Sunday, September 9, 2012

Work Hard to Play Harder

D’varim  29:9 – 31:30
28 Elul 5772 / September 14-15

Work Hard to Play Harder
by Zvi Bellin, MHHQ
ט  אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:  רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם, זִקְנֵיכֶם וְשֹׁטְרֵיכֶם, כֹּל, אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל.
9 You are standing this day all of you before the LORD your God: your leaders, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, each individual of Israel,
י  טַפְּכֶם נְשֵׁיכֶם--וְגֵרְךָ, אֲשֶׁר בְּקֶרֶב מַחֲנֶיךָ:  מֵחֹטֵב עֵצֶיךָ, עַד שֹׁאֵב מֵימֶיךָ.
10 your little ones, your partners, and your stranger that is in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood unto the drawer of your water;

These words from D’varim Chapter 29 were spoken by Moshe to all the Children of Israel as they were standing at the edge of the Jordan preparing to enter the Promised Land. Each person, no matter where they stood on the social status ladder was equally invited into God’s covenant. As the High Holidays are fast approaching (Rosh Hashana begins September 16th) and after spending this past weekend with 30 Moishe House residents and community members learning about Sukkot, I feel that these words are speaking to our community directly.

Here we all are – leaders at times, followers at other times, keepers of tradition, teachers, children, lovers and partners – all standing on the brink of a new year. We are all equally called to the rituals and themes of the High Holidays. How can I be a better person this coming year? Who have I hurt this past year? What steps do I have to take to reconcile my broken relationships with my family, my community, with God? It is not easy to authentically grapple with these questions. But if we want to be more compassionate people and if we want to experience closer and more nurturing relationships, we have to. I think the reward for our efforts is hinted at in verse 10 above, with the mentioning of the wood hewers and water drawers.

We learned this weekend that wood and water are two important elements to celebrating Sukkot. The wood represents that organic plant material that makes up the s’chach (the roof of the sukkah). We also take four natural species (palm, citron, myrtle, and willow) and wave them together as a way to pray for rain (WATER!) On Sukkot we begin to pray for a bountiful rainy season to water our crops and shower the earth with blessing. In Temple times, a raging party would take place as water would be drawn from a surrounding spring to the temple mount and poured onto the sacred sacrificial alter.

So I think that the above verse is whispering to us that Sukkot itself is the reward for the sometimes difficult process of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur introspection. Practically speaking, if you are going to sit through services on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, you have certainly earned some downtime in the Sukkah, simply sitting around with friends and family and enjoying each other’s company.  So this is an invitation to work hard now as you fess up to your faults, and play hard in a few weeks when you sit in a Sukkah and reap the benefits of your efforts.

Wishing you a Shana Tova u’Metukah! 


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