I used to lament the fact that Sukkot, which begins on October 13th this year, gives us no time to breathe after Yom Kippur. But the truth is that Sukkot is the break I’ve been searching for all along. Sukkot is designated “me” time; time for me to sit outside under a blanket of stars (or whatever semblance of stars I get out in Somerville), have long conversations by candlelight (potentially romantic, am I right?), eat great food (who could complain about that?), and actually feel like I’m slowing down, for once. So, now that we’ve gotten past the stress of back-to-school time and the deluge that is the High Holidays, think of Sukkot as God’s gift to the Jewish people, a time to veg out. You deserve it.
I enjoy celebrating Sukkot because I crave being outside every so often. But Sukkot wasn’t just created to satisfy my needs—it actually holds a lot of significance for the Jewish people. As one of the Shalosh Regalim (three pilgrimage festivals, the other two being Passover and Shavuot, when the Israelites would make pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem), Sukkot serves to commemorate the forty years during which our ancestors wandered in the desert. We build a Sukkah (a makeshift shelter) to emulate the huts of similar size, style, and utility that the Israelites built in the wilderness.
Historically speaking, Sukkot stems from an agricultural tradition—it would mark the completion of the harvest, and was a celebration of thanksgiving for the bounty of crops collected in the past year. So though I’m not exactly celebrating my year of crop collection come October (the farthest I’ll go for food is the college dining hall down the block), I certainly am thankful for the gifts that nature gives me every single day—like wonderfully fresh fruits and vegetables, spacious parks throughout my beloved Boston, amazing sunsets over the skyline, and the recent, not-too-humid hints at an Indian summer. I use Sukkot to connect with nature and to express my gratitude for the wondrous world around me.
The holiday leaves me rejuvenated. Once I’ve disassembled my hut, packed the decorations back in storage, and (admittedly) watched some TV to recuperate, I see the world through a new pair of eyes. I might linger a little longer on my jog near the Charles, or stop to stare at the clouds circling over the Back Bay, or roll around like a child in the grass in Boston Common. And I might end up covered in dirt, but it feels totally great. So, let Sukkot be the new hot thing this October, the gift you thought was too confusing, expensive, or just plain too big for your backyard. Go ahead and splurge—it’s time to reconnect with your surroundings, with your Jewish roots, and with yourself.
Sukkah image by Flickr user SusanNYC.