Perhaps no major Jewish holiday is as joyous as Sukkoth. Yet even Sukkoth is not just a time of celebration, but also a time of pensive contemplation.
Sukkoth is often called the Jewish Thanksgiving (though it would be historically more accurate to call Thanksgiving the American Sukkoth). It is also is time when we confront one of the most trying periods of Jewish history, the forty years of wandering in the desert which led us from Egyptian slavery to national liberation.
Both Sukkoth and Thanksgiving emphasize a sense of thankfulness to G’d and in reality both holidays are better called holy days than holidays. Each has an underlying message, that even in the most difficult of circumstances we live only due to G’d’s grace and only for the number of days which G’d has given each of us. Certainly, this recent hurricane season has brought this message home to those of us who live in Texas and Florida as well as in the Caribbean.
It is at this point, however, where the comparison ceases between the two holidays. Although Sukkoth is a harvest festival, it places its emphasis not on the harvest but on G’d’s will. Sukkoth is not a time to look back at our accomplishments but rather a time to realize that our lives are highly precarious and that we dare not waste a precious minute of G’d’s gift of life. For those of us who have suffered through multiple natural disasters, this lesson ought to be abundantly clear.
Sukkoth then does not so much celebrate the present as remember the past, our Exodus from slavery, and remind us of the future: that we live by G’d’s grace. The simple sukkah (booth), that precariously lasts throughout the holidays reminds us that no home is immune from nature, that each day is a blessing, and to allow oneself to be controlled by negativity and pessimism is an affront to the many blessings within our lives. Certainly in Texas despite the horrors of floods, we can be grateful for the spirit of kindness and solidarity that the people of Texas showed one another. How poignantly Hurricane Harvey and Sukkoth remind us that our future is connected to our past and that what we do today will impact our tomorrow.
As we gaze upon this year’s sukkah, despite the tragedies of this past week, we must be thankful for being alive. Sukkoth is our challenge to rid ourselves of pessimism and negativity that is so often in the news and to turn our sense of thanks into action. It reminds us that each of us has the task to make tomorrow’s world a better place than today’s.
Chag Samech/Happy Sukkoth!
Hold the date! Our next conference for the Center for Latino – Jewish relations will be on Oct. 23 in McAllen, Texas. The host hotel is the Centro de The Hotel Cambria Hotel in the McAllen Convention Center on Ware Road. For more information please contact Mrs. Nydia Gonzales.
Youtubes for Sukkot
Twist and shake Sukkot style:
The Fountainheads and Sukkot:
Sukkot: people gather from around the world: