Judaism is based on our ancient history but it is relevant in every way to modern times. Sukkot is the perfect example of that. When we think about the sukkah (“hut”), we remember the time we lived in temporary huts in the desert, as we wandered on our way to the Promised Land. We may also remember that a sukkah is a symbol of biblical times, when farmers would live in huts in the fields as they collected their fall produce.
But the deeper message of the Sukkot holiday is its reminder of those who are homeless, for whom living in a temporary hut would be a luxury. Who is not moved by the thousands of refugees searching the world for nations who will accept them and house them, and provide safety for their families? Who is not moved by the children washed up on the shores as their parents put them in insecure boats in the hope they and the entire family will make it safely across bodies of waters? How many hundreds of refugees, people of all ages, have drowned as they try to escape war, terrorism, and slave traffickers. Some are LGBT asylum seekers, escaping from Africa and the Middle East where they are persecuted because of their sexual orientation.
The great interpreter and commentator Maimonides wrote that the sukkah is built to remind the rich of the needs of the poor. The harvest festival reminds us that there are people who are hungry, homeless, or poor.
Our High Holy Day liturgy and our Sukkot holiday reminds us that we cannot stand idly by. To make it easy for you, I am starting a separate fund in the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund. Send your tax deductable donation addressed to me at the Temple. Make the check payable to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund and on the subject line write Refugee Relief. I will add to your donations, any amount you can spare, and send a check from our Congregation to one of the many fine organizations working to provide safety and security for these refugees.
May the holiday of Sukkot bring you great joy. It’s a mitzvah – commandment – to be happy on Sukkot! And may we celebrate it together, under the stars this Shabbat.
Rabbi Debbie Israel