As fulfilling as it was to engage in Shavuot programs, a lot weighs on me. With COVID-19 continuing to ravage Black communities and racist violence all over the news, I almost feel like it’s Yom Kippur instead – the time when Jews are supposed to be most aware of their own mortality.
This week, I tell a friend I’d love to chat but actually I have to run Yom Kippur services are starting soon and I’ve got to repent for my sins before the gates are closed. She laughs. “Well, you’re gay, so you’ve definitely got a lot of repenting to do.”
I’ve come to the conclusion we need to change the date of Simchat Torah. Our Jewish festivals must be re-envisioned as inspirational community gatherings of joyful spiritual Jewish celebration. Every single festival needs to be a time of great community involvement and meaning.
The sukkah is a symbol of fragility. We build the temporary structure each year and know that it is only meant to last for the week-long holiday. It sways in the breeze. The raindrops land inside. The animals nibble at our decor. We know it could come crashing down on us.
If, as the Talmud tells us, the blasts of the shofar are meant to remind us of crying, (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 33A – specifically of Sisera’s mother – but that is another subject!), then I would offer the following.
Spread over us the sukkah of Your peace. Blessed are You O Lord, who spreads out a sukkah of peace over us, over the entire people Israel, and over Jerusalem.
A deep spiritual life is hard to find. While opportunities abound for spiritual connections (yoga, meditation, retreats and the like), for most of us it doesn’t come easy.