Chag Sukkot Sameach! Happy Sukkot holiday to all!
We are in the middle of this incredible holiday where we dwell, joyously, in our outdoor booths for a week.
Last Friday night, we welcomed the holiday of Sukkot with a Kabbalat Shabbat service in the sukkah, as we have done for the past several years. Even though rain was potentially predicted for later in the evening, we moved ahead with the assumption that we would be able to spend the evening in the sukkah.
The first few people entered, and settled in their seats. Looking up at the night sky through the schach (leafy palm roof), we felt a few random and sporadic rain drops. No problem. We’ll be fine! Isn’t this a major part of Sukkot anyway–being connected with the outside world?!
As we got closer to starting the service, we noticed the siddurim (prayer books) were actually getting wet–the pattern of the drops had become more frequent. We decided–not so much because we might get wet, but that the prayer books, instruments, etc might get ruined–that we ought to move under the shelter of our new pavilion! We quickly rearranged ourselves a few feet away, outside of the Sukkah, into our new outdoor structure. We all marveled at how wonderful this was–we were still outside and we could see our beautiful sukkah a-glow with lights and delightful decorations (thank you Shul School students and Helene Ginsberg!)
As we transitioned back into prayer and song, I reminded us all that Sukkot allows us to fully experience inside and outside at the same time. In fact we bring the “outside” in–into our Sukkah, into our hearts. And, we bring the inside out–from our homes and hearts, we extend to the outside, natural world. How wonderful that we could still feel the mixture of inside and outside under our pavilion.
The rain picked up. The noise picked up. Was that a roll of thunder, or the sound of someone wheeling their garbage can in from the sidewalk? Keep in mind we were privy to ALL the sounds of outside–motorcycles, sirens etc.
It became clear, as the sky lit up and the thunder began to boom and crackle, that we were in the midst of a very serious and dramatic thunderstorm! Hazzan Steve and I had to move in a little closer from the edge of the pavilion as the rain blew in at a slant. The audio visual display was powerful and poetic! As I led Shema, there was an exquisitely choreographed boom of thunder. We were indeed listening, and clearly we felt uniquely connected to this storm around us, and the One from whom such power originates.
At one point David Frankel, our Board President and musical accompanist, strongly recommended that we move inside. The lightning was getting increasingly and alarmingly close. So once again, we made these adjustments–bringing our outsides into a more protected space.
Sukkot gives us the opportunity to be close to this kind of natural beauty and power. To experience the glory of creation–through the twinkling of the stars, the force of a deluge, the intensity of thunder and lightning. In the modern world, we are accustomed to shutting ourselves off from the wonder and mystery of the outside world.
A few of us, wanting to continue to bring the awareness of the outside into the synagogue, decided to keep the glass doors open. We continued our Amidah listening to the rain, feeling the boom, aware of the bright flashing light.
May the dramatic display we felt during this Sukkot remind us to keep our minds and hearts open to the pulsing of the outside world. When we lose touch with all that energy outside our doors and windows, we also lose touch with ourselves and each other. May the lessons of Sukkot continue to teach us, long after the Sukkah comes down.