Paula R. Stern – Sukkot and the Times
The holiday of Sukkot is one that is ignored by most non-Observant Jews outside Israel. Here in Israel,both religious and secular Jews make note and honor this important holiday. Outside Israel…not so much.
Growing up, my family didn’t built a Sukkah until I became religious and built it on my own, sometimes with the help of family, sometimes not at all. Since I married, we have had one every year, in every place that we have lived – never so large and beautiful as in the last few years since we moved to our current house.
Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles – is a holiday that I love, almost above all others. Missing is the tremendous amount of work related to Passover, the trepidation built into Yom Kippur, the intensity of Shavuot. Sukkot is quite simply fun. That doesn’t change the incredible symbolism involved, but it does help build the anticipation.
Sukkot is about many things but perhaps the most important message I take from it is trust. We spend our lives working to build homes for our families and make them secure – financially secure, safe from intruders. The home is our haven from the world., the place we hide out when we need down time; the place we run to when we feel oppressed.
Sukkot is about leaving that home and putting ourselves out there at the mercy of God, of the elements (controlled by God). There is no real security against thieves, the darkness, the cold. Over the last year and a bit, there has been a tremendous shift in the world, including the Jewish world.
Israel has become the greatest of Sukkahs for the Jewish people – it is truly here that we are safe in a way we do not feel anywhere else in the world. From France, to England, to Belgium, to Germany and across the United States, anti-Semitism is on the rise again, if in fact it ever really was less.
The United Nations “Education, Science and Culture” Organization (UNESCO) suggests that the place where the greatest home ever built by the Jewish people, has no real connection to the foundations of our religion.
The world seems crazy – craziest of all perhaps, is the election in the United States with candidates that should shock and embarrass every American. And here in Israel, we are an island of quiet and peace. Yes, really. What you hear may sound like we live in a country plagued by violence and yet that is so far from the truth.
Daily, we walk where we want, do what we want. We don’t live in fear of terrorism – the ultimate victory. More often than not, when a terrorist reaches out to kill, he’s shot down by a soldier or an armed and trained civilian within seconds, certainly minutes. Our sons and daughters are on alert everywhere and yes, it’s a crummy way to live, but it is life and it enables us to trust.
We build our Sukkot, decorate them with lights and posters and shimmering objects. As I do every year, I will hang four small bags from the ceiling – salt, honey, flour and oil. This I learned from my mother-in-law – the basics of food – trust that God will provide.
These are the essential ingredients to the challah I bake each week, the dough rising on my table right now – the simple things in life.
Tonight, so much of Israel will light candles and then eat (and even sleep) in the Sukkah. In my neighborhood, it is hard to find a house or apartment without one (some even have more than one). In a world that is upside down – we will trust and leave our homes and put ourselves out there because that is the lesson we have learned.
To have faith that God will protect us – from the rain, from the cold, from the Iranians, even, if need be, from the next president of the United States.
It is an amazing feeling to be able to reach out and show that in the place where much of the world thinks we live in violence, we truly feel safe and filled with the joys of this holiday. In a world gone crazy, Israel is our anchor, God our greatest salvation.
May the holiday come in joy and be the truest of celebrations but more, may its message of trust and love be heard around the world. The very walls of our home, of our gates and walls are nothing when the Protector of Israel watches over us.
Some other Sukkot posts I’ve made: