Rabbi’s Corner: Seasons of Our Joy

(Photo of Michael Sumague and Steffanie Belassco by Lori Griffin; Photo of Noah Waldman and Rabbi Sobel by Cathy Waldman)

“Wow!” “It’s so beautiful!” “Look, I want to go inside!” “I have to stop and look at everything!”

These are some of the comments of our ECC students, parents, TBS members and visitors to TBS this week as they enter and walk by our beautiful Sukkah (expertly constructed by Fabian and Octavio) and lovingly decorated by many of you this past Sunday at our Intergenerational Sukkot event.

Sukkot is called “Z’man Simchateinu – The Season of our Joy.” It begins four days after the introspective holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In biblical times, Sukkot celebrated the end of the harvest. The festival was marked with great rejoicing, pilgrimage to Jerusalem and communal gathering. It was the one time of year that no work needed to be done on the farm and everyone could truly relax and express gratitude for the abundance they received. “After the ingathering from your threshing floor and your vat, you shall hold the Feast of Booths for seven days. You shall rejoice your festival…you shall have nothing but joy.” (Deut 16: 13-15).

The Sukkah enables us to experience the full joy of God’s beautiful earth around us when we eat inside, look up and see the full harvest moon and stars through the branches. We invite others to join us as we celebrate and express our thanksgiving together.

That joy has been evident all week as we’re celebrating Seven Nights of Sukkot in our TBS sukkah – the smiles, sheer joy and gratitude are contagious. I hope you’ll join us tonight for Shabbat in the Sukkah or tomorrow for our penultimate “Get Your Sukkah On” event.

We’ll culminate our “Z’man Simchateinu-Season of Our Joy” with the ultimate festival of rejoicing: Simchat Torah, this Sunday evening, October 16th (flag decorating for young children beginning at 6 PM, Simchat Torah service at 6:30 PM). We’ll dance with the sifrei Torah, the Torah scrolls, as we complete the cycle of reading the Torah and begin anew. We’re fortunate to have a lively band to help elevate our joy and encourage us to dance, dance, dance! The festive music of Bill Shafton, Paul Zuill, Michael Sumague and Jack Holmes will have you tapping your feet and up out of your seat. Experience the awe of observing the entire Torah unrolled end-to-end as we read from the end of D’varim (Deuteronomy) and the very beginning of B’reishit (Genesis). We’ll also welcome our newest students to their Jewish education experience with our ceremony of Consecration.

As we’ll pray:

“TODAY WE COMPLETE and begin the reading of the Torah.  We rejoice in the truth Torah brings to our people.  Its teachings are eternal and inexhaustible; they are life-giving and life-renewing.  Today we give thanks for the precious gift of Torah.  We love it for the depth of its humanity and revere it for its mysterious power.  May our study of Torah enrich our lives and bring gladness to our people.” (Mishkan T’filah: A Reform Siddur: Complete: Shabbat, Weekdays, and Festivals (p. 413). CCAR Press.)

Wishing you Mo’adim l’simcha – seasons of joy, Shabbat Shalom and Chag sameach!

Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom

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