Today I took down my sukkah, the beautiful and fragile structure I built earlier this month, like Jews all over the world. We Jews build our sukkah each year before the fall festival of Sukkot, or “Tabernacles,” to remind us of our 40-year wilderness journey 3,000 years ago.
Taking down my sukkah took me just 30 minutes, whereas building it had taken me many hours. Every year this process reminds me how swiftly we can tear down, and how very long it takes to build anew anything of beauty, of meaning and of value.
These things also take many human lifetimes to build, but can so quickly be destroyed:
A functioning postal system
Stable alliances between nations
Protections for the environment
Health care for every member of society
An immigration system that declares “give me your tired, your poor”
Trusted scientific institutions
International readiness to meet the challenge of climate change
A 200-year-old tradition of peaceful transfer of power
A national consensus repudiating white supremacy
A woman’s right to make decisions regarding her own body
Respect for the office of the president
These are among the pillars of our societal structure, and most of them were built over the course of many decades if not centuries, by women and men of wisdom, insight and deep moral purpose. They were not perfect; we humans can never attain perfection. But they were among the ideas and institutions that have made me proud throughout my life to be a citizen of this country.
In four brief years, all of them have been badly shaken and in some cases torn down completely. It takes little time to destroy, and a long, long time to build again.
I hope that we citizens of the United States have the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to begin rebuilding our country.