Monday, October 5, 2009

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Stacey Hazen on Sukkot

Those of you who know me know that I’m a dancer. I’ve been dancing for 9 years (which is a long time when you are 12). I’ve always loved it. I dance everything from hip-hop to ballet. I’ve been on pointe for about two years, during which time I had the opportunity to dance as Tinkerbelle.

The more I learned about Sukkot, the more I’ve come to realize that is the perfect holiday for me. It’s a holiday that celebrates the body, a holiday of happiness, a holiday of nature, a holiday of thanksgiving and most of all, a holiday with a lot of dancing.

After we’ve spent lots of time indoors praying and fasting on Yom Kippur, Sukkot is the exact opposite. We go outdoors, build a sukkah, celebrate, and enjoy a great deal of food. Even when we are inside the synagogue, we are constantly in motion, shaking the lulav, parading around the sanctuary almost every day, and at the end of the festival, dancing frantically with the Torahs on Simhat Torah. No wonder this festival is called “Z’man Simhataynu” “the time of our rejoicing.”

When we are in the sukkah, we feel connected to nature. In fact, when you look up at night, you are able to see the stars through the roof. My dancing has also connected me to nature in many ways. I’ve performed as everything from a lion to the Ugly Duckling and as both Winter and Fall in “The Four Seasons.”

Sukkot is also a holiday not just for the Jewish people, but for all the nations of the world. My Torah portion speaks of 70 oxen that were brought as sacrifices, a very high number. The commentators suggest that those 70 animals represented each of the 70 nations that were known to exist at the time. While Passover tells a story of how the Jewish people began, Sukkot is about being thankful for the harvest and that is a lesson for all people everywhere. Everyone feels thankful at harvest time. It is not surprising that when the American pilgrims in Plymouth were looking to base their new Thanksgiving holiday on a festival from the Bible, they used Sukkot as a model.

Being thankful for our food is something people should never take for granted. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Celiac and since then I’ve had to avoid all gluten products. In fact, at today’s Kiddush there will be many gluten free items; we even had a special gluten free challah made for the occasion.

For my mitzvah project, I raised money to donate to local food banks so that they could make sure to have food available for people with allergies. We’ve bought special cereals, pasta, crackers and cookies, as you can see displayed in the bima baskets.

So you can see why I’m so glad that my bat mitzvah fell on this festival, the kind of holiday that reminds us to celebrate life all the time, and the best way to do so is to dance!

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