Hussein’s DIY & My Broken Sukkah!

October 11th 2017

Hussein’s DIY & My Broken Sukkah!

What do you do on the first night of Sukkot when all of your electrics blow and you’re expecting 50 guests the next few days?

That’s exactly what happened to the Aish Sukkah on the Leeds campus this week. The Sukkah had been built with the help of students, and our family had just sat down on first night when suddenly it went dark.

With the glimmer of moonlight allowing us to finish our meal, the outdoor heaters, fairy lights and ship lanterns had all blown and I went to sleep hoping that the electrics would somehow reset themselves…but no.

In the morning, despite the electrics still not working I knew somehow things would work out, but not entirely sure how. I was not able to touch the plugs myself, or call anyone out, or pay anyone any money to help me either, as Jewish law doesn’t allow for this on Yom Tov. And so after shul I ventured out in the direction of the local hardware store: Hussein’s D.I.Y, hoping for a minor miracle.

As I was hovering outside the store wondering how to start explaining my predicament, the owner, a Pakistani Muslim man in his early 50s recognised me. All week long I had been in and out buying strange supplies, and now here I was again, the strange Jewish guy who had been building a flimsy outhouse in the rainy season, but this time in his best suit with a couple of kids in tow.

“Can I help you?” He said in a welcoming voice, and so I took a deep breath and used those time old Jewish words.. “This is going to sound a little strange…” 
And so the impossible conversation began. “I can’t pay you, I don’t know what I need, or what’s broken, but can you send round someone to my temporary house for as long as it takes to make the lights and heaters work again?”

Himself a Muslim, he understood the concept of festivals and holidays, and warmly agreed to whatever I needed. His 18 year old nephew Zubaid came over with me and spent an hour and a half fitting two new 25 metre extension cables, painstakingly cutting and replacing all of the plastic cable ties I had bought from his uncle earlier that week. As he rewired the hut, we plied him with chocolate cake and conversation about the festival which he found fascinating and heartwarming.

We often hear bad news about our interactions with other religions, but what happened in our Sukkah was beautiful and in so many ways a snapshot of the world we all pray we can live in all year round.

Of all the festivals, Sukkot is the one which involved members of other nations and religions, who would bring offerings to the Temple over the festival. It is a festival about faith which everyone can relate to. I said over a l’chaim to the students who packed into the warm, bright sukkah, that the atmosphere we generate in this Sukkah powers the whole of Hyde Park, where we live, for the year. Other religions and nations take strength from the fact that we have faith and that we strengthen ourselves under the protective shield of the Sukkah all week long!

Thank you Hussein’s DIY and wishing us all a continued Chag Sameach!!