By Mark Dubin
This is a true story. It was not unusual for our phone to ring when a Shabbos or a yom tov ends. My wife, Sherry, picked up the phone expecting to hear from one of our children.
“It’s for you,” she said as she covered the mouthpiece with her hand. “Somebody wants to rent a sukkah.”
“At this late date? Why would anyone want to rent a sukkah during chol ha’moed?”
“Maybe his sukkah blew down?” she said nonchalantly as she handed me the phone.
“Are you the guy who rents sukkahs?”
“My name is Avraham. A friend of mine gave me your phone number. He said you might be able to rent me a sukkah because I really need one.”
“I’m sorry, all my sukkahs were rented before Sukkos … except for one that was cancelled the day before.”
“Is it big? I need a big one for a shalom zachor.”
“Mazel tov! The sukkah I have is only 10 x 14. I’m afraid it might be too small.”
There was silence on the phone as if Avraham was trying to figure something out.
“I have a 10 x 16 EZLok that’s already up. Can you combine yours with mine to make a sukkah that is 10 x 30?”
“The 10 x 14 is a free-fitting canvas unit. Since it has no corners, I don’t see why it can’t be done.”
“Thank you, Hashem,” he said in a sigh of relief. “Can you put it up Friday morning? I probably won’t be home but my sukkah is in the backyard.”
He gave me his address in Valley Stream and hung up before we could discuss price.
Friday was not a nice day. It was raining when I picked up my crew, Ben and Yehuda, who were resigned to the fact that we were probably going to get wet.
“The weather report said it was going to rain all day,” Ben commented. “Maybe you should knock on the door when we get there to make sure they still want it up.”
“He’s just afraid of getting a little wet,” Yehuda teased as he made a ‘raincoat’ out of a black garbage bag. “You’re not going to melt away like the Wicked Witch of the East.”
“It was the Witch of the West, genius, and I think meteorologically, this shalom zachor is going to be a washout.”
I knew Avraham was not going to be home. I knocked on his door anyway just in case there was a change in plans. There was no answer.
“We’re going to put it up. Maybe the rain will end by tonight.”
“I don’t think so,” Ben continued. “CBS Radio said it was going to rain all day and into the night … but then, I remember last winter when they forecasted flurries and the next day all the schools were closed.”
As we put up the sukkah, the intensity of the rain began to increase. We unrolled the schach, hoping it would help keep us dry while we attached the canvas. This rain was an intelligent rain. It found the spaces between the bamboo reeds and continued to pour down.
“Let’s go to Home Depot to buy some tarps,” I suggested. “Maybe we can cover the schach and keep some of this rain out.”
We purchased five 8 x 10 tarps that were decorated in a hunter’s camouflage. Yehuda said it was better than blue ones because it blended with the schach.
“I think this is going to work,” I remarked as the tarps were being unpacked.
“Maybe we should lower one end of the sukkah so the water does not accumulate,” Ben suggested. “If we give it the right pitch, the water should roll off like on the roof of a house.”
Ben quickly calculated that a two-inch pitch would suffice. Because the 10 x 14 was a canvas-and-pole sukkah, we had no trouble lowering one side. Unfortunately, there was no way to structurally lower the other sukkah. As we admired our work, we could see this was not going to work. Large puddles of water began to accumulate. As the puddles grew in size, they pushed down on the schach into the sukkah. We quickly removed the tarps before they destroyed our mats. We were getting ready to leave when we heard a car pull up in the front of the house.
“How’s it going?” Avraham asked as he shielded his wife and newborn with an umbrella.
“The sukkah is up but it is awfully wet inside. We tried to cover the schach with tarps but unfortunately,” I said apologetically, “it did not work.”
“I forgot to ask you; how much is this going to cost me?”
“$500, but if you want to cancel the sukkah right now, I won’t charge you anything. I don’t want to take your money for something you are not going to use.”
“Why wouldn’t I use it?” he asked incredulously.
“The rain. People are not going to sit in a leaking sukkah eating hot cholent. I know I wouldn’t.”
A look of disappointment appeared on Avraham’s face. He took a deep breath and asked, “Don’t you have faith in Hashem?”
“Of course I do…but the weather report said it was going to rain all day and into the night. How are you going to keep the tables dry, the seats dry, the…”
“Do you have faith in Hashem?” he repeated, cutting me off.
Thunder rumbled in the background. The rain responded by increasing in intensity.
“You’re going to sit around in this?” I said motioning to the rain falling down.
“Do you think it was a coincidence someone cancelled the 10 x 14 so close to the beginning of Sukkos? Was it a coincidence when I spoke to a friend about my dilemma, he remembered your phone number from an ad in the paper two weeks ago? Everything that happened has happened for a reason. Do you have faith in Hashem?”
I did not answer. There was none.
“I want to invite you and your wife to the shalom zachor. I hope you both can come.”
“I think you are a little too far away but thank you for the invitation. I will be back Sunday morning to take the sukkah down … only if it’s dry.” I said as I walked away.
There was no letup in the rain when I dropped off Ben and Yehuda. As I pulled up into my driveway the rain stopped and the sun broke out.
“I don’t believe this,” I said to my wife as I ran into the house. “It stopped raining! It stopped raining! I’ve got to call Avraham.” I said as I fumbled with my phone. “I want to know Who he knows!”
Avraham answered but before I could say a single word, he asked, “Do you have faith in Hashem?”
Since that day in 2016 my faith in Hashem has intensified, and I have faith this nightmare we are living through will soon end just like the rain did four Sukkos ago.