The major holiday season of the Jewish year comes to a close with the celebration of Simchat Torah concluding the holiday of happiness, Sukkot.
While you may know that Sukkot is known as one of 3 pilgrimage holidays, you may not know that these 3 holidays spell out the molecular structure of Judaism which comes into play in how we approach life on a daily basis. The 3 holidays reflect a 3 part molecular structure: Creation, Revelation/Purpose and Resolution/Accomplishment (a preferred descriptor for me to Redemption).
Sukkot is the Resolution/Accomplishment holiday, celebrating the harvest of Life…all that is worth cherishing and valuing.
Passover celebrates the Creation of the people Israel, which is why it is more accurately a descriptor of Jewish New Year than is Rosh Hashanah, which focuses on humanity in a broader sense.
Shavuot celebrates Revelation/Purpose with the Giving of the Torah, the means by which to live.
You can find this structure, which parallels the notion of beginning, middle and end, in all facets of Jewishness. The prayer book is structured that way, as I tend to point out during services: the Creation theme comes before the Shema; the Revelation/Purpose theme in thanking God for love reflected in giving Torah, includes our expressing love of God through the Shema and commitment to reflect on God’s Presence and Teaching in the course of everyday life. Then, after the Shema is the Resolution/Accomplishment prayer celebrating our Exodus from Egypt with the highlight, Mi Chamocha, reminding us that God has the power that is shared with all of us living beings.
Shabbat itself has that structure: the visit with God in the evening Amidah is focused on thanks for Creation, with the climax being the gift of Stopping, Shabbat, out of which we are in a position to notice life’s blessings, i.e. to access awareness of all that is Kadosh, special, unique, treasurable, memorable, transcendent, excellent, significant and Holy. On Shabbat morning the focus shifts in the Amidah to a thank you to God for the gift of Torah, i.e. Revelation/Purpose, through which we are given Shabbat. Saturday afternoon, the visit reflects a sense of rest and accomplishment tracing back to the Ancestors with a reminder that Shabbat is meant to bring us closer to the era of Shalom, i.e. when all is Resolved and Accomplished…a world at Peace.
As we celebrate the Harvest of Life that is Sukkot, you have a good opportunity to reflect on ways you can examine your own molecular structure of life. How do you open up to new moments, creative urges, game changing insights, flexibility and awareness that each moment is a first, and an opportunity to do something new and different, even when you have “seen” that moment many times before? How do you tap into the wisdom that has guided you to this point even as you open to garnering new insights that can help you make better sense out of life and its challenges? What part can you play to resolve difficulties and achieve life changing resolutions and accomplishments?
This molecular structure serves to remind you that ends and beginnings are related, even as doors open, close and open again. Sukkot carries that message in that even as we rejoice over the Harvest of the year that was, we shake the Etrog and Lulav (the four Species) and make the sound of rain, implying that we are already thinking of new beginnings and gratitude to God for helping us address our vulnerabilities and anticipating rains we need that will fuel the Harvest for the new year that we are launching.
The question God asks of Adam and Eve in the Garden after they ate the “wrong” fruit is the same question we are asked every moment of every day, when we tune in and listen: “Ayeka”? “Where are you”? Where are you in engaging Judaism’s molecular structure and making it a means to bring good changes into your life and blessings into the lives of others? How we answer that question will indicate how well we are prepared to celebrate the Harvest of Sukkot .i.e. the Harvest of our Lives.