Yom Rivii, 28 Tishri 5778
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Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah--Sukkot

The High Holy days are now behind us. It is time to start living all of the promises we made to be better, do better, and help others do and be better. Our tradition plunges us right into the first opportunity to live out our vows and start making a difference in the world around us. This week, we find ourselves in the midst of Sukkot. Sukkot is the Festival of Booths. According to Torah, as the earth prepares to go to sleep for the winter, we spend time not only gathering the Fall harvest but spending time with nature (in a sukkah-booth) to help us better appreciate the earth from which all life gains sustenance. Sukkot is a joyous time and a hopeful time.The High Holy days are now behind us. It is time to start living all of the promises we made to be better, do better, and help others do and be better. Our tradition plunges us right into the first opportunity to live out our vows and start making a difference in the world around us. This week, we find ourselves in the midst of Sukkot. Sukkot is the Festival of Booths. According to Torah, as the earth prepares to go to sleep for the winter, we spend time not only gathering the Fall harvest but spending time with nature (in a sukkah-booth) to help us better appreciate the earth from which all life gains sustenance. Sukkot is a joyous time and a hopeful time.

Judaism maintains that the advent of the Messianic Age is tied deeply into this holiday. The announcement of Messiah comes on Passover. The covenanting of the Age takes place as we mourn on Tisha B’av and truly commit to “Never Again.” During Sukkot, the Messianic Age is supposed to begin. It makes perfect sense to me. Just as the Earth is going fallow for the Winter, it takes a lot of hope to believe that what is barren will come back to life. I know this sounds familiar for non-Jews as well. Think about it folks, death and resurrection are part of every ancient tradition and religious scripture. Most often, resurrection ties into some spiritual world renewal. For us, we get a taste of it every year, with the hope that at some point, our renewed hope really will tip the scales and motivate people to fulfill the prophecy of world peace.

I need that hope now! With what has been happening in our world, as of late, I see more and more people afraid and angry. They have good cause. Our world governments are not responsive to people’s needs. There are crazy people with access to the most devastating of weaponry. What purports to be religion in so many places is nothing more than fear-mongering and opportunism designed to make pastors rich and powerful.

I need hope now! Yes, in the face of disasters, people all over open their hearts, their arms, and their wallets to make a difference in the lives of those impacted. Yes, more people who never spoke together are sharing time, conversation, and loving embraces. Yes, even while the political divide only grows, more and more people are involved in the conversation; fewer are simply bystanders. But, with all of this beauty that surfaces, I need to be able to hope that the events when we come together will stop being episodic. I need to know that when we open our hearts that we don’t use that moment or experience as the pat on the back soothing our consciences, allowing us to crawl back into the cave. I need to know that while more people are getting involved, that we do so responsibly and respectfully. I have no problem disagreeing with people over issues, but that never means that we have to dismiss each other. I can promise you that, in this climate, screaming rhetoric will not change the heart and mind of someone stuck in another point of view.

So, as Sukkot takes on full force, I am praying for a hint of the Messianic Age. For all the people espousing the different Messianic faiths in this world, we need to demonstrate faith by expanding our hearts. We need to understand more than we think that we know. We need to see that whatever our scriptural basis, we are not home yet, and more blood gets shed in the name of the peaceful concepts of God than any other cause. True, it is not God or religion mandating this, it is the people who co-opt and manipulate Jesus, Torah, Quran, and the many Holy Scriptures … and God, to make them serve our egos. It is time for renewal in faith. It is time to cast off the things we think religion says and go back to see what our real values are supposed to be. We really are all in this together … it is time we get to experience this blessing. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Sukkot.