Yup. Another holiday. This is why, when I went to college, one of my professors harangued me that I missed so many days of class the first semester. That I should stop skipping class. Even though he lived in New York City, he had no clue how many Jewish holidays there were over the first 30 days of school. (Hint: If we use the Jewish month, Tishrei, which corresponds to September/October, we are talking about 12 of the first 23 days- and that doesn’t include Shabat!)
Tonight’s holiday, Sukot (the plural of suka) is one of the three festivals mentioned in the Tora. It is to remind us we traveled for 40 years in the desert and lived in these sort of huts- or, maybe, because we needed to preempt the pagan harvest festival that occurred this time of year three millennia ago. The true cause is truly immaterial. Because either way, we have found meaning in the suka- to remind us that our lives are transient, our lives are fragile, and our lives require our efforts along with Hashem’s help.
Like the proverbial three pigs, our house of straw, our house of wood- even our house of bricks- doesn’t really protect us. Just look at all those homes wiped away by Harvey, Irma, and Maria over the past few weeks.
With its flimsy roof, the portion of the suka always erected last on our suka, we recognize the structure of the suka as a shelter for our faith. Each new day, we are restored to our souls and our brains by Hashem. By sitting in this suka, this flimsy structure, we are acknowledging our faith in Hashem, who affords us the ability to enjoy our meal with the stars and the sun up above.
That’s amplified with another of our mitzvot- hachnasat orchim- the welcoming of guests. Not just the metaphysical guests we invite each night (Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and David), but our friends and relatives with whom we share our meals. That’s another shelter of Sukot. That of family and friends, being part of something more than ourselves.
And, by saying Kiddush, Birkat HaMazon (the blessing after the meal), and Havdala (the closing prayer of Shabat and holidays) [some of us daven shacharit (the morning prayers), mincha (the afternoon prayers), and/or ma’ariv(the evening prayers)] in our suka, we are reminded that t’fila (prayer) is yet another connection. Our means to maintain a conversation with Hashem.
Of course, if you have neighbors like we used to have, there’s also the shelter of authenticity. (This neighbor called the police several times reporting that we built a structure without a permit.) The suka reminds us that this tradition, this tenet of our faith, dates back at least to the time that we entered the holy land of Israel. As an agricultural people, our connection with the land, with the food and animals we raised, with the offerings of food to Hashem, this is the last connection to those first Jewish citizens of Israel. And, maybe even back to our 40 years of traveling in the desert.
And, finally, as we examine the full moon of Sukot, the stars, the sun, the clouds, how can we not recall with awe the creation of this world? To remind us that this world was created- not finished- leaving us as the stewards, the effectors of the perfection of the world. (We call this charge from the Supreme Being “Tikun Olam”.)
May you truly feel enveloped by the love of your family, friends, and Hashem this Sukot.
See you next Monday. (Chol Hamoed Sukot- part of the holiday where normal toil is considered permissible.)
I’ll be praying for our peace and happiness till then…