How to Make Sukkot the “Season of our Joy”
Sukkah in Jerusalem. Photo Gilabrand. CC-Wikipedia
Sukkot Thoughts 5775
Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Please find here the link to our annual assif rukhani-(spiritual harvest) and to our new ushpizin posters (PDF). Traditionally, we invite seven male guests from the Jewish tradition into our sukkah. Today, many are more creative, even inviting women guests. Our ushpizin are those who experience all year round what we experience living the seven days of Sukkot in the fragile sukkah.
I can hear some of you now, “But when we were struggling with the RHR vidui (Yom Kippur confession), you promised us that in Sukkot, zman simkhateinu (season of our joy) things would balance out. Now you are sending us something else depressing, and asking us to hang it in our sukkah?”
Firstly, take a look at our “assif rukhani.” We really do have a lot to be proud of as Israelis, and RHR had quite a few accomplishments this year. With all of the challenges to our democracy, it remains strong and lively inside the Green Line. In our hearts, most of us Israelis want peace and value human rights. Even if the reality is a often quite different, we truly aspire to be a good and moral society. We have a High Court that is willing to stand tall against pressure…See the whole list.
But, what about those ushpizin? The truth is, one of the reasons we have delayed posting the ushpizin is that we were discussing this very question. Should we be reminding ourselves of those in need of God’s sukkat shalom (God’s sheltering sukkah of peace) during zman simkhateinu? Here are my answers:
Firstly, our sages decided that we should read Ecclesiastes on the Shabbat of Sukkot precisely to balance out our joy, and this is also one of the reasons we dwell in the fragile sukkah. The self satisfied farmer who had just brought in his harvest in ancient times needed to be reminded that the blessings he enjoyed were dependent on God’s sheltering presence. We also temper our joy by removing drops of wine from our cup at the Passover seder, and break a glass at a wedding. When people ask me why we need to remember Jerusalem at a wedding, when we have already returned to Jerusalem, I remind them that there is the “Earthly Jerusalem” and the “Heavenly Jerusalem,” representing the ideal world we and God aspire to. The job of every couple, even at the peak of their joy, is to remember that, in a not yet ideal world, in which the gap between “Earthly Jerusalem” and “Heavenly Jerusalem” is still great, the home they will build together must contribute to the repair and healing of our world.
But, there is something else as well. Yes, our sages were worried that we not rejoice too much. However, for many of us it is difficult to rejoice when our world is in the state it is in. We add to our joy and are inspired by the possibility of connecting between our joy and our task in this world. The sukkah becomes more meaningful when we reflect on the spiritual message of the sukkah, and our role in emulating God’s example by providing shelter and protection. We see it as a great privilege to be able to do this, and our faith is that we can bring closer a world in which God’s sukkah (shelter) of peace is spread over the entire world and all humanity.
Khag Sameakh – For a Truly Joyous Sukkot,
Link to view and download Ushpizin posters
Link to read and download assif