First of all, I want to thank you ALL. It was really wonderful for me to feel how each and every one of you has received me in the community. I would have to mention a lot of people, but I choose to thank Rabbi Gerstein and Aliza, Mundy and Stan, Julie, Mark, Elliott, Cantor Socolof, Cantor Fader and especially Marsha. They have made my reception in Utica and the community really warm. With the collaboration and presence of all of you, we achieved significant and beautiful Yamim Noraim, which made us start a promising new year.
There is no doubt that Sukkot is one of the most educational of our festivals. I'd say it's on a par with Pesach. It has content for us to learn with everything we see in the Sukkah, fruits and vegetables, ornaments etc. It has aromas that fill us with pleasure. In the Sukkah itself and in the minims (especially in the Etrog). Perhaps all that accumulation of sensations dazzles us a little. It's all nice. It really is.
Sukkot is that holiday where we MUST be happy and content. It is precisely after the evaluation, and above all, the self-evaluation that we have just passed the month of Elul and the Yamim Noraim. The terrible days that ended on Yom Kippur. We need a bit of good and fresh air to continue ahead. Something like a tequilita that cheers us up.
That is Sukkot. A breeze of encouragement. A boost of joy and optimism. A year begins in which we have to put all our good intention and energy to start in the best way.
But beware! It is not a light moment. It is not a moment of leisure in which nothing matters to us and we are happy without taking into account the surrounding reality. If YOU are happy and feel happy ... you must contemplate that others around you may be happy too. That is where the precariousness of the Sukkah comes in and the detachment, even for a few days, from our daily comforts.
Sukkot teaches us that there are things that can be put aside and enjoyed by others.
Sukkot teaches us that values are shared and lived even without the comforts and luxuries that we could have and that this does not mean that we are less happy.
Sukkot teaches us that the effort should be to feel and be happy, not to accumulate belongings. If there is someone who is not happy, we must take responsibility in seeing how to make it so.
Sukkot presents us with a strange paradox in which what for us is precarious, for others it is not. For our ancestors, the NOT precarious was the symbol that everything was beginning to be better and that freedom was a tangible fact.
Look how interesting: when we talk about the protection that our God offers us or that we ask him to give us, we do not ask him to provide us with a shield that shelters us. We do not ask him to build us a strong castle that gives us security and isolates us from the environment. We ask ufros aleinu sukat shlomecha. We ask that you cover us with your peace suit, which, far from being precarious, is full of content and open to include each and every one of us and the entire people of Israel.
And with all this that I share with you, we have not even begun to get into the meaning of the 4 minims! Of course the minims "speak" to us of unity. Of course they talk to us about recognizing our flaws and strengths. Accept those of others around us. Add them together and form a common whole knowing that we all have something to contribute.
There is no such thing as leaving someone out because there is "something" about him that does not fit into my structure. There is no such thing as not being able to take part because I don't like it. It does not exist that someone does not like something that I do not have or that I have left over. At least it is not the message that the minims leave us. A custom at least two thousand years old and that is a mitzvah: divine precept. Indisputable order of the Creator.
May we conclude our jag, embedded in the message of peace, solidarity and community that the Sukkah proposes to us.
And of course, that being happy and being content is not just a prescription, but that the mitzvah comes through our pores spontaneously, infecting everyone around us with the joy that comes from living together in community and peace. This gives the joy of being able to achieve it.
And may God let us do it together, face-to-face next year.