The Meaning of Sukkot by Rabbi Stacy Eskovitz Rigler
As a Jewish educator, rabbi and mom, I spend a lot of time teaching about Jewish holidays. My favorite lessons are shared in our third grade class. This is the year the students study the holidays as a unit. In the fall they declare – "but we already know about the holidays". "Of course you do", is the reply from our amazing third grade teachers, but do you know why we celebrate holidays in the first place? What do they have in common?
Our holidays are times to gather together with those we are close to in order to remind us to act, in order to help us remember our sacred purpose. We fast on Yom Kippur to remember there are those that are hungry. Four days later we eat our meals in a Sukkah to remind us that our homes could be temporary, our shelters are fragile.
This year the news seems to remind us almost daily of the fragility of life. As I erect my Sukkah and explain to my neighbors the purpose of a temporary dwelling, I see images of those who have lost their homes to incredible forces of nature. As I think about the mitzvah of welcoming guests into my Sukkah for our time of rejoicing, I think of those unable to rejoice because of recent loss and devastation such as occurred in Las Vegas. We ask God to spread a shelter of Peace over us as we know that many are not as blessed as we are.
This year for me, the holidays felt different. Others have told me something similar. I did not need the shofar to arouse me from slumber, I did not need the day of fasting to remember those who were suffering, and I do not need the Sukkah to remind me of the temporary nature of my dwelling. But I do need each of these holidays to urge me to do more.
This is the same message shared by many of our leaders. I would like to share with you some URJ Resources offered by the Reform Movement including ways to speak out on gun violence prevention
As we begin Sukkot this evening. I offer you this prayer, and I hope it spurs you to action.
Based on a Prayer by Rabbi Naomi Levy
Our hearts are breaking, God,
As our nation buries our fellow citizens who went out only to hear music.
The loss is overwhelming.
Send comfort and strength, God, to grieving relatives,
To siblings, family and friends in this time of shock and mourning.
Shield them from despair.
Send healing to those who witnessed the horror.
Ease their pain, God,
Let their fears give way to hope.
Let their cries give way once more to laughter.
Bless us, God,
Work through us.
Turn our helplessness into action.
Teach us to believe that we can rise up from this tragedy
With a renewed faith in the goodness of our society.
Shield us from indifference
And from our tendency to forget.
Open our hearts, open our hands.
Innocent blood is calling out to us to act.
Remind us that we must commit ourselves to prevent further bloodshed
With all our hearts and souls.
Teach us perseverance and dedication.
Let us rise up as one in a time of soul-searching and repair
So that all citizens may go to a concert in peace, God,
Let them be safe.
God of the brokenhearted,
God of the living, God of the dead,
Gather the souls of the victims
Into Your eternal shelter.
Let them find peace in Your presence, God.
Their lives have ended
But their lights can never be extinguished.
May they shine on us always
And illuminate our way.