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Nature and Humility

for Sukkot 2023

Image of the author rabbi Akiva Weingarten

As the leaves begin to change colors and the air carries a hint of autumn's arrival, we find ourselves on the edge of one of the most vibrant and meaningful Jewish holidays, Sukkot.

Sukkot is a celebration of nature and humility. During this week-long festival, we are commanded to dwell in temporary booths or sukkot, which are reminiscent of the huts our ancestors lived in during their journey through the desert. These simple structures remind us of the impermanence of material possessions and the importance of gratitude for the blessings we have.

In our busy lives, it's easy to forget the beauty and simplicity that nature offers. Sukkot provides us with a unique opportunity to connect with the natural world. When we sit in the sukkah, beneath its roof of branches and open to the sky, we are reminded of our interconnectedness with the environment. The fragility of the sukkah teaches us to appreciate the fragile balance of nature and to be stewards of the earth.

Another central theme of Sukkot is unity. It's a time when family and friends gather to share meals, celebrate, and, most importantly, welcome guests into our sukkah. The sukkah is meant to be open to all, symbolizing the idea of hospitality and inclusivity. In our liberal community, these values resonate deeply with our commitment to diversity and acceptance.

This year, let us extend the walls of our sukkah to embrace those who may be feeling alone or marginalized. By doing so, we not only fulfill the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests) but also strengthen the bonds of our community.

Sukkot is also known as Chag HaAsif, the Festival of the Harvest. It marks the conclusion of the agricultural year in the land of Israel. In ancient times, it was a time of great rejoicing when people brought their first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, we express gratitude for the harvest through rituals like waving the lulav and etrog and reciting blessings.

In our modern lives, we may not be directly involved in farming, but Sukkot reminds us to be thankful for the food on our tables and to consider those who are less fortunate. As a community, we can take this opportunity to engage in acts of tzedakah and to support initiatives that combat food insecurity.

Sukkot is a multifaceted holiday that encourages us to connect with nature, embrace unity, and express gratitude. It's a time when we can reaffirm our commitment to our liberal values of inclusivity and social justice. As we gather in our sukkot to celebrate, let us also reflect on how we can make a positive impact on the world around us.

May this Sukkot be a time of joy, reflection, and renewal for our community, and may we continue to grow and flourish together.

Chag Sameach!

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