RABBI SCHONBERGER Sukkot celebrates harvest
I love autumn. I love the temperature and the rich variegated display of colors that seems to transform nature into a broad Impressionist canvas.
I appreciate the mood of thanksgiving that warms us during this season. I appreciate the spirit of the actual gathering of Thanksgiving. I am told that the first Thanksgiving on this continent celebrated between Pilgrims and Indians was associated with the biblical Festival of Tabernacles.
The Bible describes this festival in ancient Israel as a gathering in Jerusalem where people would reside for a week in temporary booth dwellings and share sacred and happy experiences together. Deuteronomy 16:14 and 15 say: "You shall rejoice in your festival (Sukkot) with your son and your daughter. ... You shall hold the festival of God seven days in the place that God will choose. For God will bless all your crops and all of your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy." It was a time to celebrate the harvest of agriculture and spirit with friendship, food, song and prayer.
Throughout the world temporary booths are constructed as tangible, spiritual reminders that the only permanent shelter in our lives is the Lord God.
In the process, however, the Sukkot booths are enhanced with decorations that often include the natural produce that is abundant in this season. As a child I recall taking liberties with the decorations, enjoying a small snack from the bounty. The festival offers an opportunity to joyously reinforce the profound sacred interrelationship of God, nature and humanity with each other.
One of the culminating rituals of ancient Jerusalem was the priests' offerings and prayers for world peace. Those prayers are still recited throughout the world in hopes of facilitating a world of peace and joy. As the cornucopia of produce and color in autumn stimulate joy for the palate and the eye, I hope that the diversity of humanity on Earth can find brotherhood and peace together so that our prayers become fulfilled.
XRabbi Joseph P. Schonberger is rabbi at Temple El Emeth in Liberty.