Today is November 17, 2019 -
Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Day of Judgment, Yom HaDin, was quickly followed by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We have had a busy couple of weeks–long days in synagogue with introspective reflection and prayer, cooking or fasting, chest pounding, and soul searching. The good news is, if you are reading this, you have survived the ordeal. Now it is time to rejoice.
Starting tonight we continue the holiday season with Sukkot, z’man simchateinu, the time of our rejoicing. We eat our meals outdoors in the sukkah with family and friends. There is a much lighter mood in the synagogue, as we march around the sanctuary waiving our four species. Youth groups around the world participate in “sukkah hops,” where the kids eat a progressive meal, having each course in a different neighborhood sukkah. Many people have scheduled “open sukkah” parties for this Sunday and Monday. (Monday is a bonus this year because Columbus Day falls during Sukkot.)
Statistically speaking, Sukkot does not get as much attention as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover or Chanukah. I think that this is unfortunate. The holiday is Biblical in origin, reminds us of both our ancestors’ journeys and our own agricultural productivity, centers on our family and friends, and is the time of our rejoicing.
As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explains, “Sukkot decodes for us the secret of joy. Joy does not come from great buildings of brick or stone . . . Joy comes from a roof open to Heaven, a door open to guests, and a heart open to thanksgiving.”