I know that modern science has spent millions of dollars researching how a fetus develops in utero, but I don’t think that enough resources have been earmarked to investigate a pressing question: Does a fetus ever cry while it’s in its mother’s womb? After all, we know that newborn babies are highly skilled criers the moment that they’re born, so it would seem safe to assume that they’ve had a lot of practice over the nine months of their development getting the pitch and rhythm just right. Yet, I’m not aware of ultrasound being able to detect any crying noises.
In light of today’s economic challenges and the budgetary constraints on medical research, I would like to offer my own completely unscientific perspective on this earth-shattering prenatal issue. I humbly suggest, with complete certainty, that a fetus does not cry in utero! “How do you know?” one might ask. Because it has absolutely no reason to cry. Think about it. The fetus enjoys nutritious, catered meals, cord-fed to it 24/7 in a climate-controlled environment, all cradled within the one person who loves it more than anyone else in the universe-its mother. I know that the space may be a little on the tight side and the decor is somewhat drab, but what could possibly be better? If that’s not happiness, then what is?
With this in mind, perhaps we can better appreciate why the upcoming holiday of Sukkos is referred to as zman simchaseinu– the time of our happiness. At first this seems counterintuitive, since it’s on Sukkos that we’re commanded to leave the comfort of our well-appointed homes and spend the next week eating and sleeping in a thatched-roof hut. Unless you’re Robinson Crusoe or Gilligan, that setting doesn’t seem to set the stage for fun or happiness, to say the least!
The Talmud explains that the Sukkah is meant to remind us of the Clouds of Glory that surrounded the Jewish Nation while they traveled through the desert for forty years. These miraculous clouds served as a sort of protective cocoon around the Jews, shielding them from their enemies and the natural elements that threatened their welfare. Under these living conditions they constantly felt the protective embrace of their Father in Heaven, who was sustaining them all the while with His special food in the form of the manna. The closest thing to this that I can picture is…a fetus in its mother’s womb!
Just listen to this verse in Psalms 139:13, in which King David describes the sense of trust and security he feels in G-d: “Tisukeini b’veten imi”- “You sheltered me in my mother’s womb.” Etymologically, the word tisukeini comes from the the same root as the word Sukkah. Perhaps King David is saying that the sense of trust and security that one can and should feel while dwelling in the Sukkah is comparable to that of the fetus in its mother’s womb! The accommodations may seem sparse and simple, but when you’re in the embrace of your loving and caring parent, what could be better?
This Sukkos, as we gaze heavenward through the cracks in the thatched roof of the Sukkah, may we all merit to experience the true sense of joy and happiness that comes from knowing and trusting that your Father in Heaven is looking after your every need.