I found myself amazed as the Sanctuary continued to fill for Neilah. We started the afternoon service with a decent sized crowd taking many of the seats in the front of the Beth Am Sanctuary. From the moment we began reading the Torah, the room just kept filling up. People were streaming in by the dozens, by the hundreds, to join together as a community. We were pulled together by the power of community. By the end, every seat was filled. We literally stood together as a community in the presence of God, seeking to set ourselves right with the Holy One. It was marvelous beyond words.
The next day I woke up, feeling tired but inspired and motivated. My family and I spent the morning relaxing together and watching a movie. In the afternoon, we had some friends over and decorated our Sukkah. It was a nice counterpoint to the solemnity and intensity of Yom Kippur. It was good to be outside, for one thing. Yom Kippur is very Synagogue focused – I was happy to have a spiritual outlet in my backyard.
It was fun, too. The kids enjoyed putting up the decorations, including some painted pine cones and some blue and white lights. It’s my job to put up the lights because I am the tallest. Who knew I would have to untangle lights as a nice Jewish boy? We finished and enjoyed the sunset, having dinner out in our soon to be a Sukkah.
Sukkot makes a wonderful bookend to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The serious quality of Yom Kippur gives way to the joy of Sukkot. The solemnity and intricacy of prayer gives way to movement and rejoicing in God’s creation. Sukkot rituals make us active and take us outdoors. Whether dwelling in the Sukkah itself or shaking the Lulav (palm) during services, Sukkot is all about being with God now that we have restored our relationship on Yom Kippur.
All day Yom Kippur I find myself being challenged by the prayerbook to become better, to turn back towards the holy image of God planted within me. It’s a hard day. Sukkot by contrast, is all about enjoying that sense of spiritual connection and feeling it well out of community and the natural world. This is why God commands us to have another festival only four days after Yom Kippur.
Every year, the room fills up for Yom Kippur. Maybe this is the year to let the room fill up for Sukkot as well. I want to celebrate with the same community that shared a day of change and growth together. I want the chance of Sukkot to make new connections between people that helps deepen sacred community.
We all took time off work and school for Rosh Hashanah. I want to invite people to consider taking time off for Sukkot as well. The first day of Sukkot falls on Thursday the 27th with services beginning at 9:15 at Kol Emeth. We will shake the lulav and etrog for the first time this year with plenty of extras for those who don’t have. Everyone, adults and children, will have an opportunity to shake and dance with a lulav. Then we will make Kiddush out in the Kol Emeth Sukkah – enjoying a special time together as community.
After Neilah, everyone rushes home to break fast, as well they should. Let’s rush back now on Thursday to reconnect with our community and to enjoy the opportunity to dwell joyously in God’s presence.
Rabbi David Booth
Please note that there will be no CyberTorah next week in celebration of Sukkot.