Now that the solemnity of Yom Kippur has passed through our community, excitement is bursting in the town center. Sparkling decorations and holiday paraphernalia fill tables lining the street, vendors are besieged. Never does one see so many booths in the streets as at
this time of year. It is almost Sukkot, after all, the Festival of Booths.
Even after the long fast day, it’s hard to imagine another week of that ever so popular theme of gluttony. During Sukkot all meals are eaten in the sukkah, and soon more aluminum pans filled with holiday delights will fill my finally-empty refrigerator. But we will do more than eat and pray. We will shake a lulav and etrog, which resemble some branches and a lemon on steroids. We will not only eat in the sukkah; the commandment is to dwell in it. Our sleeping arrangements will be reminiscent of camping trips to the Golan, minus the sounds of our neighboring country’s civil unrest. Families are building and decorating what will be their home for one week, be it 30 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, depending on their coordinates. It is a time that we once again place our trust in G-d and the elements he blows our way.
Even more common than the theme of food is that of vulnerability, which those in the Middle East experience regularly. Interestingly enough, my children seem only to notice the food. As living in Israel goes, my kids can’t seem to get enough adventure, nor can they get enough pizza, falafel or ice coffee. A few minutes in bomb shelter is a brief excitement. Discovering that the shelter is not supplied with granola bars constitutes a crisis. Admitting disappointment when our neighborhood missile siren failed to sound during our last conflict with Gaza, my offspring are always on a quest to defy every threat that exists in the region. Overnight school trip to the north? They’ll veer off the hiking trail to find fields harboring old land mines. Shells coming over the Syrian border? Well, if that government is smart, they will NOT ruin my daughter’s class trip plans. You get the idea. If none of these activities makes them quiver, certainly sleeping in a backyard hut with bamboo for a roof certainly doesn’t evoke feelings of vulnerability. But perhaps there is more to it than that.
In Israel, my children have an opportunity that doesn’t exist elsewhere. Here their comings and goings are blessed, as mere steps across this Holy Land are mitzvot, and there are moments that one could attest to inhaling holiness. All whom have chosen to make Israel their home live on faith as strong as steel, with hearts as soft as Jell-O. We are not so unlike the sabras, a word referring to those born in Israel. They are named for the sabra fruit which is prickly on the outside, but soft and sweet inside, sweetness that is born of faith. Living under threat, we long for the tangibility of G-d’s presence, the concrete proof of His covenant, the very one that led our people to wander a desert for decades, knowing their every need would be provided for. We want to witness miracles. We crave His protection, and not just in the extreme. We want to feel it every day, even during times of normalcy.
Life often is more a tornado than a breeze. We bite our nails while our teens make choices. We muster strength through illness and disappointment. And our victories over fear and hopelessness make us robust. But our hearts never petrify; they forever long for nurturing. We expect it; therefore we wait for the worst, defying the enemy to challenge the greatness that surrounds us, holding us infinitely.
The holiday joy engulfs us, and the winds of war have changed course. In the meantime, discord builds in sukkahs across the land, as children battle for the best mattress, and to be the first to shake the lulav and etrog. And in my sukkah, I will thank G-d that my children’s trust has endured through aliyah, two wars, gas mask fittings and trips to “the front lines”. Of course, I will continue to pray for peace, especially with all of my precious children at home together for two weeks, 24 hours a day……..
Chag sameach !!