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Sukkot Forecast

09/28/2023 11:58:50 AM

Sep28

Sukkot is SOMETIMES my favorite holiday. I appreciate all the sights and smells of the holiday. I love when family and friends come together and truly live the biblical commandment to “be happy on your holiday… and you should have nothing but joy!” (Deuteronomy 16:14-15). I find the change of pace refreshing, eating meals outside and maximizing my time in the sukkah. But my appreciation of Sukkot really all comes down to one thing: the weather. Growing up in Florida, our sukkah was often infused with humidity (and mosquitos). A box-fan and citronella candles mitigated some of the unpleasantness of being outside, but not always. And in New York, celebrating Sukkot in a winter jacket restricts your movement of that spoonful of butternut-squash soup to your mouth. And depending on whether or not Sukkot falls early or later might further dictate the temperature and weather impacts on our holiday. So, if the weather is nice, then Sukkot is amazing. If the weather is less pleasant – then Sukkot is just fine.

When the weather adversely affects our holiday, it truly is disappointing. But the fact that the weather dictates our experience of eating in the sukkah is precisely the point of the holiday. As opposed to the rest of the year where we control our dwelling spaces (we sweep out the dirt, we expel the bugs, we curate our homes with manufactured things, we build sturdy walls and roofs to repel the elements of weather), on Sukkot, things are way outside our control. During the year we live apart from nature, but on Sukkot we live as a part of nature. Living open to the natural elements of the world, Sukkot reminds us of God’s sheltering presence and that not everything in life is in our control. It is a good thing that the weather dictates much of our experience of the holiday – that’s the whole point! Still, if I am going to expend sweat and accrue blisters building my sukkah, I’d rather spend the holiday comfortably dwelling inside the sukkah, than retreating behind the walls of my home.

Recognizing this tension between being commanded to dwell in the sukkah and the difficulties that the weather and elements sometimes present us, our Sages teach that one need not eat in the sukkah if the weather is intolerable or if our food will be ruined by the rainwater. In a way our tradition recognizes that even when humans try to be a part of nature – they still remain apart from nature. That even when we work to remind ourselves that not everything is within our control, there still is a certain element that will always be in our control simply because of who/what we are: humans. We are beings that think, create, manufacture, and control. We can pretend to live subjected to nature, but you can’t take the human out of human beings.

Whatever the weather this Sukkot ends up being, I hope it reminds us of this dual feature of the human experience. On the one hand, I hope we consider that there are many things that are outside our control despite our planning and efforts. That we can sit in a sukkah and be subjected to the elements of nature. But on the other hand, I pray that we also recognize the things that are within our control. Perhaps it is our perspective that is within our control, but sometimes we have the option of going back inside, recouping, and then getting back out there to try again. Life might hand us lemons, but we can certainly take those lemons and hang them up as sukkah decorations (or something like that).

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784