May our prayers and voices weave together to draw the Divine presence near.
As the trees begin to shed their leaves outside, we mark the Jewish festival of Lit. Booths or huts Sukkot is the autumn harvest Festival of Booths, is celebrated starting the 15th of the Jewish month of Tishrei. Jews build booths (sukkot), symbolic of the temporary shelters used by the ancient Israelites when they wandered in the desert. Traditionally, Jews eat and sleep in the sukkah for the duration of the holiday (seven days in Israel and eight outside of Israel). The lulav (palm frond), willow, myrtle, and etrog fruit are also waved together. by building fragile, temporary dwellings. Sitting in the Lit. hut or booth A temporary hut constructed outdoors for use during Sukkot, the autumn harvest festival. Many Jews observe the mitzvah of living in the Sukkah for the week of Sukkot, including taking their meals and sleeping in the Sukkah. we wonder what is lasting in our lives: What does it mean to have a place that we can always call home? How might we stay connected to the Eternal as seasons shift and change is all around us?
The The rabbinic compendium of lore and legend composed between 200 and 500 CE. Study of the Talmud is the focus of rabbinic scholarship. The Talmud has two versions, the main Babylonian version (Bavli) and the smaller Jerusalem version (Yerushalmi). It is written in Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic. teaches that in the days of the Temple, on the festival of Sukkot, sacred offerings were brought on behalf of all nations for rains of blessing, for a year sustenance. During the holiday of Sukkot in our times, we continue to pray for the wellbeing for all humanity.
The prophet Isaiah proclaims that God’s House will be known as a house of prayer for all peoples. In preparation for Sukkot this year, we gathered a multifaith group of clergy and other spirited singers in our Center City, Philadelphia synagogue to sing a mashup of the psalm that we recite through this season—Psalm 27—with the Christian worship song, “Better is One Day.” Both works explore the idea of dwelling in the house of God.
During the three hours we spent together in song, we also stood in silent prayer in the magnificent sanctuary at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel (that was once a church and is now a synagogue). With the prayers of The holiest day of the Jewish year and the culmination of a season of self-reflection. Jews fast, abstain from other worldly pleasures, and gather in prayers that last throughout the day. Following Ne'ilah, the final prayers, during which Jews envision the Gates of Repentance closing, the shofar is sounded in one long blast to conclude the holy day. It is customary to begin building one's sukkah as soon as the day ends. still reverberating in the vaulted ceiling, along with the energy of over a century of heartfelt offerings, we reflected on what it feels like to dwell in the house of the Eternal One. We know this home to be a space of love, integrity, justice, and awe for all of God’s creation.
We are blessed to belong to an interfaith community that is working to build a more just and welcoming Philadelphia for all who call our city home—regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, economic status, or whether you’ve lived here for many years or have just arrived in this country three weeks ago.
May our prayers and voices weave together to draw the Divine presence near. May our actions create communities, in our city and our country, that are spaces of dignity and welcome for all people, places that God would want to call home.
Here is the Spontaneous Philadelphia Interfaith Choral Ensemble singing Better Is One Day / Achat Sha’alti (Psalm 27), (original song by Matt Redman, arranged by Josh Ehrlich, with Yosef Goldman).
Better Is One Day / Achat Sha’alti
Song by Matt Redman, with lyrics from Psalm 27
Arranged by Josh Ehrlich, with Yosef Goldman
Performed by the Spontaneous Philadelphia Interfaith Choral Ensemble
Recorded live at Temple Beth-Zion Beth Lit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel., Philadelphia, PA
Better is one day in your courts
Better is one day in your house
Better is one day in your courts
Than thousands elsewhere
Achat Sha’alti me’eit Lit. The Name, referring to the ineffable name of God; used as a substitute for any of the more sacred names of God when not speaking in prayer. Particularly used in conversation.
אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת יְהוָה
One thing I ask from Adonai
That one thing I seek:
Shviti b’veit Adonai kol yemei chayai
שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית יְהוָה כָּל יְמֵי חַיַּי
To dwell in Adonai’s house all the days of my life
My heart and flesh cry out
For You the Living God
Your Spirit’s water to my soul
Lecha amar libi, bakshu fanai
לְךָ אָמַר לִבִּי בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָי
You seek my heart,
My heart seeks You
Et panecha avakeish
אֶת-פָּנֶיךָ יְהוָה אֲבַקֵּשׁ
I seek Your Presence, Adonai
Rabbi Annie Lewis is Director of Rabbinic Formation at Reconstructing Judaism. Rabbi Yosef Goldman is Rabbi and Director of Sacred Music at Temple Beth Zion Beth Israel (BZBI) in Philadelphia.