Fragile Dwellings

Every year, under the full harvest moon, Jews gather with friends and family in the most unusual of places – in the most fragile and exquisite of spaces, the Sukkah. I remember decades ago, when our children were very young, going to an exhibit of dollhouses at the Museum of the City of New York in Manhattan. Most of them were beautiful, but predictable – small replicas of beautiful homes we have all seen. Only one was pure fantasy. It looked as if it were woven from cobwebs, twigs and leaves, an ethereal dream spun from the marvels of the natural world. We lead a life protected from this natural world.

The ones to celebrate and the ones to fix.

We keep our homes at a relatively even temperature, irrespective of blizzards or tropical storms that might rage outside. Even our cars keep us cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than the dwellings of many people on our planet. The festival of Sukkot offers us the rare opportunity to step outside the familiar and solid walls of our homes into a different experience of life. Telephones, TV’s, iPods and computers stay inside. Under the stars, by holiday candlelight, the only sounds of entertainment are the voices of friends and family in conversation – and maybe the cicadas, if it’s still warm outside.

This year, Sukkot begins on Sunday evening, September 30th. That Sunday morning, the religious school community invites ALL of us to a Sukkot Harvest Festival. You will have the opportunity to shop at a farmers’ market, to cook for the homeless in our community, to make decorations for the Kol Ami Sukkah (or your own), to learn, to dance, to sing. This year’s Sukkot celebration also features an art installation about Homelessness. It is a fabric sukkah created by the fiber artist Heather Stoltz. You will have the chance to see the exhibit, meet the artist, learn about the people whose work is part of this “sukkah” – and even add your own artwork to the project.

For as long as we remember, we have asked all those coming to the sukkah to bring a can of food for the hungry. Being in our temporary Sukkah, we remember those whose “permanent” home is nothing more than a temporary shack.

The holiday of Sukkot comes with the injunction to celebrate all the goodness that God has given us – together with the helpless, the lonely, the poor and the stranger. I deeply hope that this season of Sukkot finds us celebrating the perishable gifts of life: the leaves that will soon fall off the trees, the fruit that is ripe now, the friendships and loves that need to be acknowledged and celebrated in this moment – all the gifts that God has given us. At the same time, I hope that it strengthens our resolve to help replace the shacks that some people have to live in year-round with a shelter built by our love, our resources and our sense of profound human connectedness and Jewish obligation.

With wishes for a chag sameyach – a happy holiday, Shira