At sundown on this Sunday night we begin the third festival of the holy month of Tishre; The festival of Sukkoth. Many called Sukkoth the Jewish Thanksgiving (though it would be historically more accurate to call Thanksgiving the American Sukkoth). This is the 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.
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.
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 have given each of us. Certainly, as we pass through a chaotic political season, we need to remember that we are here not to serve ourselves but to serve humanity and G-d.
It is at this point, however, the two holidays diverge. 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 even one slight small event can change the course of our lives and the lives of all who love us. This sense of life’s precariousness is symbolized by the sukkah, a three-sided booth that could be “built” almost anywhere.
This simple sukkah (booth) 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, this is a lesson that our politicians need to learn. Sukkot reminds all of us to listen to the other and not to be so smug as to believe that any one person has total truth
As we decorate this year’s sukkah, despite the political noise and flights from reality, all of us have much for which to be thankful. Sukkoth is our challenge to rid ourselves of pessimism and negativity 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 world.
Chag Samech/Happy Sukkoth
Youtubes of the week:
Songs for Sukkoth
Livin’ in a Booth:
Shaken the Lulav:
A Song for Children: