We are in the midst of our wonderfully joyous festival of Sukkot.
We are specifically instructed to rejoice. We are commanded to make an effort (even if God forbid effort is necessary) to rejoice in our festival.
Having experienced Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we can feel a sense of beginning this year fresh and anew. That alone is source enough for rejoicing.
Sukkot helps us recall the tremendous miracles that accompanied our ancestors in the wilderness leading to the Promised Land. More than that, we appreciate the miracles that happen to us every day!
I so adore this holiday because of its amazing symbolism.
The sages have come up with many symbolic understandings of the 4 species used to make up the Lulav and Etrog. They stand for parts of the body—eyes (hadas/myrtle), lips (aravot/willow), spine (Lulav/date palm) and heart (etrog)—all used to praise God, for service in helping make the world a better place and in being a light. They stand for every kind of Jew – with and without Torah study and knowledge and with and without many mitzvoth, but each one dearly beloved of God and each one deserving of a loving embrace and welcome in our community. Our sages teach that the etrog is considered beautiful, not because of its color shape or form, but because it has a special property different from every other fruit. The etrog grows, blossoms and produces fruit throughout all the seasons: in the heat and the cold, in the wind and in storm — it stubbornly persists! It endures! And in the Jewish view, that is why it is beautiful. It is the way of the Jewish people. It is the way we must be to survive and thrive.
Sukkot is also the harvest festival and the festival in which we celebrate rain in due season for the Holy Land. Sukkot is the Jewish Thanksgiving that preceded the Pilgrim Version by thousands of years. Sukkot is the quintessential Jewish holiday because we not only celebrate joyously in thanks, but we do the most characteristically Jewish thing there is and we do it especially on Sukkot. Do you know what that is? Give up? We pray for others! Sukkot was the holiday on which Temple Sacrifices were made especially to pray for the well-being of all of the nations of the world. Our joy is so overflowing that it is shared.
And the symbolism of the Sukkah—where we gather as family, friends and fellow travelers on our journeys through life. We leave our homes (even if only for a moment) entering the flimsy sukkah, symbolic of the fragility of life, being exposed almost completely to nature and can feel grateful for the more permanent structures in which we live the rest of the year and the many blessings we receive from God. The sukkah is the symbol of divine protection.
We have an amazing and very special faith with so much to appreciate and so much in which to rejoice.
Melissa Ser teaches our Shabbat Torah Study on Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot at 9:45 a.m. and it promises to be awesome. Rabbi Shere is leading Torah Yoga at 10:00 a.m. So many choices and opportunities for spirituality and connection—in addition to our amazing services lead by Rabbi Aaron Bergman and Chazzan Daniel Gross. Wow!!!
Chag sameyach and Shabbat shalom!