Fall is fast approaching and it is time for us to get ready. Break out the hammer, the nails, the fall decoration and start to think about the holiday of Sukkot.
This holiday, once considered to be, “the holiday,” is almost upon us. According to the Torah, on this holiday we should “live in booths (sukkot) seven days…in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:42-43). These booths are intended to remind us of God’s beneficence in the world around us. Exodus 23:16 explains this connection further: “…and the feast of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in the results of your work from the field” — it is a holiday of immense joy, when we celebrate the harvest God gave to us. The centrality of this holiday is present in other biblical texts such as Nehemiah, Ezekiel, and I Kings, where Sukkot is referred to simply as Hehag–“The Holiday.”
Yet, for many of us today the focus is on the High Holidays and not necessarily on the holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah that happen after. This is a holiday dealing with creating a hut, celebrating agriculture and remembering our journey in the wilderness.
Lets take the time this Sukkot to reach out and build a sukkah of openness and forgiveness. During the high holidays we’ve engaged in one of the hardest tasks, teshuvah. We not only examined ourselves, we have asked forgiveness from those who we have hurt. In order to be effective in making amends we’ve had to request forgiveness and look into the sorrow we caused inside of the eyes of someone else. This is why in Jewish tradition there is a belief that the repentant sinner stands at heights higher than even the greatest tzaddik.
Growth is required in acknowledging one sins, seeking to repair the damage, and changing one’s path. True repentance comes from a deep desire of re-engaging into a right relationship with others and God. That realignment will bring great joy. The pain of sin has been transformed and now we celebrate in the sukkah the joy of healing.
Teshuvah is a journey, one of growth, transformation and healing.
The Holiday of Sukkot deals with these theme through rituals, from building a sukkah, to celebrating in local agriculture, to welcoming in the stranger, but mostly celebrating the journey – a journey toward our highest self.
May this be a festival of great warmth, happiness and celebration!