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Dwelling on Sukkot

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Dwelling on Sukkot

What’s wrong with simply being a good Jew at heart? You believe in G-d. You cherish your heritage. You see the wisdom in Judaism and desire to live by its ethos. But somehow, in the rush of daily life, your spirituality gets brushed aside and you fail to act upon your commitment to G-d. The cycle of the three major festivals known as the Shelosh Regalim, beginning with Passover and culminating in Sukkot, demonstrate how good intentions and feelings are a significant step toward the practical service of G-d

Old Macdonald has a farm. He plants a seed and anticipates a miracle. As he waits for his crop to grow, Macdonald grows anxious and wonders: “Will the earth yield healthy produce this year?” Only once his crop has matured, the produce cut and gathered, will Farmer Macdonald settle down to celebrate the success of the farming season.

You’ve probably never met a Jewish farmer named Macdonald, yet there was a time, when the entire Jewish population stationed in Israel, made their livelihood by working the land. They relied upon its goodness to put bread on their tables and dough in their pockets.

The annual labor cycle of a farmer is divided into three periods, corresponding to the three major holidays in the Jewish calendar year. Passover, which commemorates the Egyptian exodus, is referred to as the “month of springtime.”[1] In the life of a field, spring brings sunshine and new growth. Shavuot, when the Jewish people received the Torah from G-d, is referred to as the “Harvest Festival.”[2] During this season the produce ripens and may be severed from its source. Sukkot is referred to as the “Festival of the Ingathering.”[3] At this time the farmer gathers the produce from the field and prepares it for practical use.

Today we purchase our food from the local Supermarket. A rarity indeed is the sight of a Jew dressed in a straw hat and overalls. Yet, spiritually speaking, we are all farmers. Our field is our soul, a gift from G-d, entrusted us to develop constantly. As we labor with righteousness to cultivate our field, sowing the seeds of spirituality, we pray for growth in our relationship with G-d. The development of the spirit is a gradual process and must be nurtured one step at a time.

Faith is the foundation upon which a relationship with G-d may be built.

Passover marks the beginning of our relationship with G-d. As the Jewish people experienced the hand of G-d reaching in to rescue them from the throes of slavery and misery, their attachment to G-d grew. As they witnessed the awesome miracles performed by G-d to wrestle them free from the iron-fisted grip of Pharaoh, the hearts of the people filled with faith, as it is written, “Israel saw the great hand that G-d inflicted upon Egypt; and the people revered G-d, and they had faith in G-d and in Moses, His servant.”[4]

Faith is the foundation upon which a relationship with G-d may be built.  However, on its own, faith is not an actual service of G-d. It is merely the canvas upon which a portrait of practical day-to-day service of G-d may be painted. Faith without action is like a field whose crops are not yet ripe.

On Shavuot our produce reaches fruition. G-d gives us His Torah, a spiritual prescription for day-to-day meaningful living. We receive the Torah with joy and dedicate ourselves to the study of G-d’s wisdom and the fulfillment of His will. The festival of Shavuot is when the crops are harvested, when we begin to translate our emotions into a plan of practical action. Now that we know what we are meant to do, and how we are meant to do it, all that is left for us is to simply “Just do it!”

And towards this end we have Sukkot. Sukkot is when “you gather in your work from the field,”[5] when a Jew adopts the set of Divine directions contained within the Torah as the one true roadmap for life – a G-d given guide for negotiating the highroad of twists and turns that define our worldly existence. On Sukkot sentiment and lip service finally translates into practical action.

On Passover we “feel Jewish.”  On Shavuot we “sound Jewish.”  On Sukkot we graduate to the stage where we actually begin to “behave like a Jew.”

By Dovi Scheiner.

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[1] Bo 13:4

[2] Mishpatim 23:16

[3] Mishpatim 23:16

[4] Beshalach 14:31

[5] Mishpatim 23:16

[6] Likkutei Sichos Vol. 29, Page # 229-236.

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