Rabbi’s Corner: Sukkot: A Time for Radical Hospitality

(Photo: Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel)

Autumn is my favorite time of year when I am back East. It’s different living here in Southern California. It still feels like summer now as we approach October. I have memories of taking walks in the crisp woods, with gorgeous orange, yellow and red leaves, loving the way the air smells and feels. The sun seemed to make the beautiful fall colors glow with extra radiant warmth and beauty. The abundance of nature and the fall harvest always made me think of Sukkot.

There is a lovely custom called Ushpizin (literally, “hospitality”) which developed around the holiday of Sukkot. During Sukkot, we are supposed to invite mystical guests into our Sukkah (specifically Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David). They are supposed to join us when we eat all of our meals. All these biblical figures knew what it meant to be homeless at one point in their lives. They were all refugees at some point in time. When we invite these mystical guests into our Sukkah, it serves as a reminder that we should open our homes and offer hospitality to all who are new to our community (a different type of “refugee”), to all who are alone, to all who are in need.

When we build our Sukkot, we build them open to the elements, with an open roof. This is not only to remind us of God’s presence and the fragility of life, but to remind us that the Sukkah is symbolic of our own homes. While our homes might be temporary, fragile structures, it is what happens INSIDE that can make a difference. If we open our homes to others, we will feel warm from the companionship and friendship of sharing, no matter what the weather outside. That companionship and friendship is what will sustain us and nurture us at all times.

The Sukkah we build at Temple Beth Sholom is a metaphor for our communal home. It is open on top and open to the elements to remind us that we must be a warm and welcoming community – open to all, no matter from which direction someone approaches.

This year, TBS is offering “Seven Nights of Sukkot – Shake Your Lulav!” We are offering seven different opportunities every single night of Sukkot to gather in our TBS Sukkah this year, to strive to reach our full potential as a caring kehilah kedoshah, a sacred, hospitable community. We’re modeling living out our core values to our fullest ability – reaching out to others, opening our doors, our communal home and offering our best hospitality with open hands and open hearts.

Please join us this Sunday at 4 PM for an intergenerational Erev Sukkot program (Sukkah decorating for young families, harvest cooking with Lynn Kontur, or a Sukkot text study with Rabbi Sobel). Then we’ll gather together at 5 PM for “Pizza in the Hut” followed by an informal Erev Sukkot Service.

Register Here (Jill please add registration link for the program and dinner).

 Please add the flyers for Sunday and for the 7 nights of Sukkot and the Shabbat information.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sukkot Sameach!

Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom

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