Just a little thought to share on the eve of Sukkot. This holiday is also known as “Z’man Simchateinu”, “the Time of our Rejoicing”. It developed out of the ancient harvest festivals, and came to symbolize all that is right with the world. This is when we acknowledge the blessings of Hashem, and the abundance of provision that he gives each year.
During the exodus from slavery, this festival took on new significance. It came to identify the power of Adonai as overseer and protector of his people. This was the watershed moment, when the Almighty reached down and made evident to all the world that he had a special relationship with the Hebrews. During the rescue and the subsequent wilderness wanderings, Sukkot became associated with Hashem’s gathering of his people–a harvest of the first fruits of humanity, if you will.
As we celebrate Sukkot today, we add together all these layers of significance. We wave the Four Species, woven together into the lulav with the etrog, to symbolize the blessing of the Land. We live in booths to symbolize both the harvest time, when workers lived in the fields, and also the time of wandering in the wilderness. We recall the entire process of redemption, covenant-making, guidance, and protection. This, of course, leads us to thoughts that incorporate imagery of parent-child relationships and of King-Subject relationships.
But we don’t focus now on the judgmental or disciplinarian aspects of those relationships. No, this is the “Time of Our Rejoicing”! This is the time for remembering all that is right and good. This is the time we recall the blessings of Hashem, and this is the time we look forward to a coming year filled with more abundance. We look to our Father for rain and produce. We seek the face of our King–now that the repentance of Yom Kippur has been accomplished, we come to him without fear, walking boldly into his Presence.
The purpose of all the festivals and holy days is to re-enact–not merely recall, but re-live–the time when Hashem reached down in an undeniable act of power and led his firstborn, Israel, by the hand. This was a time when Adonai forged a unique bond with an entire nation, declaring the people of Israel to be his own–his children, his subjects, his disciples… his friends.
As we wave the Four Species in all directions, we testify to the world that there is no place where his Presence does not dwell. He is over all, through all, and in all. No matter where we go, or how far, he is always there. Our Protector, our Father, our Guide, our King. Someday, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that…
“Hashem is God, and there is no other.”
“He has declared in righteousness that every knee shall bow before his majesty, and every tongue shall swear an oath of loyalty. All humanity will say, ‘Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength.’
“To Him all men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him.
“In the LORD all the descendants of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.”
(adapted from Yeshayahu/Isaiah 45:22-25)
May we all celebrate this Sukkot with reckless abandon, reveling in the fact that our Father loves us, provides for us, and will someday regather us from the four corners of the planet to celebrate together in his very home in Jerusalem.