14 Tishre, 5772
There are only five days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, between fasting and celebration, between celebrations and thankfulness. At first, this juxtapositions seems odd. How do we go from the serious to the joyous, from the spiritual to the material so suddenly? How do we go from a day in which all Israel seeks atonement to a day when the entire people celebrates? Is it possible to change psychological and emotional gears so quickly?
If we ask ourselves these questions on a superficial level, it appears that there are no answers, and yet the Bible is clear. It tells us that we are to change our emotional course and go from quiet contemplation to joy. If we think more deeply, however, we begin to see the wisdom in the Biblical linking of these two totally dissimilar holy days.
Yom Kippur is a personal day, a day of introspection, a day of fasting and searching of the soul. It is a day when we ask forgiveness of G'd, of our fellow human beings and of ourselves. Life, however is not one-sided and even the most serious of moments need to transition into moments of joy. Sukkot reminds us that life is for the living. This is the time when we thank G'd not only for the harvest's bounties, but also for each day of our life.
Sukkot reminds us that the most important gift that G'd has given any of us is the gift of life. Yet, one of the ironies of life is that we do not control it. Life meanders through history and tends to go in directions that are often unexpected. Sukkot reminds us that none of us know how many days G'd will allot us and thus the greatest sin is to waste a day. Time is the one resource that we will never control.
Sukkot teaches us the unpredictable nature of life. How quickly any of us can go from hunger to feasting or from poverty to bounty. It reminds us that nothing is forever and that no nation is guaranteed success. Sukkot's lessons are imbedded with the Biblical idea that all of us, both personally and collectively, live on the precipice; that nations that squander their resources soon must do without.
On an emotional level, Sukkot teaches us to celebrate not only the harvest time but also to harvest time. We harvest time by refusing to squander it on anger and frustration. Sukkot would have us use our time wisely, to appreciate it, and to realize that nothing except G'd is forever.
Time, however must not be celebrated simply for its own sake. Instead. Judaism teaches us that it is our duty to use our time in a responsible fashion, to build time castles based on a sense of ethics, morality and faith. Sukkot presents us with a dichotomy: to live only with faith is to produce little; to live without faith is to live an empty life.
As we celebrate Sukkot, ask yourself if you are using the days that G'd has given you wisely? Are you building a life of holiness? Have you added a measure of goodness and peace to the world? Chag Sameach.
Two sukkot songs to put a smile on your face. Lessons on the four species.
You Know It's Sukkot In Israel Because.....
1. You can't get on a bus without being poked in the rear a dozen times with someone's stray lulav.
2. The sweet smell of etrogim in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda (Yehuda Market) is overpowering.
3. An enterprising bookstore is offering "Machzor rentals" for tourists who inadvertently left their holiday prayer books at home.
4. Huge piles of schach (palm fronds for the roof of the sukkah) cover major city squares, and citizens are invited to take as much as they need for free.
5. Sukkot of every size and description can be seen on balconies, rooftops and in courtyards. Every kosher restaurant in town has one and boasts bigger and better holiday specials to entice customers.
6. Since the entire week of Sukkot is a national holiday you'll have a tough time deciding which festival/event to take part in. There's a Carlebach lovefest at Mevo Modi'in; a Judaica and Jewelery Show in Jerusalem; the Zikhron Yaakov wine fest; a Humor and Laughter Festival in BeerSheva; an Israeli Cowboy Festival at Neve Yaar and a Reggae extravaganza at the Caesarea Amphitheater to name just a few.
7. Touring the country is another favorite Sukkot activity and every politicalgroup is promoting trips to "See For Yourself".
8. Not to be left out are those Christian friends of Israel--the International Christian Embassy predicts that thousands of members from 100 nations will attend the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is featured speaker for the opening night gala at Sultan's Pools. The Christian contingent will be taking part in the Jerusalem March, another annual Sukkot event, dressed in costume of
their countries of origin.
May we all experience the true joy of Sukkot.
by Judy Lash Balint