Sukkot: Unconditional or performance based

Do you feel that your parents love you unconditionally or is it performance based? What about the love you have for your parents?

What about our relationship with G-d? Is he our father or is he our king? Should we love him or fear him?

We can gain insight into the above from delving into the meaning of the festivals we observe during this month of Tishrei. The first half are dominated by festivals described as the “Days Of Awe.” The second are described as the “Times Of Our Rejoicing.”

Herein lies the complex and multi faceted nature of the relationship between the Jewish people and G-d. The question is, which festival ultimately captures the essence of that relationship?

The first Lubavitcher Rebbe provides profound insight. He offers the following metaphor based on the verse in Proverbs “A wise son makes his father happy.”

When a parent conceals their love from their child at certain times, such as moments of admonishment or to encourage independence, it is the wise child that understands that this is only on the surface. For it is the wise child that appreciates that there is no dilution in the love of a parent towards their children. It is only that the parent, on occasion, will withhold their love in order to bring out the best in their children. This in turn deepens and strengthens the relationship.

The “Days of Awe” is the time when our “father in heaven” judges his children on their performance. As a father who loves his children he wants us to do our best. He will therefore genuinely forgive us if we acknowledge our shortcomings.

However it is the latter festivals described as the “Times of our Rejoicing” that truly reflect the essence of our relationship with G-d. It is on this occasion that G-d embraces his children on a level that transcends all judgment. In the same way that the relationship between a parent and child is not performance based.

Our challenge as children is to be wise!

How simple!
How refreshing!
How revolutionary!

This is possibly the greatest misconception about the relationship between G-d and the Jewish People. At its core, our relationship with G-d is not defined by the “Days is Awe,” but by the “Days of our Rejoicing.”

About the Author
Founder and CEO of Center for Jewish Life, London UK.
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