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Rabbi Jonathan Ganger
by Published on October 2, 2020

 

              Each of the major holidays are linked to the agricultural cycle both in time and in their idea. Passover is linked to the blossoms of spring as the barren ground springs forth with life.  Similarly, the Jewish people who have been downtrodden slaves for 210 years spring back to life to become leaders of an ethical revolution in the world.   Shavuot is linked to the harvest, where after much human exertion and toil the farmer is able to see the efforts of his work. In the same vein, Torah is the guidebook on how to direct their energies to makes sure their lives are ones that make produce.  Then, we come to sukkot and it is unclear what crucial =agricultural step ‘gathering’ is- I wouldn’t call gathering fruit and putting them in a basket to be so revolutionary as to garner its own holiday?  What is the power of gathering and how does it create joy?

              Happiness is a term used to describe any good feeling these days.  But if we really zone in on what makes a person truly happy it is that it comes with a sense of fulfillment.  For example, if someone scores well on a test in a class that they are not particularly interested in, then there may be a sense of relief at having gotten the test out of the way successfully, but it is hard to call it joy.  In contrast, doing well in a class one truly cares about as a career option, could deliver a deeper feeling of fulfillment and something much closer to joy. Why? Because that test is also an expression of that person’s sense of self.

              If we take that definition of happiness as a sense of fulfilment then we can understand what gathering in signifies.  It is the process of taking a crop that is out there in the field and taking it home whereby it becomes truly yours.  When one takes ideas and wisdom and integrates it into themselves, then they’ve reached a deeper sense of completion and satisfaction. That is what Sukkot is trying to achieve.  We’ve just proceeded through the high holidays full of big ideas, but now it is time to integrate and realize these ideas are not foreign but meant to be part of who we truly are. If we can gather them together and integrate them, then it will provide true fulfillment for the rest of the year.

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