When I was a kid, Superman was the greatest of all superheroes. There were others with various powers, but Superman was the strongest, the fastest, the most complete. He didn't need gadgets, or scientific mishaps, or magical weapons to perform his heroic feats. His powers were inherent. He was superhuman.
When his acts of heroism weren't needed, he would assume the guise of his alter-ego Clark Kent in order to maintain anonymity, fit in, and feign normalcy. And when evil reared its ugly head, he would duck into a nearby phone booth and emerge in his true state and save the day.
I'm sure the dilemma of changing-room scarcity in the age of cell-phones has been raised by many fan-boys before now. Where's a super guy supposed to transform when there are no phone booths to be found? Yet another conundrum of our rapid digital evolution.
But the good news for those of us who are not Clark Kent is that our transformative booths remain today. On the holiday of Sukkot, we are commanded to dwell in "booths" (the translation of the word "sukkot"), and doing so is precisely how we reveal our super selves.
In order to do that though, we first need to recognize the existence and nature of our superpowers. If we don't know we have them, they are more difficult to access. The amazing but quite real truth is that each of us has superpowers which exceed those of all the legion and pantheon of comic-book characters.
We are impervious, we are untouchable, we are infinite!
The Friederker Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson) was imprisoned in Russia for his 'crimes' of teaching Torah and promoting Jewish practice. Resolving to show his captors no deference, he would respond to none of their questions in spite of brutal beatings. At one point, one of the guards became so enraged by this stubborn resistance that he withdrew his gun and held it to the Rebbe's head. 'This little toy has made many men talk,' the Russian threatened. To this the Rebbe replied that for a person with one world and many gods, such a 'toy' is significant; but for a person with one G-d and many worlds, the gun is not intimidating at all.
The Baal Shem Tov, the great mystic and the founder of the Chassidic movement, was orphaned at the age of 5. His father on his deathbed called his young son to him and with his last breath told the boy to fear nothing but God. There is nothing to fear but God because there is nothing but God. He is One, the one and only true existence.
This is our superpower, that which renders us timeless and superhuman - the awareness that we are not individuals in a multifarious world. In reality, and in essence, we are elements of a unity that is far beyond here and now. We are eternal expressions of that unity, momentarily dwelling in this mortal skin and this mundane realm.
So how do we access this power?
We duck into our booth. We step into this holy space with our entire bodies, and there we become aware of the forgotten reality that we are encompassed by Godliness at all times and we are absorbed in His Oneness. We take the four species - the palm branch, the willow, the myrtle, and the citron, each of them representing various aspects of our world - and we bring them together as one, extend them in every direction, and then draw them to our heart. In this way we bring the unity that is around us within us, an internalization of the unification that renders us more than mortal.
Like Superman, there is something that can strip of us our powers. For him, it was kryponite, a rock from his home planet. 'At home' he would be unremarkable and powerless. Like Superman, we are only strong when we realize that we are not at home, that this place we inhabit is not our true home. It is a foreign universe where we have been sent in order to perform justice and to be a source of light and strength. If we forget where we came from, forget that we are 'aliens' here and only temporary sojourners, then we become merely human.
It is to remind ourselves of this reality, of this source of our strength and mission, that we go out of our homes and dwell for 8 days in a weak and temporary structure. It is not stone walls and a sturdy roof that make us impervious to the elements of this world; rather it is our infinite Creator who has instilled in us His own infinity. He has infused us with His powers and has placed us in this foreign universe in order to be heros, to make the world a far better place.
Though technology has made the phone booth obsolete, the Sukkah booth will never lose its place in our lives or its power to transform us.
Go into your booth and come out the superhero that you were created to be.