The “T’kiyah g’dolah” has been sounded and the Gates have been closed. We set our sights on the festival of Sukkot, this week long festival of harvest and gathering. Synagogues and individuals gathered to start construction of their “sukkah” that flimsy temporary dwelling which tradiiton tells us is symbolic of the dwellings the Israelites used in their Wilderness trek. So many will gather in their “sukkah” to fulfill the tradition of eating, studying and socializing in this colorful and often festive symbol.
For Boomers, as we look at this festival and this “dwelling”, I think we can take some additional meaning. Many have looked at this tradition of the “sukkah” and comapred it to our own life. It is temporary, open, not that sturdy and, we hope, welcoming. The key here is the symbolic representation, I think, of life itself. It is meaningful that this festival comes 5 days after Yom Kippur. We have just finished 10 days of introspection and contemplation, with Yom Kippur as the end; a liturgical reminder of our own mortality. Now, 5 days later, instead of trying to imagine this concept of life’s fragile state, we can see a representation of it. This temporary dwelling is not rooted in cement foundations. Rather, it is created quickly and, by its very nature, subject to the whims of nature itself. Its very openness suggests that all of us are subject to events and forces that are beyond our control.
But what is, we hope, contained within the “sukkah” walls? We are asked to sit and study, we are asked to greet friends and share a meal; perhaps even sleep in it, gazing trhough its open roof at the stars. The meaning? Let me suggest that this is a wonderful message to take with us in the new year. What sustains us through the fragility of life is being with people, having a community and becoming part of that inter-action. Relationships and community help sustain us through the trials and challenges of dealing with what life hands us. We dwell in the “sukkah” as well dwell in the temporary “sukkah: that is our body. We maintain security, find meaning and celebrate life as we engage others and welcome them into our own experiences. In that way, we “harvest” the life we have been given.
Rabbi Richard F Address
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.