After the heavy themes of sin and atonement that have occupied us so far in Tishrei, it is a relief to turn our attention to Sukkot, the time of our rejoicing. I love being outside, even when it gets chilly and wet, and the tastes, fragrances, sounds and touch of the four species and the Sukkah itself all contrast nicely with the sensory deprivation of Yom Kippur. We step outdoors and embrace our physicality, rejoicing in the gift of being alive.
While Sukkot commemorates a particular moment of Israelite history—the desert trek—it also expresses universal themes of thanksgiving for the harvest, anxiety about winter rains, and aspiration for an Edenic future of bounty and ease. Anxiety about food is implicit in many of the “Hoshanot,” and made painfully explicit in the sixth one, אדמה מארר (curse not the earth). For most of us, food insecurity is a topic of interest, but not of personal experience. Even while fasting, we know that a bounteous table awaits us soon, and our main challenge is to avoid thinking about what delicacies we will enjoy first. We are most fortunate, but it is important on Sukkot to become attuned to the larger reality.