BS"D || Rabbi Geier
A Sukkot of a Heartfelt Thanksgiving
First of all, I want to thank you ALL. It was really wonderful for me to feel how each and every one of you has received me in the community. I would have to mention a lot of people, but I choose to thank Rabbi Gerstein and Aliza, Mundy and Stan, Julie, Mark, Elliott, Cantor Socolof, Cantor Fader and especially Marsha. They have made my reception in Utica and the community really warm. With the collaboration and presence of all of you, we achieved significant and beautiful Yamim Noraim, which made us start a promising new year.
There is no doubt that Sukkot is one of the most educational of our festivals. I'd say it's on a par with Pesach. It has content for us to learn with everything we see in the Sukkah, fruits and vegetables, ornaments etc. It has aromas that fill us with pleasure. In the Sukkah itself and in the minims (especially in the Etrog). Perhaps all that accumulation of sensations dazzles us a little. It's all nice. It really is. Sukkot is that holiday where we MUST be happy and content. It is precisely after the evaluation, and above all, the self-evaluation that we have just passed the month of Elul and the Yamim Norayim, the terrible days that ended on Yom Kippur. We need a bit of good and fresh air to continue ahead. Something like a tequilita that cheers us up. That is Sukkot. A breeze of encouragement. A boost of joy and optimism. A year begins in which we have to put all our good intention and energy to start in the best way.
But, beware! It is not a light moment. It is not a moment of leisure in which nothing matters to us and we are happy without taking into account the surrounding reality. If YOU are happy and feel happy... you must contemplate that others around you may be happy too. That is where the precariousness of the Sukkah and the detachment, even for a few days, from our daily comforts, comes in.
Sukkot teaches us that there are things that can be put aside and enjoyed by others. Sukkot teaches us that values are shared and lived even without the comforts and luxuries that we could have and that this does not mean that we are less happy. Sukkot teaches us that our effort should put in feeling and being happy, not in accumulating belongings. If there is someone who is not happy, we must take responsibility in seeing how to reverse this situation.
When we talk about the protection that our God offers us or that we ask Him to give us, we do not ask Him to provide us with a shield that shelters us. We do not ask Him to build us a strong castle that gives us security and isolates us from the environment. We ask *“ufros aleinu sukat shlomecha”, “*cover us with your mantle of peace”, which, far from being precarious, is full of content and open to include each and every one of us and the entire people of Israel.
And with all this that I share with you, we have not even begun to get into the meaning of the 4 minims! Of course the minims tell us about unity. Of course they tell us about recognizing our flaws and strengths; accepting those of others around us. Bringing them in and form a common whole, knowing that we all have something to contribute. There is no such thing as leaving someone out because there is “something” about them that does not fit into my structure. There is no such thing as not being able to take part because I don't like it. At least, this is not the message that the minims, a two thousand year old custom and a mitzvah, leave us.
Indisputable order of the Creator.
May we conclude our jag embedded in the message of peace, solidarity and community that the Sukkah proposes to us. And of course, may our being happy and content be not just a prescription; rather, that the mitzvah comes through our pores spontaneously, infecting everyone around us with the joy that comes from living together in community and peace: this is what gives the joy of being able to achieve it! And may God let us do it together, face-to-face next year.