I write this just having celebrated a marriage on Sunday afternoon, the Eve of Sukkot. I felt tremendous gratitude that a young woman who I have known most of her life, helping her celebrate becoming a Bat Mitzvah and completing her Confirmation, found such happiness and love. Standing under the Chupah with the two of them brought into sharp focus the inclusive nature of the Chupah itself. A house does not become a home without the loving presence of family and friends says the Chupah. It is open on all sides to show that we are stronger when we are open on all sides to all people. These two young people are not alone. They have the great support of their community, their family and their friends. They know that in times of celebration and in times of trial they will be strengthened through these relationships.
How important this lesson is for us in this moment. Too much energy is devoted to pushing us into factions and stripping away the sense of community. We are being divided into war camps. We focus on what we do not have and who is to blame rather than reflecting on all that we have and the Source of all goodness. We can, and we must, resist these forces that would have us believe that the easiest way to improve our situation is to get rid of those to blame for it.
The Sukkah, like the Chupah, is a fragile structure. We build it and we are told that we must dwell in it for seven days. In making ourselves more vulnerable we become more sensitive, and maybe even a bit more compassionate. The Sukkah can be a tool we use to reject the current trend of our society. We remember the Sukkah that our ancestors built to shelter themselves after the Exodus on their way to the Promised Land. In making themselves more vulnerable they were open to the sheltering presence of God. In opening ourselves up we become more aware of the needs of others and the myriad ways we can help.
The Sukkah also reminds of the millions who do not have adequate shelter throughout the year, not just seven days. We think especially of the 60 million refugees fleeing the violence of their home country seeking shelter wherever they can find it. There are many in this country, undocumented people, who need our help, as well. These children brought here, not of their own volition, not knowing any country other than America. These people are here and are part of a program called DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This Friday night, the Shabbat of Sukkot, we will hear the story of one of the DREAMers, a woman who qualified for DACA protection.
Sukkot is a festival of thanksgiving. We are blessed with so much. We acknowledge this blessing by helping those in need. May this Sukkot find us opening our hearts, our minds, and pockets.
Shabbat Shalom and Moadim L’Simcha,
Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, D.Min., D.D.