Monday, September 16, 2013

Earn Your Sukkot Joy

Shabbat Chol Ha’Moed Sukkot
17 Tishrei 5774 / September 20 – 21

Earn Your Sukkot Joy
by Jon Morgan, Western Director of Moishe House Without Walls

Rabbi Eli Gewitz from had an interesting take on one relationship between Yom Kippur and Sukkot: “The number 40 (regarding the days leading up to Yom Kippur from the 9th of Av) also symbolizes the number of weeks it takes for a fetus to develop in the womb and a newborn child to emerge into the world. Similarly, during this period of 40 days, we are capable of remaking ourselves so that by the time we stand before the Almighty in judgment on Yom Kippur, we are as free of sin as a newborn child.”

And regarding Sukkot... “Normally, parents drape protective clothing over a newborn infant to shield him/her from extreme temperatures. On Yom Kippur, when our sins are atoned, we are comparable to newborn infants and therefore G-d drapes G-d’s protective shield over us in the form of the Sukkah.”

Sukkot (Booths), Chag HaAssif (Festival of Harvest), HaChag (The Festival), or Z’Man Simchoteinu (Season of Rejoicing) are all names for my favorite holiday. Not only is it a chance for me to perform mitzvot with power-tools, but I feel as though I’ve earned my joy. As Rabbi Gewitz eludes to, I think post-atonement is a vulnerable state. Since the start of Elul, we’ve contemplated ourselves, our relationship to others and to G-d, we confessed, regretted, and promised to change our ways. We’ve turned away from old behaviors and toward new ones...and that process beats us down to the point
where we can be judged as our most genuine selves. We finally reveal our soft spots by asking for, and also granting others, forgiveness. So here we stand with no grudges or sins and we deserve nothing less than to come together for eight days of joy. The true joy of Sukkot is earned.

As a side note, I’d like to point out that toward the end of our afternoon Haftorah reading from Yom Kippur, we read that Jonah erected a Sukkah after he confessed, repented, and led all of Nineveh to change its ways. However, Jonah’s rigidity kept him from being able to forgive or even feel good about completing his mission. If only Jonah had been able to forgive Nineveh as G-d did, there perhaps would have been a complete and joyous end to his story.

Instead, we read that Jonah’s experience in his Sukkah isn’t so pleasant or joyous, in fact he asks G-d to take his life. G-d attempts to teach Jonah a lesson about why he is rescinding his decision to annihilate Nineveh and we are left wondering what, if anything, Jonah learned about his inability to accept genuine repentance of others. Needless to say, Jonah’s Sukkah erection was premature.

It’s also important to remember that we must dwell in our Sukkah. Eat, drink, sleep, and carry out all wireless business in the Sukkah. Make it as comfortable and pretty as your home so it becomes your spiritual security blanket in the days leading up to Simchat Torah.

Now that we’ve been sealed in the Book of Life, may we all enjoy, internalize, and embrace the many joys of Sukkot.


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