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Sukkot, 5782: Between Judgment and Joy

09/20/2021 09:59:12 AM

Sep20

Rabbi Rudin

 Sukkot, 5782

Between Judgment and Joy...

                                                          

The Torah says to rejoice on your festivals.  Literally, eat, drink, be merry… have a l’chaim. 

But at the same time, there is a distinctly less festive aspect to Sukkot.  The Mishna tells us that Sukkot is when the world’s allotment for rainfall is decided.  The same judgment day aspect that makes Rosh HaShana both joyful and scary applies to Sukkot.  

On the festival (of Sukkot), the world is judged for rainfall, declares the Mishna.  In this age of climate change, we can’t see this anymore as just a metaphor.  The world is in grave danger of becoming a desert, both morally and literally.  So what impact can a bunch of Jews partying in booths have?  

Every time I wonder about this, I begin to lose the distinction between means and ends. We are told to become super-aware that the world is a gift to us from G-d.  We are told that our continued existence is tied to how we decide to make use of the world’s resources and to our moral choices in every area from the environment, to social justice, to development, to education.  It’s a package deal.   

We Jews have always played a far greater role in world history than our demographic size.  Is it possible that by being a community that prioritizes our Covenant role as partners with G-d in world maintenance and world-repair, we can have an impact on humanity as a whole, not by telling others what to do or think, but just by being ourselves, sharing our values, and by advocating the Jewish agenda of compassion, spirituality and a holistic and holy-istic view of the world?

I kind of think so.  The Jewish contribution to the world in virtually every area: from science, to arts, to law, to  medicine, to you name it, means that want it our not, we have a role to play in helping humanity move forward and upward.  

So…get out there and celebrate Sukkot!  In our modest and neat little booths, let’s take joy in the blessings of sky and earth, of sun and wind and dew, of birdsong and starlight.  Let’s remember and celebrate how precious and important those blessings are, and let us fearlessly advocate for the Torah-mandated human role in their maintenance. 

The Midrash describes G-d as giving Adam and Eve a guided tour of the world, lifting them up to see the whole big blue marble in all of its purity, glory and beauty.  G-d concludes the tour by saying, “take good care of it, for if you corrupt it, there is no one else who can repair it.”  

May our rejoicing at Sukkot be attenuated and sharpened by this realization.

Chag Sameach! 

Wed, October 20 2021 14 Cheshvan 5782