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Friday, September 24, 2010

Shabbat and Sukkot

This is a reworking of a commentary posted last year. I apologize for not providing a new commentary, but such is my life these days.  May you all have a joyous Shabbat and Sukkot.
Though this evening is Shabbat, it also the middle of the festival of Sukkot. As one of the three pilgrimage festivals (along with Pesakh/Passover and Shavuot) it is one of the three times per year when our ancestors would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This pilgrimage was to give thanks to God for the fall harvest and to pray that the coming months would bring adequate rain for next year’s crops. The day after Sukkot ends, on the festival of Shemini Atzeret (which some view as the last day of Sukkot) the Jewish people around the world begin to insert the prayer for rain in our daily liturgy.

On the Shabbat of Sukkot, it is also customary to read from the biblical book of Kohelet/Ecclesiastes during Sukkot. This biblical book begins with the well known “Futility, futility, all is futility…” The author (traditionally believed to be King Solomon, though it was written long after he died) paints a somewhat pessimistic and even cynical portrait of a life where nothing can be certain and nothing is permanent. The author questions the meaning of life and existence, constantly claiming that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Everything that happens has already happened, no matter what we do it ultimately makes no difference. The world simply continues on as it always has and we are only here for a fleeting moment. However, the text also reminds us that, indeed, there is a “time to every purpose under heaven.” Each moment does ultimately have a meaning and a purpose – even if we do not know just then, what it is.

The sukkah, or temporary dwelling place, which we are commanded in the Torah to build and dwell in for this festival, represents the impermanence of existence and the need to rejoice in what exists in this moment. In many ways the Book of Kohelet/Ecclesiastes puts into words  the deep meaning of the sukkah.

Sukkot is traditionally called zman simchateinu/the time of our rejoicing. It was considered the holiday par excellence by our ancestors. On Sukkot the people would make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and rejoice in all that God had given them, for they realized the uncertainty of the future. So they praised God in the moment, renewing the Covenant unconditionally and then waiting to see what the next moment would bring, in part depending upon what the upcoming rainy season would bring to this desert land.

The torah/teaching that I would like to share with you Sukkot is a poem based on these concepts of Sukkot, combined with other images of Moses and the covenant with God. Let us remember the importance of this festival, which often plays ‘second fiddle’ to its immediate predecessors. Let us remember to celebrate what we have, give thanks to God for all that is and embrace the moment.

The Meaning of the Moment – a meditation for the Shabbat of Sukkot


I stand here
      in the sukkah
     four walls
    that are not walls a roof
      Through which raindrops falls
      that is unreal
no security is truly
    beyond shadow  of a doubt
it is merely
illusional delusion
for nothing is definite

The sukkah
Is here
To teach


  stood there
    on the mountain
   longing to know Go
to have security
he could not
seeing only  God’s back
     God’s goodness
Moses knew what was
             in that moment
he could not know
            what would be

Moses could only see


  needed to wait
    to see what they would bring
like us
waiting to see    to know
hoping for clairvoyance
     settling for clarity
of the present moment
good enough
for Moses
not for us
do we desire
where none exists
         when less was enough
        for Moses


Kohelet understood
    everything is nothing
nothing is all we have
          what is now
    not before            not after
                  only now
              then no more
      why bother
      why be born
      why live

why not
not because of certainty
not because of knowledge
not because of our own importance
but simply
we are here 
God’s presence on earthfinite representation of the infinite
each moment
    each person
       has a purpose
we each want to know
     we cannot know
     until it becomes
the  present
seeking to know more
we strive after wind
after unknowable knowledge
true futility
the essence of our struggle
causing pain and suffering
seeking to know what we cannot

if Kohelet knew that why can’t we

do not strive
to know
to cling to what is no more
  carve your own tablets
    create covenant in this moment
the old covenant is smashed
and then renewed
as we move
from moment to moment
writing a new covenant

our soul is our tablet
the search for justice our pen
the divinehuman flow of compassion our ink 
love of humanity and the world our muse
write a covenant
between us and God
us and the world
unity of existence
 it will not lasst
more than any   thing    does
so we write it
overandoverandover again
as each moment passes into the past
and to celebrate
each new writing
each new fulfillment
each new commitment
to God
to community
to unity

nothing is certain
but the power of compassion
nothing is sure
but that the flow of mercy and love
nothing is before us
but the present
the One

in this moment
standing in the sukkah
resting in Shabbat
being where we are
we can simply
know   experience   celebrate
the moment that is
not what it is not
this is the moment
of our rejoicing
do not let it pass 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I went to celebration of Sukkot at a friend and they read a little about what it was but after reading your bog I have much better understanding and a sense of peace came over me. As we must be mindful of each moment and this is what God has been teaching me at this time in my life. I am learning so much from all my friends from different walk of life because I am open to the truth not bound by labels! Thank you I will read more! Keep writing! MiaMichelle

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