Posts Tagged 'Succoth'

Happiness Beyond Words

The news these days is really tough. There are so man bad things going on. It is hard to read the news without getting really down. For that reason is particular hard to read the end of Re’eh, this week’s Torah portion. There we read:

13You shall keep the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that you have gathered in from your threshing-floor and from your winepress. 14 And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your man-servant, and your maid-servant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your gates. 15 Seven days shall you keep a feast unto the Lord your God in the place which the Lord shall choose; because the Lord your God shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the work of your hands, and you shall be altogether joyful.( Deuteronomy 16: 13-15)

While everything around us is telling us to worry, the Torah is telling us to be happy. While it seems that law can command you to do actions, it seems hard to charge someone to have a certain disposition. What might it mean to mandate happiness or joy?

What is happiness and how do we obtain it? There seems to be proximate factors and ultimate factors. A quick list might include money ( see Goldman Sacks), power ( see Nietzsche), sex ( see Freud),  a combination of these (see Scarface),  meaning  (see Frankel), or flow ( see Csikszentmihalyi). Seeing that many of us are sharing in the bad news of the day I want to think about the idea of joy being the experience of joining something bigger than ourselves.

Often our lives seem trivial. But joining in with others helps us think that we just might be part of something bigger. On Succot it has to do with joining in the national experience of the Temple. Today we join in by helping out, communicating that we care ( usually in its food form),  or just showing up. In many ways we can see the joy of belonging in the simple act of singing which transcends words in bringing joy to people’s lives. It seems only appropriate to learn this Torah from the Rebbe of not worrying and being happy, Bobby McFerrin . Even if you cannot get into the news I hope that you will enjoy this video.

Certain happiness is beyond words.

Give and Take

Now that the summer is over we find ourselves basking in the holiday spirit. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur surely gave us time for self reflection. And just when you thought you could not deal with any more self reflection we are gearing up for Sukkot in which we eat and spend time in a booth called a Sukkah, meant to be reminiscent of the type of fragile dwellings in which the ancient Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. As you build and spend time in your Sukkah this holiday, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the environment we craft at camp…

Beyond the Sukkah itself, we also turn our attention to the Four Species. About which we read:

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you are gathering in your produce of the earth, you shall celebrate a celebration of God for seven days… And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a beautiful tree (etrog), palm branches, the branch of a thick tree (myrtle, hadas), and brook-willows, and you shall rejoice before God for seven days. (Leviticus 23:39-40)

The Four Species are a symbol through which we rejoice and celebrate. It is noteworthy that the verb used by the Torah to describe what we do is to “take” them. This is not happenstance. For many of us the experience of joy is connected to the experience of mastery and ownership. Surely this is something that is taken and not given.

Like the Sukkah itself, camp is a unique environment we create to bring us to joy and celebration. Camp is unique in that it puts youth at the center. Where else in society is an 18 year-old the model citizen because s/he will do anything for his/her 9 year old student or camp? Camp is special in that we give over the space so that youth can take it and make of it what they want. Just as we are instructed to enter the Sukkah to connect to the past, so too we “take” the four species so we experience the joy of owning our tradition today.

-as seen at Foundation for Jewish Camp Blog


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