‘Thus said G-d: ‘I recall…the kindness of your youth, the love of your nuptials, your following Me into the Wilderness, into an unsown land. Israel is holy to G-d…’ (Jeremiah: 2, 2-3)
Tishrei – the Ladder Up
The month of Tishrei is filled with holidays, and each provides a gateway to a unique spiritual potential. As we progress through the month, we are also moving step by step up the ladder of rebirth, renewal and redemption.
The month begins with Rosh Hashana, when we choose G-d as our King. Through this act of choosing, we bring an entirely new level of divine energy into the world and take another giant step toward our common destiny.
Then comes Yom Kippur. where we are given the opportunity to choose ourselves. In admitting and regretting our shortcomings, we wipe away the failures of the past and make way for a new, more purposeful and authentic future – one that is a truer expression of who we really are.
Yom Kippur frees us to connect with our essence. Through acknowledging that our all-too-human struggles have stood in the way of our larger potential, we automatically reconnect with that potential. We create a clear uncluttered space that allows us to live into a future unencumbered by the failures, regrets and the drama of the past.
And now we are ready for Sukkos
The Power of the Sukkah
A couple of months ago I took a tour of a historic manor, beautifully situated in the middle of a vast estate. As I looked admiringly at the gilt furniture, the stately, gracious proportions, the sheer luxury of it all, it occurred to me that the owner of the house was no longer enjoying it. She had passed on years before, and all that was left of her life of luxury was empty rooms.
The sukkah is not luxurious. Its walls are flimsy. Its roof is made from leaves and branches that do nothing to keep out the rain or snow. But the sukkah is never empty. It is a space of profound and personal union with the Creator.
The sukkah turns things around. It tells us that true security does not come from walls of brick and stone, from our job, our status or our bank account. True security – that which lasts forever – comes from beyond the walls and above the roof. In the sukkah we can have a tangible taste of that security. Inside the Sukkah, we are being embraced by G-d.
Love in the Wilderness
When the Jews left Egypt, they were not on a high spiritual level. Beaten down by centuries of suffering and slavery, they had fallen low. Nevertheless, from that lowly place, they chose to follow G-d unconditionally into the wilderness. This act of trust and devotion was infinitely precious to G-d. It came from deep inside each and every Jew, from beyond his external, limited nature. In return, G-d nurtured and protected the Jews in a way that was beyond nature as well.
When you sit in the Sukkah, you sit in that magical space of the wilderness – the place where everything is nothing, nothing is everything and all that exists is you and your Creator. Inside the insubstantial walls of the Sukkah, if you tune in, you can start to perceive the infinite space outside the finite lines, the quiet stillness within the constantly moving whirlwind of time and space.
As G-d embraced us once in the desert, He embraces us now in the Sukkah. This time of deep intimacy is called zman simchaseinu – the time of our joy. During Sukkos, the innate, infinite pleasure that the soul experiences in its oneness with G-d, normally covered over by the challenges and illusions of the physical world, permeates us in a tangible way. It nourishes us, sustains us, prepares us to carry out our mission to the fullest extent in the coming year, to move back into the world of ‘doing’ while remembering who we really are.
**Since the Torah forbids the erasing of G-d’s name, it’s customary to avoid writing it out in full