Each year on Sukkot, we read these famous words of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet): “A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven. …a time for tearing down and a time for building up.” (Kohelet 3:1,3). To speak of building during a holiday dedicated to erecting a temporary structure seems fitting. And yet, the order the ideas in this verse is at odds with our Sukkot experience. Surely, “a time for building up and a time for tearing down” would align more closely with sequence of the holiday. So why this order? And what exactly are “we tearing down and building up”?
Every morning, my child and I go for a walk along the beach near our Seattle-area home. It was on our early morning walks that I noticed a stunning collection of stacked and balanced stone sculptures along the rocky shore — dozens of them. One morning we arrived to find that the entire field of rock statues had been leveled. My heart sunk and I let out an audible gasp as multiple thoughts and questions ran through my head once again. It was like the line in The Book of Ecclesiastes, Kohelet, which we read on Sukkot: “Utter futility! ... All is futile!” (Kohelet 1:2).