Only five days after the self-reflection and solemnity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we celebrate Sukkot. It is the harvest season, a time of richness and bounty, Z’man simhatenu, Season of Our Joy. Historically, we link Sukkot with the way in which our ancestors traveled through the wilderness, and later gathered their grain at harvest as they brought their offerings to the Temple.
During Sukkot, we become aware that despite the great courage it took to escape slavery in Egypt, it takes even greater strength to struggle day after day in the wilderness of freedom. During Sukkot we re-enact the experience. We build a temporary outdoor structure, a sukkah, into which we move portions of our daily activities. It is a shaky, unstable booth, with only enough roof to create shade and yet allow us to see the stars. We decorate it with fruits of the harvest and reminders of our ancestors. We gather with our family and friends and celebrate the joy of our bounty, and are grateful for the warmth and security that is our luxury today.
Sukkot reminds us how others struggle for food and shelter, and challenges us to see how much “stuff” we have and can live without. When we experience Sukkot we reveal the ironic truth about the essence of permanence: that despite the instability or transience of our material possessions, it is our connection to each other that remains.
LEARNING THE LESSONS OF SUKKOT
- Remember those who struggle for food and shelter.
- Donate funds to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. (Go to www.mazon.org for more information)
- Donate food regularly to your local food pantry. In the Philadelphia area, the Mitzvah Food Project collects food for ! Volunteer to deliver food for your local Meals on Wheels, or ask how you can fill in on days when they do not make meals available. Realize how much “stuff” we can live without.
- Look in the “corners of your fields” and give away those items in the corners of your house that you no longer use. They may make a difference in someone else’s life.
- Train your children to collect the gleanings of their belongings, and give away extra toys, gifts, books, puzzles or games to homeless shelters or nursery schools. Keep a “leket” (gleanings) box
- in your house for them to regularly add items.
- Buy extra toiletries or linens when you buy them for yourself, and donate them to a local homeless shelter or emergency center. Connect to each other.
- Connect with your Jewish Community. Attend Jewish events. Take a class or go on a trip sponsored by a Jewish organization. Join a synagogue.