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A D'Var Torah from Rabbi Josh Hearshen

08/20/2020 05:15:07 PM


Rabbi Hearshen

Time, time, time, see what’s become of me… These famous words from the beginning of Simon and Garfunkel (in all seriousness I think the Bangles version is better) are very telling at times in our lives when we become reflective.  As we are wrapping up the year, right now it is time to look back on 5780 while looking forward to 5781. All of this is a long-winded way of saying that we are now in the month of Elul, the last month of the year, and we need to begin to prepare for the High Holidays.

The holidays begin every year with Rosh Chodesh Elul but they do not end after Yom Kippur. The High Holiday season includes four holidays that are each distinct and very important. We begin with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. The next one is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. After that we move onto Sukkot and then Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. The problem is that at this time every year we plan for Rosh Hashana and we get ready for Yom Kippur… but what about the last two? Sukkot is an incredible holiday. It is a time to gather and appreciate all of the numerous gifts that have been given to us by God. It is a time to rejoice and celebrate life and its fragility. As we have just over a month and a half until Sukkot, I would like to begin our conversation at this time rather than waiting.

Had Sukkot been placed further from Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I believe that it would be a much more observed and appreciated holiday. It shares much with Passover, and yet has little of the appreciation and fandom that Passover has naturally amassed. This year is a great year to reclaim Sukkot’s proper place in our yearly observances and in our hearts. This year, we are looking for ways to be together while being safe. We all recognize that one of the safest ways to do this is to be outdoors. Sukkot is the outdoors holiday. Through the years we have seen fewer people building sukkahs at their houses. We have found that fewer people are observing the holiday by dwelling outside for the days of the holiday. What if this year, more of us choose to reverse this trend and instead build sukkahs at our houses so that we can both celebrate the holiday and also be together in a safer way outside. Of course, this will necessitate that the gathering is still small and also that our sukkahs are larger than they have been in the past so that we can be safe at a distance if we do not live with the people who are gathering at our houses. But there is another reason why this year is such a great year to reclaim our adoration of Sukkot. All of us are doing everything that we can to stay home as much as possible and thus stay safe from others. We are looking for new ways to connect and new things to do. We are looking to break up the monotony of our lives and building a new sukkah could do just that for us.

Judaism is like a muscle. We need to use it in order to keep it going. When we allow it to atrophy that diminishing becomes more and more difficult to reverse. We need our Jewish lives to be active and involved. We need our Jewish lives to be engaged in ritual just as they are involved in ethics. We need our Jewish lives to find a way to make every holiday matter more and more each time. By getting more involved in Sukkot, we can get 5781 off to a good start to make each of our lives holier and safer every day.

If you would like help with purchasing a sukkah or with building one on your own, please contact our office and we will help you with your growth in this mitzvah.

​​​​​​Shabbat Shalom.

Sat, January 23 2021 10 Shevat 5781