When the Jewish people finally escaped from the Land of Egypt, they began a long journey through the desert, a journey into the unknown, fraught with dangers, difficulties and unexpected challenges. A journey encompassing fear and happiness, triumph and despair; the journey of life.
They were able to maintain their optimism in the face of all they encountered by their ongoing experience of the Almighty's presence. Throughout their travels, the Almighty hovered over them in a cloud, allowing our ancestors to feel safe, comforted, and ultimately joyful.
Even though they slept in flimsy huts, they knew they were not alone; and they were unafraid.
We don't sleep in flimsy huts. We sleep in large homes made of wood and stone, behind high protective fences and security alarms. Yet we feel more vulnerable.
For all our progress, we are anxious, uncertain, and rarely joyful.
Many of us don't confront our enemies face to face as our ancestors did, yet we open a daily newspaper and feel more afraid. For all our progress, we are anxious, uncertain, and rarely joyful.
Sukkot is our opportunity to break through this pain and transcend our anxiety. As we sit outside beneath the stars we get a chance to experience what our predecessors did -- a palpable sense of the Almighty's presence, the very real knowledge that we're not alone and the concomitant comfort and joy.
When we hear the news and feel that overwhelming sense of pain and vulnerability, we've lost touch with the Sukkot experience, with the reality of the Almighty's presence in our lives. We've allowed darkness, terrorism, evil to win. We need to refocus. We need to rise above.
God is still watching over us. He is still taking care of us. He is still the one Father who really does know best.
But we've gotten distracted. We study bad news literally 24/7 and forget to appreciate the beauty of the world. We're too busy protecting our children to enjoy them. We're amassing money and building fortresses; combating fears instead of living our lives.
Sukkot is our chance to break free -- to relax in the soothing arms of our loving Father. Sometimes my eight-year-old son crawls into bed between my husband and me. "It's pretty good, isn't it?" I say and he smiles contentedly. We all have that desire for security and warmth, to run back home. The amazing thing is that we don't realize that it's available. You can go back home again -- you should go back home again -- back home into the Almighty's warm embrace. He wants us to feel secure beneath his touch; He wants us vulnerable -- but only to Him and His love, not to the vicissitudes of the surrounding world.
It's hard to break free. Our patterns of anxiety have become like old friends. But it's even harder to live a life robbed of joy.
This is the gift of Sukkot. We sit beneath the palms and we know that the Almighty is in charge. We glimpse the nightly sky and we know He loves us. We make blessings and eat, we sing and experience joy.
It's not meant to be limited to one week per year. The Almighty thinks big. So can we. The challenge of Sukkot is to take that comfort and that joy with us into the rest of the year.
You don't have to stop remodeling your kitchen, searching out the latest sale, monitoring your children's whereabouts or trying to make a difference in a world torn by terror. But we can see the material world as the illusion of security that it is (just one more pair of shoes and I'll never need another thing…); we can look around us and indulge in hope instead of despair, we can remind ourselves that the Almighty has done a good job until now and we can stop and take a deep breath and feel the joy.