The New Synagogue of Long Island
The Synagogue for Spiritual Judaism

Sukkot – An Important Message for Our Time

Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning "booths" or "huts," refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest.  It also commemorates the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after the giving of the Torah atop Mt. Sinai. Sukkot is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (this year corresponding to September 21st).  Of all the holidays on the Jewish calendar, the one the Torah singled out most strongly for worldwide significance is Sukkot. 

Sukkot is marked by several distinct traditions. One tradition, which takes the commandment to dwell in booths literally, is to erect a sukkah, a small, temporary booth or hut.  For thousands of years Jews have observed the Torah commandment to leave the comfort and security of their homes and eat in this specially constructed outdoor hut.  In this year of coronavirus, this mitzvah no longer seems strange.  There is so much in this world that we take for granted as if it were ours by automatic right or well-deserved reward. We complain about the things we lack and hardly ever take the time to thank G-d for the priceless favors and blessings bestowed upon us.  The holiday of Sukkot is the time to acknowledge the source of “the harvest” of our lives, the divine gifts that make our lives possible and pleasurable.  Renew your strength and courage. Inspire yourself. Ignite the spark that lies within your soul.

Sukkot asks us to temporarily go outside, look around at G-d’s creations, “dine out doors” with your family, in a sukkah from which you can gaze up, see heaven above and be reminded of G-d as well as your blessings. This has been a challenging time for all of us. Life is not always easy, but by remembering that there is something more, something that goes beyond our limited vision of the world, we can begin to get a glimpse of how G-d sees the bigger picture.  Living with this awareness of G-d enables us to thrive, not just survive.  Let us take some time to reflect on this past year and discover all the hidden treasures you may have forgotten. 

Sukkot, coming right after Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, might just be the one Jewish holiday that has the most to teach the entire world about the real meaning of happiness.  These days, we need unity more than ever. Stop judging. Start loving. Call someone you know who is alone. Reach out to a friend. Give a good word, a smile.  G-d grants us peace when there is peace amongst us. Seize the moment. Unity brings peace. Peace brings strength.

May the words recited at the end of reading each book of the Torah inspire you:

Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazeik. “Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen each other.”

Rabbi Stuart Paris, HaKohen

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Torah Completion and Celebration

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Iyar, 5776

Rabbi Stuart Paris and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin completing the last letter of the Torah