One of my favorite things about living in Israel is celebrating Jewish holidays with the entire nation.
Every year during the High Holy Days, buses flash signs wishing everyone a “Shanah Tovah,” a good (new) year, in recognition of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Pharmacies offer natural remedies to help people with the fast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Grocery stores promote apples and honey, traditional food to usher in a sweet year.
Right now, Jews around the world have gone through the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement. And last Sunday night, we began the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot. Millions of sukkot, biblical booths, dot Israel’s landscape. On balconies, in backyards, and even in stores – you can find sukkot almost anywhere. The feeling in the air is festive.
The holidays are a wonderful and busy season in Israel. They take us on a journey that brings us closer to God.
Beginning on Rosh Hashanah, we focus on the spiritual aspects of our lives. We spend the days in passionate prayer, profound introspection, and preparing for meaningful changes. By the time Yom Kippur begins, we are ready to separate from our physical lives and focus on the spiritual. For example, on this day we don’t eat or drink, wear nice leather shoes, or bathe. It is a day completely about prayer, Bible study, and repentance.
During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we reach towards the heavens. But after all of that prayer, purification, sanctification, and spirituality, we need to bring godliness down here to earth. So we build a sukkah and say, “God, this is Your dwelling here.” After the High Holy Days, we have to come back down and bring God’s glory into this world.
Some of my family’s best memories are made in the sukkah. We sleep in the sukkah, eat in the sukkah, and enjoy time with friends in the sukkah. It reminds us that in this modern world where we have so many things that make us feel safe – secure homes, powerful cars, amazing technology – ultimately, we are at God’s mercy. We step into the sukkah with faith and subject ourselves to the elements, trusting that God will protect us in His shelter.
This is how we bring God’s glory down to earth – by trusting in Him and by sharing our faith with others. We open our sukkah to others, like Abraham and Sarah opened their tent. We bring godliness into the world when we share what we have with others in need.
And somehow, when we share, we also receive. With all of our guests in our sukkah, we join in singing, celebration, and thanksgiving. We receive so much joy. Together we bring God’s holiness into our sukkah and into our lives for the entire year to come.
Thank you, my friends, for your generosity toward God’s people during this holy season, and all year long. May our year be blessed and our lives reflect God’s glory!
With blessings from the Holy Land,
Tags: High Holy Days Holidays IFCJ Sukkot The Fellowship Yael Eckstein