The festival of Sukkot has, for many, had to suffer in the shadow of the High Holidays. We forget that it has a major place in our festival cycle, indeed, often referred to as THE festival (chag). It is interesting to note that in recent years this festival has gained new traction. The festival has been seen as a major focal point in the emerging Jewish environmental awareness movement. This year, the festival can assume even greater meaning.
As many of you probably heard during the High Holidays, this new year of 5782 is a year of release. This sh’mita year is one of those years that come to us every seven years when we in Torah are commanded to let the land rest and have a relaxation of debts. It is a time for release.
I think this idea of release has the potential to play an important role in our lives, especially as we mature. It is a message to have the courage to “let go” , to release the issues, challenges and regrets that we may still hold on to; issues that eat away at our own psyche and soul and that often cause us illness of body and soul. Sukkot has, as part of its message, that of harvest. The symbols of the festival speak to the fragility of life. As we age we become so much more aware of this fragility. How much greater is the need to assess what we need to release so that we can harvest these years; knowing that we cannot know what these years may bring or how many years we may be granted.
It takes some courage to let go of these regrets and feelings. There often is guilt involved. But again, look at the symbolism of the festival for the festival ends with celebration; the festival of Simchat Torah concludes this week. It is the moment when we let go of the previous year’s Torah cycle and begin anew the book of Genesis. So too with us? Can we use this festival as a vehicle to let go of that which binds us, holds us, and restricts our authentic self? That is the challenge. It is time to harvest our own life.
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.