To everything thing there is a season, and unfortunately, it’s hurricane season again. Thousands of people have been displaced by last week’s Hurricane Florence, and as we come out of the personal introspection of the High Holidays and head into Sukkot, I find myself thinking about how I, thousands of miles away on the West Coast, can help.
On the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot, we build a “sukkah”—a temporary dwelling with a roof made of branches (often called a “booth” or “hut”)—and invite our friends and neighbors to join us for meals in the sukkah under the sky. It is a mitzvah to invite friend and stranger alike, and to make sure that all are welcome. But it is also a commandment that the structure of the sukkah is impermanent. Sukkahs are meant to remind us of when our ancestors lived in the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt, and I like to think that they are also meant to reinforce for us how uncertain life is and to cherish it.
We here in Orange County, like in the land of Israel, have the good fortune to be far away from hurricanes, so it is pretty easy for us to build a sukkah. When I think of the Jews on the East Coast who are living in true temporary housing because of hurricanes, my heart goes out to them. There is a poignancy about celebrating Sukkot in our temporary structures when so many are forced to live in them because of circumstances beyond their control.
The biblical book associated with Sukkot is Ecclesiastes, best known for the phrase at the beginning of this email: “to everything there is a season” (hear The Byrds musical version here). It’s a philosophical book to be sure, and during Sukkot, people study and discuss it. For me, it means that even though seasons change and life throws us curve balls, we have to do the best we can—for ourselves and for others.
At this time of autumn, harvest festivals, and temporary huts, let’s all be grateful for what we have and where we live. At the same time, we can do something to help those who are struggling. If you’d like to join me and the Orange County Jewish community in making a donation to the 2018 Hurricane Relief Fund created by Jewish Federations of North America, please click here.
I wish you all a Chag Sameach, a joyous Sukkot, and Shabbat Shalom,