Friday, October 2, 2015
There was a moment in my life that I will never forget. It was the 9th of Av 5769 (or 2009), two days after our first son, Avi was born. As we know, the 9th of Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, and yet, I could not help but smile as I walked inside our sanctuary. Even as everyone was sitting on the floor, and reading megillat Eicha, I could not help but be elated because of the birth of our first child. There are times in our calendar when we are compelled to feel a certain way. On Tisha B’Av, it is sadness, but on Sukkot, we are commanded to feel the complete opposite of sadness: Simcha, or happiness.
On Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot, we will be reading from the book of Ecclesiastes, which famously states in chapter 3, “There is a season that is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven - A time for weeping and a time for laughing, A time for wailing and a time for dancing.” When I stepped into the sanctuary that day, the 9th of Av, it was a time for wailing and weeping and yet, I was smiling and happy. Our holidays are moments in time when we, as a spiritual community, come together to experience certain emotions. This week, we are commanded to be happy, and yet, we are surrounded by so much sadness. This week, we witnessed two horrific events: the murder of two parents in front of their four children by Palestinian terrorists, Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin; and the senseless murder of 10 people (and 7 injured) in yet another mass shooting at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
The question is, how can we be happy as we enter into our Sukkot? How can we force ourselves to be happy when we are surrounded by sadness? Unfortunately, there is no one good answer to this question, but something that I take solace in is how our people have viewed this holiday for thousands of years, dating back to the time of the Holy Temple/Beit HaMikdash. On Sukkot, we learn see that there were 70 bulls in total that were sacrificed during the holiday of Sukkot. Our rabbis teach us that these sacrifices represented all of the nations of the world. In other words, we offered sacrifices, not just for us, but for the whole world; we cared for others, not just ourselves. This open-heart approach is beautiful and rewarding, but when there is heartbreak in the world, whether to our brothers and sisters, or to others, we are left vulnerable. It is in this vulnerability, in our Sukkot, a flimsy structure by nature, that we seek happiness and solace. And so, with a full heart, we enter into our Sukkot this Shabbat, and we force ourselves to look at the beauty that surrounds us. This Shabbat, we welcome the new souls who have joined our congregation on our journey. We will welcome them with love and an open heart. On Sunday, we will celebrate the last day of Sukkot together at our annual Membership barbeque. Together we will see each other and eat in joy and gladness. During these times, we force ourselves to look at the good in our lives, while also remembering that there is pain in this world, and that healing must occur, but we must be a part of this healing. May God comfort those who have lost loved ones this week, and may God bring joy and happiness to our broken world.
Moadim L’Simcha and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Baum