Friday, October 19, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Alyssa Goldberg on Sukkot

I’ve always enjoyed Sukkot – and part of the reason is that I’ve always liked the fall. 
Of course I like summer too – especially camp, and I’m so glad that some of my camp friends are here (wave?).   But summer can’t happen all year long.  If summer were all year long, we wouldn’t appreciate it.  It would get boring.  I would eventually miss my family and  home and my feet would get tired of flip flops.  I would even miss school – sort of – but especially my school friends. 
The fall is important because it reminds us that summer can’t last forever.  And that helps us to appreciate summer even more, which then helps us to appreciate fall, and then winter, and eventually spring. 
Sukkot is about appreciating the fall.  The leaves change color and crunch under our feet.  The air gets cooler, but not too cold.  Sukkot is also about appreciating life.  It is important to appreciate what we have and not always be wishing for more.  Sukkot is the original Thanksgiving festival.  In fact, when the pilgrims were looking for a model for the holiday they wanted to celebrate, they looked to the Bible and to Sukkot.
          The sukkah is the main symbol of the festival.  You can see it right outside the sanctuary.  When I was in Hebrew School, I used to love making decorations for the temple’s sukkah. The most important thing to know about a sukkah is that it needs to be fragile enough so that the walls will come down in a wind storm and allow rain to come through the roof.
          Yet, the sukkah is like a home, because what matters most is not the strength of the walls or roof, but the love and warmth generated by the people inside. It’s a custom to eat meals in the Sukkah and to always welcome your guests.
Sukkot is also called the “time of our joy” “z’man simchataynu” –  but it’s not about having a great time at a party.  The kind of happiness celebrated on Sukkot is the kind you feel when you are thankful for all that you have.
As you know, today we read from Kohelet, the book of Ecclesiastes, another custom of this holiday.  It has many bits and pieces of wisdom about how we need to live for the day and appreciate every day of our lives.  It advises us to be patient and not frustrate easily; also, it advises us that it is better to take criticism from someone we respect than to listen to the “praise of fools.”
But most of all, Kohelet teaches us to appreciate every day of life, that we should enjoy everything we have in our lives. 
My parents have been such a good example for me in this regard, especially my mom because she has taught me to stay strong even when she’s not feeling well.  And I know that when I stay strong, it can help her feel better, and my dad and brothers too.  Staying strong doesn’t mean hiding your feelings.  It means being able to enjoy every day, just like Kohelet teaches us.
For those who don’t know, my mom has been battling breast cancer for several years.  I chose my mitzvah project in her honor, to raise money for the Paint the Town Pink project of the Bennett Cancer Center.  Last week, I participated in the Mile of Pink event to raise awareness for breast cancer. So far, I’ve raised over $1000.  If you would like to make a donation, you can find the information in my booklet.

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