Rabbi Denise L. Eger
We have just finished the sacred journey from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur through the Ten Days of Repentance. We have moved from Yom Terurah and Yom HaDin, Day of Sounding the Shofar and Day of Judgment to the Day of Atonement. As the gates of heaven closed at the final service on Yom Kippur, at Neilah, we were cleansed of our sins and errors and transgressions as we pledged to do better for this New Year. We have tried to make amends. We have asked for forgiveness and hopefully we have forgiven ourselves as well.
Sukkot comes four days later to help us celebrate the bounty of our lives. Perhaps we recognize this from our experiences during Yom Kippur. But the fall harvest festival teaches us some profound truths that continue our learning and spiritual growth from our renewal and purification at the High Holy Days.
Sukkot-the feast of Tabernacles/Booths reminds us that we have so much to be grateful for especially following the rebirth we have experienced from Yom Kippur. And even though we also give thanks for the bounty of the fields, we give many thanks for the richness of our lives. We give thanks at Sukkot for our ancestors through the custom of welcoming the Ushpizin to the Sukkah.
We sit in the Sukkah. We eat there. We are to even sleep there. We do so with the appreciation that the temporary shelter is fragile as is life. A message we should have also learned on Yom Kippur-that life is fragile.
This message is further reinforced in the obligation to rejoice not just with family and friends in the Sukkah but one must provide for the poor, the widow and the orphan. Maimonides reminds us in the Mishneh Torah, the Laws of the Festival : “While eating and drinking himself, one is obligated to feed the stranger, orphan, and widow, along with the other unfortunate poor… [One who does not] is not enjoying a mitzvah, but rather his stomach” We are reminded by taking care of those who don’t have that life is fragile for them as well as for us. So be grateful for what you have.
In these days especially when there are so many who have been impoverished let’s make sure that our festive rejoicing during this week of Sukkot is not just for ourselves alone. But let’s make sure that we always consider and help and invite those who don’t have to share in the bounty of our sukkah!
I hope to see you at one of the many Sukkot celebrations at Kol Ami this coming week-either for festival services tonight at 7 pm, Shabbat Sukkot on Friday at 8 pm, WOKA Sukkot luncheon on Saturday or the Kol Atid brunch on Sunday or the Moka dinner in the Sukkah on Tuesday! And of course this culminates in the celebration of Simchat Torah on Wednesday, Oct 19 at 7 pm.