerability and letting down our guard breeds authenticity with self and others. When you allow yourself to connect with the deepest and most difficult emotions it allows you to experience joy. We have a special mitzvah on Sukkot to be happy; “V’Samachta B’Chagecha” translates to “and you shall rejoice on your holidays.” But we can’t experience happiness if we aren’t able to feel and be vulnerable to important feelings.

The Jewish people are a reflection of the courage to be vulnerable. When we step into the sukkah, we are stepping outside of our comfort zone, stepping outside of what is familiar. Our homes are familiar, we know what the temperature is set to, we know how many chairs we have at our dining room table, we know where to heat up the food and where to bring it to. Rebbe Nachman teaches that the Sukkah is the protective “hut” around us which is a symbolic ‘hug” from Hashem. This analogy teaches us that Hashem loves us and will protect us and wants us to fall into His arms. We are taught to embrace the part of us that is restricted and has our guard up and to just let go. It is the hut of bitachon (faith). The opportunity to allow ourselves to be completely vulnerable, let go and be present.

This Sukkot, let us leave our anxieties inside and embrace the power of vulnerability and take the opportunity to be present in the moment. Rain or shine, we show up.

I give us all a blessing that Hashem should give everyone the strength to be vulnerable and authentically happy, we should feel Hashem’s embrace both in and outside of the Sukkah, even in the most anxious and darkest of times.

About Ariella Azaraf

Ariella Azaraf, LCSW is a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety and depression with millennials and young professionals. She works as Director of Guidance at Manhattan Day School and has a private practice in Manhattan. Additionally, Ariella teaches young professionals at Meor Manhattan, an outreach center for young professionals, she enjoys connecting psychology and spirituality in her classes energy and feels passionate about educating strong Jewish women. Check out more of her blog posts on ariellaazaraflcsw.com.

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