The Joy of Sukkot – and What It Teaches Us About Tragedy

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein  |  September 20, 2018

Paper lantern hanging from a wooden ceiling.

Dear Friend of Israel,

As I return to Israel from the U.S., my happiness at watching Israelis prepare for the festival of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles, which begins on Sunday) is tempered with sorrow. The entire nation is mourning the death of Ari Fuld, a 45-year-old Israeli husband and father of four who made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from the U.S. as an adult. Ari was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist while shopping at a local mall.

Ari was a great humanitarian, and a friend of The Fellowship known to many of our volunteers in his home city, Efrat. He was a staunch defender of Israel, both through his service in the Israel Defense Forces, and on social media and in the news. He showed his strength of character and heroism well in his last moments of life: though mortally wounded by his attacker, before his death Ari pursued the terrorist and shot him, so that the terrorist could do no more harm.

Israelis are all too familiar with the unspeakable pain of terrorism. And, though Sukkot is a joyous holiday, it also teaches us something about coming to terms with tragedy. Prior to Sukkot, Jews build temporary booths to remind us of the shelters the Israelites lived in during their sojourn in the desert in biblical times. During the week-long holiday, we live in these booths, which are built to be impermanent. It is a powerful reminder that, despite all we do to provide for and safeguard ourselves, all that we have – our home, our safety, our health, our wealth, our very life – ultimately comes from God.

This, in fact, is a source of comfort. We who are so painfully aware of life’s fragility need Sukkot to point us toward what is permanent: the God of the universe, Who created us, sustains us, and loves us more than we can imagine.

My friends, today I hope you will pray for the loved ones of Ari Fuld, and for victims of terrorism everywhere. Whether you are Christian or Jewish, may this season of Sukkot fill you with gratitude for God’s permanence in our world that is ever-changing, chaotic, and at times filled with great sorrow; and may we all see the day when the whole world will dwell under the shelter of God’s dominion, in peace.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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