This week’s parsha is Sukkot: Leviticus 22:26-23:44; Numbers 29:12-16 and Zechariah 14:1-21.
The Hebrew word Sukkot is the plural of sukkah, "booth" or "tabernacle", which is a small, four sided structure tall enough for a human to stand in comfortably and roofed with plant material such as palm fronds.
Throughout the Sukkot holiday, family meals are eaten inside the sukkah and many families sleep there as well, as G-d commanded. A sukkah is also a temporary dwelling in which agricultural workers would live during harvesting.
Sukkot / Festival of Shelters was ordained by G-d to be celebrated yearly as a holy assembly forever (Lev 23:41).
So what is it with this festival that does not explicitly celebrate one of G-d’s miracles, unlike all the other festivals?
G-d intended the sukkah to remind us, and each generation of Israelites, of the fragile dwellings in which they dwelt during their 40 years of desert travel after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt (Lev 23:43).
But G-d also said to “… celebrate [the festival] with joy before the L-rd, your G-d, for seven days” (Lev 22:40). Yeah right, bugs in my food, rocks in my back, and mosquitoes thinking they’ve arrived in the Promised Land.
Emotionally and physically, if I am not paying attention, I can easily maintain an illusion of safety, and security with everything under control.
But if I look around the world of today I see how vulnerable we all really are. Bombs in the underwear of strangers, tsunamis or burst dams that wipe out whole communities without warning, and governments or neighbors that decide without notice to murder or persecute the good people they do not agree with.
And then there is our personal day-to-day lives; children unexpectedly still born or with serious problems, sudden unemployment, undreamt of life threatening medical problems, and the unexpected sudden death of family and friends.
I think one of the points of Sukkot is to leave the illusory security of our homes and remember that without G-d we are nothing and have nothing.
I think it is also a reminder to not become sated and complacent and think “I did it all with my own hands” and discount the part that G-d played. That “I did it … “ is also an illusion and is certainly, for me, a worse and much more present problem than an airplane engine or neighbors ax landing on my head.
And let’s not forget the Jews. For over 3,500 years, with only comparatively brief periods, wherever they were and however seemingly secure, they knew that tomorrow everything could disappear in a wave of persecution or expulsion.
Today’s Israel is a living embodiment of what it is to exist in a state of insecurity and still rejoice.
I believe that Sukkot is a festival about the human condition as it is, not as we would like it to be. Sukkot is about the resilience of the human spirit. It’s a reminder about the breath of God that is within us; that helps broken hearts to heal and broken lives to be rebuilt.
This is certainly why I can be joyous in a sukkah: I have a G-d who rebuilds lives, hearts and relationships, who provides my daily bread and all that I have.
Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty. Faith is the ability to rejoice in the midst of instability and change, travelling toward an unknown destination. Faith is not fear. Faith is not hate. Faith is not violence. These are vital truths badly needed today.
As neighbors see us and have an opportunity to talk to us about Sukkot it is also a reminder to the world about G-d. And amazingly, Sukkot is the only festival that will be celebrated by the whole world at the End of Days (Zechariah 14: 16-19) It is a reminder that without G-d we have and are nothing.
May you be blessed this week, as you remember G-d amongst the routine of your life for opportunities to share your experience, strength and hope with someone that can use a mitzvot, your faith.
I hope that if you are able, you will join the 9:00 am Shabbat Teva Tefillah. We pray for the Temple, for Israel and our government.
Blessings to you and yours. May this week be G-d filled and peaceful within the storm.
Your brother in Yeshua in the TEVA TEFILLAH (Ark of Prayer),
Posted on Fri, October 10, 2014
by Kurt Wilson