Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Shabbat Sukkot

“We interrupt this Torah cycle for this special message for this holiday …”

You shall dwell in huts seven days (Exodus 23:42)

We find ourselves amid the holiday of Sukkot. As the Earth prepares to sleep for the winter, we harvest our last bounty of the season from its soil. We store it as best we can, and then we hunker down for the winter. Oddly, though, before we do that, we spend a week dwelling in the outdoors with minimal shelter. As per the text from Exodus, we dwell (not visit) in the Sukkah for the duration of the holiday. What does it mean to dwell? Well, the sages tell us to live under the meager shelter of a hut with an open door and flimsy roof as testimony of our faith in renewal and restoration. Even as the frost begins to kill off active plant growth, we know that Spring will come. It is almost as if we are saying a physical “Amen” to the prayer of hope for renewal.

“Amen” affirms prayers and blessings. We learn that if the whole world would say, “AMEN” with intention, at the same time, the Messianic Age would become real. Deep in the tradition, we also learn that when the Messianic Age vests, it will happen during Sukkot.

We are not in the hut as an affliction. We don’t stay there if it rains too hard or if it puts our health in peril. We stay there, even bundled up, though, and welcome everyone who wants to be there, with us. In fact, we invite “Ushpizin” (the Aramaic word for “guests”). Specifically, the ushpizin are the biblical ancestors and heroes from the ancient world through our day. Spiritually, it can get really crowded in a sukkah. This year, it becomes easier, since, with COVID, we discourage people from entering a booth, we all will commune in the open air (socially distanced, of course). The result is the same – staying there reminds us to have faith that there will be a tomorrow and that the blessing of Spring will become real. If more people appreciated this testament of faith, perhaps that “AMEN” would resonate worldwide. The sound of unity: a singularly voices clarion call for peace, respect, and dignity for the whole world.

Mitzvah goreret mitzvah. Avaerah goreret avaerah. One deed, good or bad, begets the next. Our words inform our subsequent behaviors, and our behaviors inform our next words. Words will never be enough to make prayer meaningful. They inform our actions and behaviors and result from them as well. Let’s make sure to speak and live the words of relationship building and peace. Let’s spend some time outdoors and celebrate the Earth and our hope for its renewal. Then let’s get everyone to join in; “Amen.”

Shabbat Shalom! Happy Sukkot!