Five days after the conclusion of the Days of Awe, time for reflection on personal, family and world conditions, we celebrate Sukkot. Identified by the sages as “haChag” “the Holiday for Rejoicing”, and “Zman Simchateynu” “Time for our Happiness”, Sukkot generates a world of celebration, fueled by gratitude for all the blessings uncovered during the Days of Awe.
Sukkot helps contextualize what was accomplished during the Days of Awe. With so much that is wrong to address in our world, there is also much to celebrate about life. The harvest is more abundant than we realize, when we limit appreciation to things we own and stature we protect. The message of Sukkot is that the more stuff we have, the more cluttered our lives. The more cluttered our lives, the less we can see those aspects of life that matter more and most.
The rituals associated with Sukkot create perspective for where to place your focus. It starts at home. To better appreciate your dwelling place, you are mandated to build a new home of cut branches of trees. This new home will be temporary, a shack, keeping out neither heat nor cold. Its beauty is of nature itself. Its splendor is in ways you enjoy being with each other within its “walls”.
The Sukkah is a delicious setting for continuing reflection on life’s priorities, a simple and lovely place in which to digest all you have just accomplished in re-evaluating life’s important matters. It is Jewish camping, returning to life’s basics, outside of the confines of luxury and human-created structures and programs of entertainment designed for and conducive to escaping life’s problems and unpleasant realities.
Sukkot serves to remind humanity that its future depends on living in harmony with the land, on living respectfully with the yield of the soil and the vulnerable resources upon which we all depend. By “nature” it is a holiday calling out the danger of Climate Change and misuse of resources.
Shaking the Etrog and Lulav each day except Shabbat reminds us that the world, Jewishly and in all ways, is a community of unique quality, built on and blessed with differences; we are all different and all make a difference in contributing to the richness and character of life. Just as the lowly willow lives in harmony with the majestic palm, so are we to build and grow relationships with people of all backgrounds and protect those vulnerable or less gifted. The Etrog and Lulav are not kosher, not permitted for ritual observance, if any one of the four species is missing.
Five days after Yom Kippur, Sukkot presents more to do, more mitzvot to observe, than any other holiday in the Jewish year. We filled the Days of Awe, concluding with Yom Kippur, the Day of Transformation, with thoughts, feelings and words focused on pondering life, and our place in it, differently. Now comes Sukkot with multiple ways to do differently, culminating with unbridled joy that God gave us a precious teaching by which to absorb and live these values: the Torah and its guidance to live each day doing Mitzvah, living responsibly, connected to one another in our efforts.
Sukkot closes the week of celebration of harvest of people, relationships, and priorities of partnership, in commitment to repair the world, with unbridled joy in dancing with the Torahs and renewing our journey of commitment to learning and relearning life’s core values, by starting the cycle of the Torah from the beginning, with Simchat Torah.
Rereading and retelling the story again, from Creation, is the Jewish way of harnessing the harvest of history, lessons learned, and strategies to utilize, to attempt to turn the failings that have transpired this past year, 2016 and 2017, 5777, into a turn to light, to good, to hope, all in the direction of Shalom.
I look forward to seeing you for our celebrations of Sukkot, Wednesday, October 4 at 6:30 PM, Thursday, October 5 at 10 AM, Shabbat Sukkot Seder, Friday October 6 at 7 PM, Shabbat Sukkot on Saturday, October 7 at 10 AM, and for the close of the holiday with mini Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, Thursday, October 12 at 6:30 PM.
And, I look forward to sharing with you all the programs and activities that await our efforts in making 5778 a year of blessing and wellbeing for our families, our communities and our world.