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Jewish Journal

Sukkot Humbles The Rich, Comforts the Poor, Good Timing for #OccupyAmerica

by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

October 12, 2011 | 10:01 am

As the sun sets on Wednesday, October 12th, the Jewish community begins the Festival of Sukkot, a spiritual harvest festival commemorating the historic journey of the ancient Hebrews across the desert, the bounty of the fall harvest, and our reliance on God. However, Sukkot is much more than a way to commemorate this ancient journey, it evens the playing field between rich and poor.

Firstly, why do Jews rough it in the Sukkah for the Festival? Wouldn’t it make more sense to celebrate in a pub, club, or frat house?

On Sukkot there is a special mitzvah, an obligation, to rejoice and be happy. What makes me truly happy? Is it a new car, season premiers or the iPhone 4S? Sukkot is a remedy for my faith in possessions to make me happy. Surrounded by the walls of our temporary dwelling place, I remind myself that focusing on our friends, family and relationship with God can sustain my happiness.

More recently, as Jewish communities do not feel the constant threat of tyrants and anti-Semitism, Sukkot encourages me to help the many people who live on a constant basis without permanent shelter.

Another deeper lesson of Sukkot can best be understood by another name of the Festival. The holiday of Sukkot is also called the Festival of the Harvest - commemorating the time when we gather our crops and fill our storehouses.

If one has been blessed — our profits outweigh our expenditures, our portfolio has grown and our wine cellars are full and satisfaction and trust fill our soul — it is at that moment that the Torah tells us to leave our home and dwell in a Sukkah. The frail booth teaches us that neither wealth, good investments, IRA’s or even real-estate are life’s safeguards. It is God who sustains us all, those in palaces and those in tents. Any glory or wealth we posses came to us from God, and will endure so long as it is God’s will.

And if our toil has not resulted in great blessing — our investments went south, we lost our job and nest-egg, our cellars are empty, and we face the approaching winter with mounting debt and bills, living off credit from month to month, forlorn and fearful for how we will survive— then as we enter the sukkah we find rest for our troubled soul. Divine providence is more reliable than worldly wealth which can vanish in an instant. The sukkah will renew our strength and courage, and teach and inspire us with joy and perseverance even in the face of affliction and hardship.

Sukkot humbles the rich, for it can vanish in an instant. Comforts the Poor, a week to enjoy the embrace of the sukkah.

Sukkot hit at an interesting time, just as #OccupyAmerica is gaining steam.
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