I am often asked: “Rabbi, what is your favorite Jewish holiday?” To which I answer: The one I am celebrating, or looking forward to celebrating, at that moment! And, I am not trying to be cute. Every holiday in our yearly cycle has its own special rites and rituals, its own form and function. And, the more engaged I become with whichever holiday of that moment might be, the more embraced I feel by what it offers and what it is asking of me as well.
Take SUKKOT as but one example (which also happens to be, after this SHABBAT, the next one on the list).
There is so much to the manner in which this Festival is observed. Dwelling in a SUKKAH, waving a LULAV and ETROG, and chanting HALLEL, are just a few of the rituals which are part and parcel of our observance. And, all of these MITZVOT contribute to a heightened sense of joy. However, even as such joy … feeling good about life … is very much a part of the Festival, as the deed becomes expressive of the creed it is trying to reflect, the holiday becomes even more. As the days of SUKKOT unfold, they provide a means to satisfy our deep-seated (instinctual?!) need to say: “Thank You” … to show our gratitude for, and to give voice to our desire to recognize, the goodness and fullness of the earth and all that it contains.
“Thank You” are two of the hardest words, in any language, to say with a full heart. Oh, we are quick to say “Thank You” when someone does something nice for us. However, how often do we take a step back, look around, and, no matter what life has thrown our way, see how lucky we are for life and love, for home and hearth, and for the opportunities we have been bequeathed to find goodness in and around everything that is?
It has been said that it is easy to, and often that we do, see whatever it is we might be looking for. SUKKOT enables us to pause, look out at the world and see the goodness that is there … and, the goodness, because of our gratefulness, that can be seen in each and every one of us as well. Makes one feel pretty good, doesn’t it?!
Especially after all of the “heady” and heavy emotional and spiritual lifting of the YAMIM NORA’IM (High Holydays), the physicality of SUKKOT can be especially inspiring … it is something that has a much more easily measurable result. Have we confessed our sins? How can we tell? Have we paused to give thanks? Let us take a look at what we have actually done!
My favorite holiday may be the one I am celebrating, or looking forward to celebrating, at that moment. However, if not for the spirit of SUKKOT (the theme of thanksgiving) I wonder if the others would be at all!
HAG SAME’ACH … a happy and healthy SUKKOT.