Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

“So we’ll be building our sukkah on Sunday,” I said to my kid a few days ago.

“Wait, what?” he asked. “I thought Sukkot was a week and four days after Yom Kippur!” Nope, I told him: it’s just four days after. “Oh yay,” he said. “That means Sukkot is sooner than I thought!”

(I have to admit, I kvelled. I love that he’s excited about Sukkot. This may have something to do with the sheer quantity of sparkling pumpkin ornaments and autumnal garland we’ve accumulated for our sukkah over the years…)

Sukkot begins four days after Yom Kippur. One day for each of the four worlds of action, emotion, thought, and spirit. One day for each of the letters in the Name of God we consider most holy. One day for each of the seasons of the year, or each of the cardinal directions.

We have four days after Yom Kippur to catch our breath and integrate whatever Yom Kippur opened / awakened / changed in us. And then we dive headlong into the next holiday.

In ancient times Sukkot was called He-Chag, “The Holiday,” and it was a tremendous time of celebration. For many of us now it can feel like an afterthought — but I think if it’s an afterthought, we’re really missing out.

I love sitting in the sukkah, listening to the cornstalks rustle overhead, watching the sky change colors, basking in the light of the full moon. I love shaking lulav and etrog, that ancient mystical practice of bringing together the Four Species as an embodied prayer for blessing and a good harvest. (There’s another four again…) I love drinking my morning coffee in the sukkah, or eating meals there, New England October weather permitting. I love the mitzvah of hospitality in the sukkah.

After the spiritual and physical marathon of Yom Kippur, which itself came after the grandeur and splendor of two days of Rosh Hashanah, which in turn came at the end of seven weeks of inner preparation starting at Tisha b’Av, it’s easy to feel a little bit worn-out by the time Sukkot rolls around. But Sukkot offers such sweetness. It’s a combination of harvest festival, gratitude festival, abundance festival, and festival celebrating joy amidst life’s impermanence.

Of course the notion of life’s impermanence lands differently in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which brought so much devastation. I suspect we will see storms of increasing capacity and destruction as the planet’s climate continues to heat up. May this Sukkot heighten our gratitude for safe shelter in all its forms, and strengthen our resolve to help those who are unhoused.

Come enjoy the CBI sukkah anytime during the week of the festival (Sunday, October 9 through Sunday, October 16). And join us for our Shabbat potluck dinner in the sukkah, happening again at last after these first few years of pandemic! May our Sukkot be meaningful, holy, and sweet.

Blessings to all,

— Rabbi Rachel