Rabbi Woodward's Divrei Torah

Divrei Torah

Thoughts on Sukkot

Saturday night, pulling into our darkened driveway on the way back from our break-the-fast meal, Tamar got spooked. Something in the dark, or some shadow passing by, made her exclaim, "I'm scared." Ayelet immediately comforted her: "Don't be scared, Tamar," she said. "None of the scary things are real. Bad things aren't real."
What Ayelet meant by this was, goblins and ghosts, specters and witches, the scary things in her imaginary world, aren't real. But as an adult, I knew full well that there are scary things which are very much real. They might not be ghosts or goblins, but there are real scary things out there.
I find myself frightened after the news from Las Vegas. There is important room for an active response, but I also think it's worth acknowledging the emotional fact that there are scary things and scary people in our world.
And this is what I'm carrying with me as we go into Sukkot. Sukkot is supposed to be the holiday of "zman simchateinu," the time of our rejoicing, and it is, certainly, a holiday of a fun and celebration. But it's also a holiday where we think about our human fragility and vulnerability. It's a holiday where we look at the world and recognize that we are vulnerable.
Looking at the devastation in Puerto Rico, I'm connected even more to a sense of human fragility. As we build our sukkot, we think of those who do not have a house.
One way to approach this fragility is to work on our own loving and kind behavior. On Wed., Oct. 18 at 7 p.m., Rabbi Dayle Friedman will visit our synagogue to teach about living lives of Hesed. She'll teach on, "Envisioning Caring Community: Our Texts Speak." One of the ways we must respond to violence in our society is by building caring communities in our synagogue, which I spoke about on Rosh Hashanah.
Sukkot begins Wednesday evening, with its first days of Yom Tov on Thursdayand Friday. We'll gather Thursday and Friday mornings at 9:30 a.m. to shake the lulav, and we'll dwell in our Sukkah all week, until the holiday ends next Wednesday evening and Shmini Atzeret begins. Dwelling in the sukkah and shaking the lulav are prayers in the form of deeds: mitzvot. They're ways that we pray for a redeemed and peaceful world.
So I return here with a blessing for Sukkot: that in a week where we have felt heartbreak, may we also feel joy. The weather of this week looks beautiful. Enjoy it. Go, eat your bread in joy and drink your wine in mirth, and then go into your internal Sukkah, and think about ways that you can help.
With blessings for a joyous Sukkot,
Rabbi Woodward