Chag Sameach! Sukkot, our “harvest” festival, is upon us. The temporary dwelling, the Sukkah, reminds us of the fragile nature of life and, especially in our day, the delicate relationship we have with the natural world. Increasingly we will see Jewish communities focusing on environmental issues. And what of “our” environment? Our personal space? What shall we “harvest”?
I hope that this season is for you a time of reflection on life. Yes, we have just emerged from Yom Kippur and the Holidays and the very serious existential questions that are part of that period. Sukkot and the days that follow actually provide a spiritual coda to this season. The festival seems to say to us that we need to celebrate the life we lead and have led and look forward, we hope, to life renewed in the coming year. Now we also know that there will be people who will sit in the Sukkah and bring with them challenges, heartbreak and sadness; seeing little in their future that seems secure. It is easy to sing praises when all is good. The challenge is to find that positive core when life is dealing cards that present challenges.
The festival ends, as many know, with a final celebration: Simchat Torah. We end the book of Deuteronomy and immediately begin again with Genesis 1. I think this end of Sukkot speaks volumes to us. What message can it send us? Let me suggest that it speaks to hope, it speaks to the idea that we live going forward and that our lives are about tomorrow. Even if we sit in the Sukkah with challenges on our mind, Judaism reminds ua that we cannot give up, that there is hope for a tomorrow that celebrates life. We renew Torah and, our life, each year. What has been stays in the past and again, we are given the power to choose how we shall live in the year that has just begun. Yes, this does require faith, faith in the future and, most of all, faith in our own self. Moving forward in life does mean, at times, taking a chance, breaking from the status quo in order to chart a new life course. But Judaism says, “go forth and fear not”.
The “harvest” of our life is an on-going adventure. As we celebrate that harvest and begin again Torah, have faith in your own self that there is a future that awaits that is of your choosing. Celebrate life, celebrate the renewal of what tomorrow can be…if you so choose.
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.