The Hebrew Month of Elul has already begun. It is a time of reflection as we lead up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. These ten days, called the Days of Awe, are often thought to be the whole of the experience — celebrating the new year with prayer and feasting and apples and honey and then following it with the 25 hour fast, spending the day in synagogue in prayer and repentance, keenly aware of the image of the names being written in the Book of Life, the Gates that are said to close at sunset, admitting those whose atonement merits them another year.
But there are two more holidays to come — Sukkot and Simchat Torah — both joyous and unbridled counterpoints to the solemnity of the prior two. Sukkot is celebrated with the building of a temporary outdoor structure — a Sukkah — whose roof is covered but open to the stars and the elements. Simchat Torah celebrates the completion of reading the entire Torah and the beginning of the a new cycle of reading.
Whereas High Holiday meals are served on the good stuff, dining in the Sukkah is carefree and casual — paper plates, easy-wipe table cloths. After services it’s a delight to eat in this hut that is inside/outside, this sacred space carved from the profane patios and decks. Sukkot is a weeklong picnic that culminates back in synagogue for a night of dancing with and reading from the Torah scroll.
What is all of this leading up to? I might be a bit scarce over the next few weeks and thought to leave you with some sermons I’ve given over the past decade or so. I hope you enjoy.
And whether you will be celebrating the start of the new Jewish year, or beginning a new school year, or marking the close of summer and the beginning of cozy sweater weather and the anticipation of a leafy world of reds and coppers, I wish you health and happiness and meaningful time with your loved ones.