Chag Sukkot Sameach! A wonderful and happy holiday of sukkot to everyone!
Sukkot is one of the moadim, or “appointed times” on the Jewish calendar where we engage in festive celebration and connect with God through special mitzvot. In particular we dwell in the sukkah (a temporary, outside hut or booth) and we wave the lulav and etrog. Sukkot is referred to as “Z’man Simchateynu,” the season of our joy. As such it is a mitzvah to “be happy” when we dwell in the sukkah.
After spending so much time in the synagogue during the High Holy Days, we head outside. Essentially everything we would regularly do indoors at home, we are encouraged to do outdoors in the sukkah. So we share meals together, play games, socialize, relax. I’ve also been on a few Zoom meetings from my sukkah. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even sleep in the sukkah.
Sukkot immediately connects us with the natural world. We experience the joy and exhilaration of being outside for a whole week. We see things we might miss inside (a squirrel scurrying with a nut, the gentle falling of leaves from the tree, a ladybug making its way on our sleeve, the vibrant colors on a flower).
Unlike any other holiday on the Jewish calendar, Sukkot gives us the opportunity to experience our ancestral roots–where we wandered through the wilderness for forty years and lived in similar temporary structures. Spending this time outside and remembering may impact us on several levels–gratitude for permanent housing and shelter, appreciation of natural outdoor rhythms and sounds, connecting with the moon and stars (which we often forget about when we spend lots of time indoors), understanding the temporary nature of things.
Sukkot is a holiday of embodiment. We don’t just simply remember what it was like to travel through the Sinai desert, we actually experience what it’s like to dwell for a short period of time in a temporary structure. We are encouraged to dwell in the sukkah for seven days–even if it’s too hot, or too cold, or too mosquito-y, or it rains. We push ourselves past our comfort zones and are present with what actually is–with ourselves and each other–outside. So often we head inside the moment we feel uncomfortable.
Sukkot teaches us to expand the limits of our comfort zone. In turn, we feel tremendous gratitude for the blessings in our lives and for all the comforts we experience. This is important as we conclude the High Holy day cycle and buckle up for another year. Perhaps this is why Sukkot is referred to at “Z’man Simchateynu,” the season of our joy. We tap into our joy at a most fundamental level. We begin the year with humility and gratitude and a reminder of our connection to the natural world, the very source of our sustenance.