We don’t want Yom KippurThe 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. to leave us in a slump, struggling to pick ourselves up. Instead, we must embrace joy so that we may restore balance in the world, in our community, and within ourselves.
There is a popular SukkotLit. 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. song, which captures the holiday’s essence in just one line: “V’samchtach b’hagechah v’hayitah ach sameach,” or, “You shall rejoice in your festival … and you shall have nothing but joy” (Deut 16:14-15). We learn from the TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. that we must be joyous during Sukkot.
As I began making plans for my SukkahLit. 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. and all of the guests I would welcome into it, I thought about this song. I cannot help but wonder how we can be commanded to be joyful? I understand being commanded to take or not take particular actions, like building a sukkah, shaking a lulavOn Sukkot, three of the four species (the palm, the myrtle, and the willow) are bound and waved together with the etrog. The lulav is said to symbolize the spine, while the myrtle's leaves symbolize eyes, the willow's leaves are lips, and the etrog is the heart. and etrogA lemon-like fruit (citron) used at Sukkot as one of the four species. Women desiring to get pregnant were given the pitom (stem) to eat after Sukkot., not murdering anyone and not committing adultery. But how can we be commanded to feel a certain way? In my experience, I sometimes feel like being joyful, and sometimes don’t. If feelings were as simple as following a commandment, then surely there would be fewer broken hearts, fewer people suffering from depression, and fewer people who feel anything but joy!
Coming after Rosh HashanahThe Jewish New Year, also considered the Day of Judgment. The period of the High Holidays is a time of introspection and atonement. The holiday is celebrated with the sounding of the shofar, lengthy prayers in synagogue, the eating of apples and honey, and round challah for a sweet and whole year. Tashlikh, casting bread on the water to symbolize the washing away of sins, also takes place on Rosh Hashana. and Yom Kippur, this imperative to be joyous is even more jarring and perplexing. During the days leading up to and during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we do the heavy work of recognizing what is broken in our lives, where we have fallen short and where we need some work. This inner work makes us incredibly vulnerable. We open ourselves to God and our communities. By the end of Yom Kippur, our knees are weak from fasting and our hearts ache from pouring out our souls. But it isn’t good for anyone to be left in this low place. After all, how could we getA writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. out of bed and be productive members of society if Jewish tradition left us paralyzed with musings over all of our faults? Instead—on the heels of this extreme low—we are commanded to do the opposite and be joyous! It seems that by shooting us to this other extreme, the sadness and the joy are able to come together as the yin and yang, bringing balance to our holiday season.
We don’t want Yom Kippur to leave us in a slump, struggling to pick ourselves up. Instead, we must embrace joy so that we may restore balance in the world, in our community, and within ourselves. Hag Sameakh!