Sukkot – the holiday called the time of our joy, Z’man Simchateinu. The sukkah, the structure which we erect for the holiday of sukkot evokes both the time of wandering in the wilderness during which time God provided us with food and protection and the huts used during the harvest season, the culmination of a great deal of work.
As one of the three pilgrimage festivals, Sukkot most captures for me the power of God’s creation. A successful harvest is dependent on planting the right crop in the right soil at the right time with the right amount of sun and the right amount of rain. Even with the great technology of irrigation, we can see that having rain at the right time is critical. A temporary dwelling like a sukkah is not that dissimilar from the kind of dwellings many people on the planet live in for 52 weeks a year. A dwelling that is vulnerable to fire, earthquakes, and torrential rains.
So we decorate our sukkot with fruits and vegetables, grateful for the bounty in our lives. We invite friends and neighbors to share meals with us in the sukkah, grateful for the love in our lives. On Sukkot, we temporarily move back outside into nature, feeling more vulnerable to nature and delighting our senses – smelling the fall leaves; hearing the wind, birds, and crickets; using our hands to build the sukkah; eating delicious foods and drinking good wine; and seeing the sky.
The roof of a sukkah must permit a person to see the stars through it. The millions of stars that form constellations are predictable from season to season showing an underlying order to the world of creation. There are times when it seems that that order is missing and the world is out of balance, that the power of nature is destructive rather creative. We have the ability to correct to that imbalance: we can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give shelter to the homeless.
The story of sukkot describes the Israelites as refugees on their way to a new home. Sukkot is also an opportunity to act as the "image of God" and offer protection to those who are seeking better lives.