Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kaddish, Loving, Sukkot


That's where I went on Sept. 20.

The truth is, there have been one million reasons to stop loving. It's not worth it, saying goodbye is too painful, too predictable. I had almost given it up entirely, I snuffed out my feelings like candles. And then. And then. We talked about life, it was safe. The songs became breath, the words became my own, even though I don't always understand Hebrew. Maybe I don't need to understand completely. It's enough, just to sing. I lit every damn candle. Life is light and wax and burning. There have been reasons to stop, but "saying goodbye is the price we pay for loving someone," and I have learned the cost of love is nothing, compared to its sweetness.

I'm a little belated posting all of that, but that's ok. And I meant to come here and post about Sukkot. Which I guess I can still do.

Sukkot is special to me because it was my very first Hillel event, six years ago. And two years ago, it was the event S attended that made him decide to come to UCSC, and live in the Jewish Co-Op.

It was a beautiful service on Friday night. The Sukkah, for the first time since my freshman year, was overflowing with people. So many of us! They say the Sukkah should be filled with joy, and it was.

After dinner, Rabbi S invited us back into the Sukkah for a story. It was dark, and I couldn't see anyone's faces. He asked us to share a comfort food, and why we found it comforting. Then, a comfort place, somewhere specific, and why that place is so safe and warm. Next, a comfort activity, or a comfort person. The theme was comfort because the Sukkah is supposed to represent the ultimate comfort zone, where we are surrounded by things that are loving.

He pointed out that Sukkot does not actually appear in the Torah, except for in one line that mentions a dwelling. The origins of Sukkot, then, are disputed (like everything else in Judaism!), and the interpretation he offered was one I hadn't heard before. While the Jews were walking through the desert on the way to Sinai, they followed a cloud that was a pillar of fire at night, and a pillar of smoke during the day. This was the Ananei HaKavod, (Clouds of Honor). When the cloud stopped, they stopped and set up camp for the night. When the cloud moved, they followed it. It kept them safe through the desert, and protected them from the elements and dangerous animals. S said that the Sukkah is like that cloud, God's safety, the ultimate source of comfort and love.

I prefer this interpretation to the "they were harvesting and lived near the fields" story I was told in Sunday school as a kid. For me, the community creates some of that comfort. Sitting there in the dark, unable to discern one face from another, it really did feel safe.

No comments: