Friday, October 17, 2008

What I'm likely sharing tonight at Sukkot Shabbat

Shabbat Shalom, everyone! I have a few quick thoughts to share while you finish your dinner. Call it some food for thought. Sukkot was my first Hillel event in fall 2002. Can I get a show of hands if this is your first Hillel event? Welcome! Joseph and I came to Sukkot all dressed up when I was a freshman because every time I'd gone to synagogue, I'd had to dress up. How surprised we were to find everyone sitting on the ground together in the Sukkah at Porter college, some in jeans, some barefoot, everyone singing. Joseph and I looked at each other and smiled: This was something completely different. This was something we could get into.

The Sukkah represents several different - and contradicting - aspects of Jewish life. I've been told that the Sukkah is place where you feel the most safe, the most comforted. But at the same time, the Sukkah is, at its core, a temporary dwelling. This space of ultimate safety and comfort only lasts for a week, and the rest of the year we are left with its memory.

We recall Sukkot each week at Shabbat we sing "Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Sh'lomecha," and spread over us Your shelter of peace. But like the Sukkah, Shabbat is also a temporary shelter - the liminal space between one week and another. The difference is that we return to the shelter of Shabbat each Friday at sundown. Sukkot only comes once a year.

The point I'm trying to make is that whether it's Sukkot, Shabbat, or both, these holidays represent the transience of our personal shelters. Many of you left the shelters of your homes to come to college. Every student I met seven years ago at my first Hillel event has graduated, leaving the shelter of UCSC to seek comfort and peace in other communities. And even though I'm still here, celebrating my 7th Hillel Sukkot, I'm a different person when I enter and exit the Sukkah every year.

When we reconvene for Sukkot next fall, we'll all be a little different. But regardless of the transience of each of our personal shelters, the comfort and warmth that we feel when we gather in the Sukkah will inspire us to keep coming back. I look forward to seeing all of you in the Sukkah next year. Shabbat Shalom.

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