Sukkot is the holiday that symbolizes peace in our tradition. Our Rabbis teach that discord is created by an emphasis on materialistic values, which inevitably create competitiveness and hostility due to limited resources on our planet. On Sukkot we leave our stable homes and dwell in a temporary abode, a Sukkah, to say that it is not the material world that is our utmost value, but we have faith in G-d as our protector and hence affirming spiritual values leads us to peace. We do not need to make luxuries into needs, but are satisfied with our lot. We take the four species on Sukkot as well, in order to symbolize peace. Four different types of fruits/plants are united together at services to symbolize acceptance of difference and diversity in our members which creates true harmony as opposed to the expectation of uniformity in our community. These are the ideas, but to create true peace we must work at it. We must truly shift our values, and be welcoming to all our guests, new faces, and dear friends.
These are days that are filled with joy and awe, received through the softness and fragility of life and the miracle of creation. We move from the ethereal heights of Yom Kippur to the earthy reality of Sukkot. Sukkot, where the fragrance of the etrog, and the branches of the Sukkah, the dwelling under the sky in moist evening, all bring us closer to nature and the Creator of nature. We invite our friends into the Sukkah and rub shoulders with them, huddle close against the cool night air, eat hot noodle soup, fish and kugel and carrots, invite in our ancestors and guests from Jerusalem to continue the dialogue, the conversation of the generations.
Who needs the beautiful solid structures, that shut us out from nature, and are often created through the sweat of such competition and enmity that we no longer have the time to remember who we really are as members of the Jewish nation and humanity, as children of G-d. This, too, is why Sukkot is known as the holiday of peace and joy! Because we leave our homes, and go out and live in a Sukkah, a structure that brings us into closer contact with nature, and makes us all equal–the stars covering us, the birds and crickets singing to us, the grass and trees treating us to their aromas.
We are brought into calendrical time, into a new space of memory, joining our souls to our ancestors who dreamed of a better world where the whole earth could dwell under the Sukkah of the Lord of Peace. We take each of the four different species and bind them together, symbolizing the possibility of accepting differences all under one central universal motif.
And then we come to Simchat Torah, where we dance the night away, releasing holy sparks with holy song, reaching out from the depths to G-d above to gather us in from our exile. We yearn for the new Jerusalem and work ourselves up into a sweat through song and whirling, frenzied dancing, high on the completion of the Torah each member of the community-child and adult- receiving an aliyah to the Torah.
Why such joy over the completion of the Torah, the heart book, the long continuous name of G-d? Because we are also now beginning it once more. And this year when we study it, we will discover new meanings, ask new questions, from a place of greater radiant faith, for we have been witnesses to G-d’s grace, peering out to the mountains from the Sukkah of peace. We have seen the miracles of birth, a child’s cry, an echo of the sound emanating from the divine realm, a voice that constantly reverberates in our inner heart and makes us aware of ‘the waves from the higher realm that act upon our souls ceaselessly’.
May this year be a time of great fulfillment for us all, a time when we each act from our highest selves, from the place of Sukkat Shalom.
Rabbi Mel Gottlieb
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