We are in the midst of Sukkot, known as Z’man Simchatenu, a Season of Joy. This week long holiday is one of my favorite, it’s about celebrating harvests, and spending all your time outside, in a temporary structure, being vulnerable to the elements.
Harvest is a time to celebrate abundance, and being well stocked on food supplies, and yet here we are being told to celebrate by submersing ourselves in a vulnerable situation.
A Sukkah structure is to be a freestanding structure, with a roof of organic material, providing more shade than sun, and through which one must be able to see the stars and rain must be able to penetrate. We are told to live in it, to eat in it, or even to do remote school/work in it. There are bugs, and sun glare, and wind.
Eating and living in a Sukkah (for a week!) is a lesson in humility. It doesn’t always go as planned, and sometimes it even rains. During a season when it might be too easy to only congratulate ourselves for a successful harvest season without also thanking G!d, we are commanded to be vulnerable. It is an experiential reminder of the force behind our harvests, behind all of Creation. If the lack of connection with the nature world might cause us to lose a sense of awe and amazement, living in a temporary booth reminds us of its power.
I’ve watched my Sukkah shake, and the s’chach (roof covering) scattered in my neighbor’s yard. I’ve neglected to take my Sukkah down and seen it in the snow. Soggy paper chains remind us of the difference between the New England climate and the Israeli one. In biblical lands and times, it was a celebration of harvesting olives, grapes, pomegranates and figs. Here in New England, it’s tomatoes, eggplant, squash and greens.
Another name for Sukkot is Chag HaAsif, the Festival of Ingathering. The varieties of crops from the fields, orchards and vineyards, have been harvested and stored. Imagine the ancient stone granaries, threshing floors and presses at capacity and folks working hard to process the harvest. I am processing and preserving through fermentation, my freezer and canning.
Sukkot is a social holiday, about welcoming guests, and shared meals. There is so much joy in welcoming community in celebration. There is so much joy in recognizing the majesty of Creation by looking up and seeing the stars.
Moadim L’Simcha! May your holiday be joyous!