The First Night of Sukkot

Night fell around us like curtains of darkness, as we laughed and ate inside the little hut we’d constructed in the backyard. Walls of canvas, paintings laminated from years ago when the children were in preschool, twinkling lights under the cut branches that were our roof.

The first night of Sukkot, the first Sukkot in our new home, vulnerable under the stars, open to the concept of God’s greatness.

I don’t believe that God is a magical, mystical man in the clouds separate from me and looking down sternly. I do believe God is a concept of divinity and care, concern and protection, inside each of us and pervasive in our world.

Sometimes God hides, and sometimes his presence permeates us all. Sometimes we are aware that there is a force greater than us, but much of the time we don’t really get that. We think we are in charge.

So this holiday of Sukkot reminds us that we are open to the elements, in the hands of something greater, whipped by the winds and warmed by the poetic presence.

It is one of my favorite holidays. Not only is it festive, it is adventuresome.

Last night, we sat in the tiny hut my husband built with backlit clouds illuminated by a full moon overhead and the first stars twinkling in our night sky. Friends joined us – a childhood friend, her husband and their two children. At the far end of the table sat the children, tweens now, laughing, taking pictures on their phones, having a wonderful time.

At our end of the table, we caught up and shared stories. Passed the frittata and the salad, sliced cheesecake for my daughter’s birthday.

When on a regular weeknight do we do this? Stop the busy-ness of our lives and gather around the table to slurp homemade vegetable soup and take bites of sweet banana nut muffins made in the dawn when my husband and I got up early to prepare.

It was silent in our kitchen, but warm, as we made the batter for that night’s delicious muffins. Then he and I walked alongside the sunrise, to connect, to feel the morning air, to be in our moments together.

Fast forward several hours to that night, when we gathered again outdoors with people we love and celebrated the moment.

A Beliefnet article explains this holiday well: “Hot on the heels of Yom Kippur, falls the next in a series of autumn Jewish holidays, Sukkot. It’s brilliant, really. After an entire month or more of soul searching, introspection, fasting, begging forgiveness, it’s time to party!

Sukkot is the autumn harvest festival—think cornucopias overflowing with pumpkins and gourds, colorful squash and Indian corn. In the Bible we’re told to celebrate for a week, dwelling in temporary booths or tabernacles (in Hebrew, called Sukkot), which is how Sukkot became known as “the Feast of Tabernacles” or “Feast of Booths” in some circles. In Jewish tradition it is called “z’mansimchateinu”—season of our joy—and it is!”

What I love about my heritage is that our holidays force us to set aside the everyday and immerse in moments we might otherwise never notice. It doesn’t mean I am religious; it means I am reverent.

I love living a spiritual life, a life full of ritual and moments, of scent and sound and silence. Really, it’s the only way for me, as otherwise it would all blur together, one unimportant thing on top of the next, everything a messy swirl of nothingness.

We must stop and smell the moments. Otherwise they pass us by, and then what have we really got at the end?

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