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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Home Shalom Monday Message #26

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Home Shalom promotes healthy relationships and facilitates the creation of judgement free, safe spaces in the Jewish community. Home Shalom is a program of The Advot Project.

Please contact us if you are interested in a workshop and presentation about healthy relationships, self-worth or communication tools.

“The Divine Presence is not made manifest to human beings through sadness but through joy.”–Talmud Shabbat 30b

Jewish tradition refers to Sukkot as z’man simhataynu – “the time of our joy” — because living life with joy and happiness is a fundamental value of Jewish civilization and we celebrate that as a community each year at Sukkot time. 

One of the most popular practices of Sukkot is to stand in the Sukah and recite the special blessings of the holiday with the unique ritual objects that represent Sukkot – the Lulav and the Etrog. The Lulav is composed of three elements: a palm branch, a myrtle branch, and a willow. There are many different personalities that the sages have claimed these elements represent throughout Jewish history such as those with wealth but no good deeds, those with knowledge but who don’t apply their knowledge to action and those who have neither learning, wealth or good deeds. We are given the opportunity to apply these symbols to the challenges of our own lives in new ways each year. The Lulav, with its mixture of texture and fragrances, is perhaps best understood as representing our own potential to be flexible with what life throws our way, to find the joy in the little pleasures of life, to stand tall when necessary, and stand up for ourselves and our own needs and desires. 

The Etrog is a fruit that smells delicious and tastes bitter – an apt symbol for many relationships that, at first, appear sweet and loving but may turn out to be bitter and painful. Just as we hold them together when we recite the traditional blessings of Sukkot, so we recognize that life itself is messy and the relationships we create are often more complicated than we may first imagine. 

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan wrote, “The Sukkot festival, with its emphasis on joyous gratitude or happiness, is a protest not against civilization, but against its tendency to be a destroyer of happiness.” Our challenge this year, as in every year, is to create our own joy and happiness, even in the midst of extraordinary challenges and perhaps use the festival of Sukkot to remind us of all we have for which we can still be grateful in our lives.

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Home Shalom and Naomi Ackerman, The Advot Project

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