Friday, October 5, 2012

Sukkot in the Synagogue ....

“When a person comes to dwell in the shade of the Sukkah, which is the shade of Emuna, the Divine Presence spreads Her wings over him from above” ~  The Zohar~

This week we celebrate Sukkot ~ one of the three festivals on which we Jews were commanded to make pilgrimage to Ha'Shems Holy Temple in Y'rushalayim.   The Chag lasts seven days.   The Hebrew word Sukkōt is the plural of Sukkah, "booth or tabernacle",  really a kind of 'hut' which is a walled structure covered with Skhakh (plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves).  The Sukkah is intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which our ancestors dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert following the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the Sukkah and it is a mitzvah to sleep there as well.

The first message of Sukkot is that nature and the outside world - the smells and sights and sounds of the universe - are as central to Judaism as anything that goes on inside our heads.  Ha'Shem, Master of the Universe has created it all for our succour & pleasure.  The second message tells us that possessions mean nothing.  The third message of Sukkot is that our Saftey ~ from the weather to wild animals ~  is in the hand of Ha'Shem and the presence in our lives of the Shekinah,  not in the absence of danger.  And finally the fourth message of Sukkot is that in addition to the natural world's centrality, and human being's ultimate vulnerability, Ha'shems  focal point for favour in our lives is the Land of Israel. His Homeland for His Precious People,  Israel.  Our Birthright. Our Gift as an everlasting possession.

"And Ha'Shem spoke to Moshe saying .... Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them, the 15th day of this seventh month shall be the Festival of Sukkot ~ seven days for Ha'Shem ... On the first day, it is a holy occasion,  you shall not perform any work of labour.  For seven days, you shall present a fire offering to Ha'Shem ... On the eighth day, it shall be a holy occasion for you, and you shall bring a fire offering to Ha'Shem. It is a day of]detention.  You shall not perform any work of labour. These are G-d's appointed holy days that you shall designate them as holy occasions, on which to offer up a fire offering to Ha'Shem, burnt offering and meal offering, sacrifice and libations, the requirement of each day on its day,  apart from Ha'Shems Shabbat, and apart from your gifts, and apart from all your vows, and apart from all your donations that you give to Ha'Shem.   On the first day, you shall take for yourself a fruit of the citron tree (etrog), a palm frond (lulav), myrtle branches (hadas) and willows (aravah). You shall rejoice before Ha'Shem,  your G-d for seven days.  During these seven days each year, you shall celebrate to G-d. It is an eternal law for all generations that you celebrate in the seventh month. During these seven days you must live in thatched huts. All Israelites must live in thatched huts. This is so that your future generations will know that I caused Israel to live in huts when I brought them out of Egypt. I am Ha'Shem your G-d.  And Moshe told B'nei Yisroel these laws of Ha'Shems appointed Holy days.   ~ Vayikra  23:33-44 ~

 Three times a year you shall appear before Ha'Shem, your G-d, in the place that He will choose, on the Festival of Matzah, the Festival of Shavuot and the Festival of Sukkot.  ~ Devarim 16:16 ~

And those who suffered shall increase their joy in Ha'Shem, and the impoverished people shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.   ~ Isaiah 29.19 ~ 

 And Sukkot leads to the Joyous festivals of Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah  which shall be celebrated following this Shabbat.    Sunday is Hoshanah Rabah then Shemini Atzeret which begins the davening for rain,  officially launching the Mediterranean rainy season.   And Simchat Torah is Simply our Joy in Torah.  And Torah Living.  The focal point of Simchat Torah is the hakafot procession, in which we march, sing and dance with the Torah scrolls around the Bimah in the Synagogue.  The hakafot are done twice, on the night and morning of Simchat Torah, and Everyone receives an aliyah on Simchat Torah, even the children, B"H!

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