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Shabbat Sukkot October 9, 2020/5751


How To Celebrate Sukkot - Sukkot & Simchat Torah

Look up!

So there we were, wandering in the desert, heading towards a new place, we assumed it was geographical, and indeed it was but God was ordering for us a more expansive destination, one that had both elements of life entwined, the physical with the spiritual.. Yes, we were heading for the Land of Israel, the land of milk and honey, but more, we were heading for a new way to understand how to live our lives in a deeper and more expanded world sense.

And so you see this Sukkah, it is calling to you to do the same.

Egypt was a culture and economy based on the bounty that came to them every year from the Nile. They used technology of pumps and canals, and they worked endless slaves to insure this bounty. And they wholeheartedly believed that they could always count on it, like clockwork. They built pyramids and great store houses, temples and monuments. It’s not unlike the world that we have built today, we’ve got our systems and we believe that they are perfect enough for the long haul.

This absolute faith in a man-made world, leads to believing that all one needs is the world one sees. And ultimately that belief builds a wall of illusion around a life, that crumbles easily under the weight of truth.

The Israelites journey through history and the desert was a call to arrive to a different kind of land, one that would teach them different kinds of lessons. And though it may be wrapped up in the words of a physical nature, it is in fact, spiritual in its essence.

The Torah says,

The land you are about to enter and possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come. There you sowed your seed and watered it with your foot, like a vegetable garden. But the land you are about to cross into and possess, a land of hills and valleys, soaks up its water from the rain of heaven. It is a land which Adonai your God watches over; God’s eyes are constantly upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end. [Deuteronomy 11: 10 – 12]

Its just like the sukkah which is unlike the buildings we live in and aspire to live in. No the Sukkah is weak and weathered, and yet, its message is intended to convey, that it is a different kind of home. A home that comes to teach us a different kind of lesson. Just as Israel is a different kind of land.

The lesson is to find on the horizon of our hearts a new way to live, a new way to be in the world, a way guided by God, a higher purpose then just our own personal benefit.

When we live for ourselves alone, we lose sight of what is above us, or deep within us or all around us. This world belongs to God not to us.

In Egypt the culture saw itself as the pinnacle of civilization, but they weren’t, just as we aren’t. There is something much grander orchestrating this dance, this human dance. Of which we are a part.

In this biblical picture of Egypt, people didn’t seek a relationship with God, the actual giver of rain, the actual giver of life itself, and so the lesson to our ancestors and to us is to look up and KNOW that our real security comes from relationships: relationships with the land, relationships with our neighbors, relationships with each other and so important, relationships with God.

In our modern society we have grown very good at the Egypt strategy.

With our technology we have grown used to feeling invulnerable, while our tender senses have been diminished and shamed into quiet. Power in our world is seen as force and aggression, while the true strength of the human race resides in vulnerability and love.

Covid has opened our eyes and hopefully our souls. Our modern, material wealth, our technology and power has not kept us safe. We are feeling exposed, shaken and insecure. For so many, living in fear and anxiety is the new normal. What do you do when the predictability of life is ripped out from under you? Well, the sukkah would say, sit a spell and look up. Take a different kind of look at life.

So what can we learn from this Covid plague?

Let the Sukkah remind you that all of your possessions are not yours because of your human brilliance, (though brilliant you may be), they are yours because God ordained this life for you….. but know that God is not Santa Claus, if you have, you are expected to give.

We are learning what it means to be deeply connected. Even as we separate into our little shelter-in-place quarantines, this invisible virus is showing us the deeply connected world that we inhabit, and the responsibility that our connectedness brings. It is teaching us not to be passive with life. Reach out, make connections, help somebody up, and you will in turn, rise yourself.

We tend to overlook the fact that our small actions can have huge consequences. But now that we know that every touch, every sneeze, every breath, (wear a mask) could activate a chain of infection, a viral explosion of disease— we also have to face the beautiful fact that every kindness, every word of encouragement, every deep look into someone’s eyes from a Zoom room, every sweet note, every thank you, every donation to a good cause, every song sung with hope, every outreach hand wrapped in love rather than judgment, is also an explosion of goodness and a healing into our world. We are not helpless here.

Take this sukkah spiritually into your own home, realize the frailty of life and find within that truth a freedom, a freedom to know what matters in life, from where the rain falls and from whom we owe our deepest gratitude for life, life on God’s terms, for ultimately, they are the only terms that matter.


Shabbat shalom and Hag Sameach!


Rabbi Julie Kozlow


Tue, October 19 2021 13 Cheshvan 5782