Thoughts for the Week – Sukkot

Thursday, September 28

The transition from Yom Kippur to Sukkot, in the heart of the High Holy Day season, is a special time.  Yom Kippur is a day of profound reflection, introspection, a day on which we suspend normal living, through such acts as fasting, only to be restored to life and quiet joy in the resolution of the day.  The depth of joy of Sukkot, five days later, grows out of this.  Only when we have experienced the fragility of life can we truly appreciate its preciousness.

One of the names of the festival of Sukkot is z’man simchateinu, ‘the season of our happiness’.  ‘You shall rejoice before the Eternal One your God’, we read in Leviticus 23:40.  The building of the Sukkah, the smells and sights of the foliage, fruit and flowers that adorn it, the lulav and etrog, our gratitude for the bounty of nature, welcoming guests into the Sukkah… all contribute to the lightening of our mood.

Our Sukkah looks amazing, so well done – kol ha-kavod – to the builders who worked so hard on it.  ‘If we build it, they will come…’ – let’s hope that is so!    We had a lot of fun making decorations for it, on Tuesday afternoon, and hanging the decorations and fruit, ready for the festival which begins on Friday evening.

The book of Kohelet – Ecclesiastes – is traditionally read on Sukkot.  The author’s message, given probably in the autumn of his years, about the transience of life, links powerfully to the themes of fragility and impermanence of this festival.  Sukkot combines both the serious and the joyful, a fitting festival to act as a bridge between what has come before (Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur), and the spiritual free-wheel of Simchat Torah that lies ahead.

Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur gave us opportunities to take stock of where we are in our lives, and Sukkot, in placing us outside our comfortable lives, at the mercy of the elements, reminds us about the blessings we have – how fortunate we are to have clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads, and food on our tables – and encourages us to share those blessings with those less fortunate than ourselves.  Please give generously to the food bank and bring your donations to place in the basket in the synagogue.

We look forward to seeing you at our Sukkot celebrations over the weekend.  On Friday evening, there will be a pot-luck dinner in the Sukkah after services.  We will all try to squeeze into the Sukkah for Kiddush on Shabbat.  And PLEASE do come along to the Open Day at the Synagogue on Sunday, from 3:30-5:30pm, to welcome our neighbours into our shul, and into the Sukkah, to share food, good companionship and for a chance to shake the lulav and etrog.

Chag Sameiach to you all.

Rabbi Rachel


September 28, 2023