The stars are shining on the top of my head, the wind is in my hair; a few drops of rain are falling into my soup, but the soup is still warm. I am sitting in a sukkah, a booth with branches draped across the top, which I have erected in my backyard. A deep joy is seeping out from the core of my being and filling me body and soul. It began as a kind of lightness. I felt it as soon as the shofar was sounded to signal the end of Yom Kippur…
The next day I went into my yard with a hammer and started to build my sukkah. Now I am drinking soup in my sukkah, a booth not quite surrounded by walls, with a roof that must admit starlight, and a deep joy is welling up inside me, a curious, naked joy. During the Days of Awe, I was stripped of everything, all my hope, all the illusions to which I had been clinging. Now I feel clean and light and full of joy.
Rabbi Alan Lew z”l wrote at the end of This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared of the joy and jubilation that comes at the end of the hard work of High Holy Day soul-scrubbing. These feelings come with the arrival of Sukkot, the holiday called z’man simchateinu, the time of our happiness.
This wonderful feeling may have come from the end of the harvest, when we enjoyed all that came from seasons of hard work. Perhaps it was from the catharsis of the Holy Days and the High Priest’s outreach to God on our ancestors’ behalf. Or maybe, it was from the shedding of life’s many acquisitions, leaving them in homes of brick and mortar, and instead, celebrating living and loved ones in the crisp fall air; nothing but us, nature, and God. Perfection.
This Sukkot, find your joy, find your love, find your peace. Not in stuff, but in each other. Build that Sukkah, come use ours at the Temple, and partake in meals of simkha, of joy. Not for one day, not for three, but for the full week. By this point, you’ve worked hard, spiritually. You deserve it. And we all need some time for nothing short of unadulterated happiness. It is yours for the taking.
Printed in the October 2016 edition of Temple Emanu-El’s Kolaynu.