The moon will be rising soon, the full moon which brings with it “The” festival which we know as Sukkot. In our agrarian past, this was the big one. Now, it is often lost in the backwash of Rosh Hoshonnah and Yom Kippur. Thankfully, congregations continue to innovate ways that try and make this festival meaningful. The symbolism of the frail and temporary dwelling places that are erected represent aspects of our Wilderness journey, yet, really stand for so much more.
I have come to see this symbolism in different ways now than from how I viewed the holiday as a younger rabbi. Life teaches you things. Many of us understand the symbolic aspect of these “sukkot” for they remind us, as the liturgy often does, of the fragile nature of life itself. The High Holy Day season, of which Sukkot is a powerful third act, brings many of the Holy Day themes back. They may be wrapped in the cloak of a “lulav” and “etrog”, but the themes are there: those of life’s temporal nature and the fact that we are foolish to think we have ultimate control of life.
There is a growing literature now, aimed I am convinced at Boomers as we age, that seek to remind us that, try as we might, and pray as we will; we are all mortal. A new book by Dr. Atul Gawande, “Being Mortal” may be a modern Midrash on the Torah portion that features the “Binding of Isaac”. The classic interpretation that we are never really “free” until we accept being “bound” by certain realities; in this case, the reality of our own mortality. Maybe, a message of this festival can be that by accepting the fact that we are mortal, we can be free to focus on what is important and eternal in life: our legacy, our family and the ability t live so as to make a difference.
Chag Sameach. Have a sweet Holiday
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.