Last week, Rab­bi Jill Jacobs wrote about Sukkot and social jus­tice and asked dis­cussed the impor­tance of place. Her most recent bookWhere Jus­tice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Jus­tice in Your Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty (Jew­ish Lights), is now available.

As I write this blog post, I am prepar­ing to teach at Occu­py Wall Street on Mon­day. Fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful Kol Nidrei ser­vice, a Jew­ish con­tin­gent there has con­struct­ed a sukkah — the tem­po­rary hut in which Jews tra­di­tion­al­ly eat — and even sleep — dur­ing Sukkot.

Since I don’t use the sub­way dur­ing the hol­i­days or Shab­bat, I won’t get to see the sukkah in per­son until tomor­row. But sit­ting in my own sukkah these past few days, I have been think­ing a lot about the para­dox of pro­tec­tion and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that char­ac­ter­izes Sukkot.The sukkah rep­re­sents both of these poles — on the one hand, the frag­ile skhakh (cov­er­ing of leaves, branch­es, and oth­er nat­ur­al mate­ri­als) that con­sti­tutes the roof of the sukkah leaves us almost entire­ly exposed to the ele­ments. Over the past few days, we’ve endured quite a few driz­zles and gusts of wind, as well as bugs and the gen­er­al bang­ing and clang­ing of the Man­hat­tan streets. (When the rain gets seri­ous, though, there’s no oblig­a­tion to remain in the sukkah — the hol­i­day is sup­posed to be enjoy­able.) On the oth­er hand, the skhakh also reminds us of the anenei hakavod (clouds of glo­ry) — the Divine Pres­ence said to have accom­pa­nied the ancient Israelites dur­ing their trek to free­dom. Sukkot doesn’t try to resolve this para­dox — rather, the sukkah forces us simul­ta­ne­ous­ly to expe­ri­ence both fragili­ty and divine pro­tec­tion. Through this expe­ri­ence, we learn that the seem­ing­ly-strongest struc­tures can some­times fail to pro­tect us, while the most frag­ile struc­tures can help us feel protected.

The move­ment to Occu­py Wall Street (and many oth­er places around the world) has also played with these two axes of fragili­ty and strength. In plac­ing them­selves phys­i­cal­ly in the cen­ters of finan­cial pow­er, these protests force us to ques­tion our assump­tions about what is strong and what is weak. We often assume that those with wealth and pow­er will always have wealth and pow­er, that cor­po­ra­tions will always be able to call the shots, and that those with less access to wealth will nev­er have power.

But the occu­piers, who make them­selves vul­ner­a­ble by camp­ing out­side and by expos­ing them­selves to arrest, have devel­oped more strength than many of us might have expected.

I will teach tomor­row from a tiny, frag­ile sukkah. It will be cool and windy. It may rain. And yet, even with­in this vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, I will feel myself pro­tect­ed by the strength all around me.

Rab­bi Jill Jacobs is the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Rab­bis for Human Rights-North Amer­i­ca and the author of Where Jus­tice Dwells: A Hands-On-Guide for Doing Social Jus­tice in Your Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty (Jew­ish Lights) and There Shall Be No Needy: Pur­su­ing Social Jus­tice Through Jew­ish Law and Tra­di­tion. She will be blog­ging here for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing all through Sukkot.

Rab­bi Jill Jacobs is the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of T’ru­ah: The Rab­binic Call for Human Rights, which mobi­lizes 1800 rab­bis and can­tors and tens of thou­sands of Amer­i­can Jews to bring a Jew­ish moral voice to the most press­ing human rights con­cerns of our time. She is the author of Where Jus­tice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Jus­tice in Your Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty and There Shall Be No Needy: Pur­su­ing Social Jus­tice through Jew­ish Law and Tra­di­tion, both pub­lished by Jew­ish Lights. Rab­bi Jacobs has been named to the For­wards list of 50 influ­en­tial Amer­i­can Jews three times, to The Jew­ish Weeks first list of 36 under 36”, and to Newsweeks list of the 50 Most Influ­en­tial Rab­bis in Amer­i­ca every year since 2009. She holds rab­binic ordi­na­tion and an MA in Tal­mud from the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, an MS in Urban Affairs from Hunter Col­lege, and a BA in Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. She lives in New York with her hus­band, Guy Aus­tri­an, and their two daughters.