These past few weeks, and the next to come, are some of the most joyful and inspiring weeks of the Jewish year. During this time in particular, we celebrate what it means to be Jewish by surrounding ourselves with friends and loved ones, creating space dedicated to reflection, self-improvement and tikkun olam (repairing the world). The ebb and flow of “Jewish time” offers us an almost uncanny blueprint for how to elevate our lives. It reminds us at just the right moment during the year of our obligation to protect the environment (Tu B’shvat), that we need to see the “stranger” as a fellow human being (Passover), that we have a great deal to celebrate as Jews, (Rosh Hashanah, Chanukkah & Simchat Torah) and that we must be humble, forgiving and open to change (Yom Kippur).
The holiday of Sukkot, which begins this Sunday, sees many families construct three-sided “booths” with roofs made of palm leaves (shchach), eating meals in their sukkah and spending as much time together, and outside, as possible. Sukkot reminds us not only of the Israelites’ shelters in the desert, but also that our doors should be open and welcoming. Sukkot is a time of joy and celebration of the goodness in our lives!
During this time of year, I can’t help but be reminded of camp: those fleeting days of summer where everything seems clearer, more real, more intense and filled with peace, joy and belonging. Camp is a perfect reflection of all the goodness of the High Holy Days. The most poignant example of this comes on Shabbat at camp.
On Friday nights, we sing Hashkiveinu together as a community. This song is asking G-d to spread a shelter of peace over us, to protect us and make us whole. This summer we started a tradition where counselors hold tallitot (prayer shawls) like canopies over our campers … creating a sukkat shalom, a dwelling of peace. Camp is a haven, a safe place for everyone that enters. Camp is a sukkat shalom!
If you’ve never experienced Sukkot before, consider eating a meal outside together as a family. Talk around the dinner table about where you can create and strengthen the sukkot shalom in your life – in your home, at school, in the work place or simply between you and another person. No matter how you celebrate Sukkot, we hope you continue working towards creating shelters of peace wherever you go and with whomever you meet.