Wednesday, September 18, 2013

To Everything There Is a Season

Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot
17 Tishrei 5774 / Sept. 20-21, 2013

There are moments in our lives when we have to recognize that no matter how stable we think our structures (both literal and figurative) are, inevitably, they are but dust in the wind.  Fortunately, the Jewish calendar provides us with that opportunity in the form of the holiday of Sukkot, as we commemorate the temporary dwellings of the Israelites while they wandered in the desert for 40 years by constructing our own temporary dwelling huts.  We’re told to take our meals in these huts, to spend our down time in them, and even to sleep in them, in order to commemorate, and to reconnect with the fragility of life.  We also traditionally read the Book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) this Shabbat, which opens with a commentary about how “all is vanity,” and where we also find the famous words of “to everything there is a season…” (eventually hijacked and made popular by The Byrds), which at first glance, has the book come across as incredibly depressing.

For many, humankind’s fragility and mortality are a source of fear.  And yet, for the Jewish people, they are meant to be a source of joy.  Sukkot is referred to traditionally as “zman simchateinu” – “the season of our joy.”

How do we reconcile our fragility and the temporary nature of our lives with joy?

One potential response might be that it helps remind us of how blessed we are to have stability the rest of the year. 

Another might be that connecting with nature and having the opportunity to look up at the stars and feel the power of the world (perhaps phrasing it as, “the simple things”), is inherently a cause for joy.

For me, Sukkot is joyous because knowing that our time is finite is inherently a source of joy, as it allows us to dedicate the limited time we have to living lives of purpose, love and meaning.

This Shabbat, reflect on those activities that bring joy into your life, and how you can make sure to partake in them during the Sukkot holiday.  Acknowledge your ability to help bring joy to others, and strive to do that as well.  Recognize that while our living days are finite, the impact we’re able to have, and the joy we can spread in the world, can transcend time.  

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