"And you shall rejoice in your festival"
This will necessarily be a brief newsletter. The fact is we are simply way too busy with preparations for Sukkot, (beginning Wednesday evening). The four days which separate Yom Kippur from Sukkot enjoy their own unique status. Sweet and sublime. they are different from any other day of the year. Following the intense drama of Rosh HaShana, in which we declare unequivocally G-d's kinship and sovereignty over all creation, and the supreme exertion of Yom Kippur, in which we transcend our own imperfections and return to the person G-d intended us to be, the four days leading up to Sukkot are filled with a lightness of spirit and a unity of purpose. Unencumbered by the heaviness of sin, (for we have just wiped our souls clean), and unburdened by the distraction of yesterday's temptations, (for we are essentially brand new beings), we can devote ourselves wholly to the many commandments which must be performed simply in order to complete the preparations for the Sukkot festival.
Essentially, we are, during these days, for all practical purposes, too busy doing the right things to be able to do the wrong things. What a beautiful way to begin our new post-Yom Kippur lives. And the sweet reward for all of our intensive efforts will be to dwell seven days in our sukkot, those very temporary and transitory booths of wood and fabric and palm fronds and leafy boughs that we are currently building. To sit, to eat, to sleep, to spend time and share meals with guests, to sing, to dance, to make blessings in our sukkot: how perfect these seven days are! But in truth, our seven day odyssey within our sukkah is not the reward for all our efforts of recent days and weeks. Dwelling in the sukkah is the result of these efforts. In other words, for all its temporariness and fragility, Sukkot is the ways our lives should always be, could always be, if we could but spend each day of the year adhering to G-d's word, as we do these four days of preparation. In our ordinary, un-rarefied world, the four thick walls and solid roof which protect us from the heat and the cold and buffer us from the rain and the wind, also serve to isolate us from G-d and insulate us from the Divine beauty which permeates His world. The porous walls of our sukkah and the permeable expanse of its thatched roof allows us to see and bask in the light that G-d shines upon us. By the same token the transgressions and digressions and indiscretions that we succumb to during the days of our year create walls and isolate ourselves from our fellow man and from G-d. The more we can stay clear of these pitfalls and instead dedicate ourselves to discovering and pursuing G-d's intentions for each of us, the sooner the walls and divisions between ourselves and ourselves, between ourselves and others, between ourselves and G-d, will become increasingly thinner and less and less imposing. In truth, our sukkot are only as temporary as our ability to maintain for ourselves our current heightened awareness and nearness to G-d. Ultimately, it is not the wind, (ruach) or the rain (geshem) that will overcome our sukkot, but our own shortness of spirt (ruach) and submission to our material (gashmi) limitations that will cause our sukkot to fall.
But Torah well knows our human frailty and limitations, and the festival of Sukkot obligates us only to seven days in the sukkah, and no more. In fact, Torah forbids us from being in our sukkah after the conclusion of the seventh day. But coming when it does, following the spiritual renewal and return of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, Sukkot reveals to us how good life can be and what we can strive for as we begin our new year. Now please excuse us. We must return to our holiday preparations. This is the joy of Sukkot!
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven immerse themselves in the special joy of Sukkot, our very own shelter from the storm. With the conclusion of Yom Kippur and the sealing of judgement, the joy of Tishrei increases as G-d calls upon His people Israel to enter into the sukkah to spend some intimate time with Him. There in the Sukkah, enveloped in the Divine surrounding light, we will begin to format ourselves for the coming year, aided by the numerous beautiful commandments that we fulfill during this unique week. Join us for a special TEMPLE TALK that focuses on the rich and colorful pattern of Tishrei which literally beckons us to be all we can be. Yitzchak Reuven and Rabbi Richman ponder the secrets of the Sukkah and the four species, and put the whole cycle of Divine time into practical perspective.