“Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.
“Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.” — Exodus 23:16
At sundown today, Jews around the world will observe Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles, for the next seven days. In contrast to the solemnity of the High Holy Days, Sukkot is one of Judaism’s most joyous holidays, focusing on thanksgiving and gratitude. Throughout this week, our devotions are tied to this biblically mandated holiday. To learn more about Sukkot, download our free Bible study.
For a man who runs a massive online retail shoe store, Tony Hsieh owns relatively few shoes. The CEO of Zappos, whose net worth is close to $1 billion, owns only four pairs of shoes. Even more intriguing is that this self-made millionaire chooses to live in a small trailer. He’s also decided to contribute $350 million toward a project to revitalize downtown Las Vegas. When asked why he lives such a surprisingly sparse lifestyle given his wealth, the 44-year-old said, “I guess I value experiences more than stuff.”
The Irish poet, George Moore, once said, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” In our culture, which has become overly focused on finding the latest and greatest things that we “absolutely” need, most of us haven’t yet found anything that truly satisfies us.
True joy can’t be found in 100 pairs of shoes or owning the latest smartphones. While these things can enhance our life and make us happy for the moment, lasting satisfaction only comes from the stuff that money can’t buy. In fact, having too much stuff often blocks us from the very things that can bring us joy.
This message is one that we revisit every year on the holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. We leave the expanse of our homes and 99 percent of the contents in it. Instead, we live in small, basic huts for an entire week. A typical booth, or sukkah in Hebrew, contains just a table and chairs for daytime, and at night, just basic mattresses for sleeping. Do we really need much more than that?
It’s not a coincidence that this holiday falls right after harvest time, as specified in the Bible. Why? Because as we are gathering our material “stuff,” or at least the means for acquiring more things, that’s precisely the time we need to remember what we truly need and what will merely add clutter to our lives.
Sukkot beckons us to consider that less is actually more when it comes to appreciating life. With only the basics in our living space for an entire week, we do little more than share meals with friends, study the Word of God, and spend time with God – either under the stars, which must be visible in the sukkah, or by leaving our accommodations so that we might experience the great wide world that God created for us.
This year on Sukkot, I invite us all to reassess our true needs and eliminate all the other “stuff” that doesn’t serve them. For one week, let’s put aside our material aspirations in favor of all the things that money can’t buy.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President