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  • Kasturi Goswami

The Feast Of Tabernacles; Jewish Thanksgiving That Guests And Celebrates Humanity

Sukkot is a biblical Jewish festival celebrated for seven days on the 15th day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. Sukkot marks the harvest festival and is an intended reminiscence of the Israelites' 40 years of travel in the Sinai desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the festival, the festive makers eat inside the Sukkah (a hut, shed, or booth) constructed for this very purpose.


The morning skimmed in the beautiful golden sun lingering partially on the horizon. An orange and peachy-pink sky painted with a few lines of clouds ushered in the Sukkot festival. The week-long celebrations were beginning today. The Rabbi (spiritual leader of the Jews) was prepared, washed, and dressed for the blessings that would begin the evening festivities. A firm believer, he was the very meaning of what his name stood for, God will establish. Passionate and responsible, he believed in his work and took pride in his efforts toward the congregation.


Ima (mother) and aba (father) always urged him to live life on his terms. He beleived belief was a burden, and the truth lay in being detached. Having traveled all over Europe and Asia as an adult, he realized his true calling. His driven desire toward his faith. He found that humanity was redeemable even through faith, one which was not blind, maimed, or deaf. The only rule was that the mind needed to be nurtured to lead a life serving God's will and the Torah's ideal.


Consequently, Rabbi Elyakim took on the congregation's responsibilities shortly after his father's death. His isha (wife), Leah, stood by him with pride. She had borne their twins, Meir and Maharam.

He had grown up with parents of faith, but they were open-minded enough to allow him his freedom. His bens (sons) burned with the same inquisitiveness. They questioned and prodded. Elyakim kept their thirsts quenched and freed them of the shackles that an orthodox religious life ensued. He gave them wings to soar and seek their truths.


Bidding his family of the services at the allotted time, he reached the synagogue with his eyes filled with mirth. It was the first day marking the Festival of Ingathering. The Rabbi knew his duties. He had prayers to offer after ablution. The prayers involve the waving of the lulav (date palm frond), hadassim (myrtle branches), aravot (willow twigs), and etrog (a citron fruit): the Four Species; all part of the Yom Tov spirit.


The services were due at sunset. The purple hue of the sky marked the onset of the festival. The congregants: the rich, the poor, the young, and the old, were excitedly pouring in with their families in tow for the special prayers. Rabbi Elyakim would read out the Torah, followed by people waving together their kosher sets and reciting their own prayers. Today prayers bonded praise and jubilation. The embarkment of a year of good luck and gratitude. He stood at the podium and began his Rabbinic duties. They sang praises for the Lord. Rabbi Elyakim faced the congregation.

"We celebrate Sukkot as a commemoration of God's miraculous ways. He kept us alive when we left Egypt in search of the promised land. Sukkot is a reminder of the virtue that sharing is caring. It aims to strengthen bonds through morality and sanctity. The Torah pushes against the creation of the most ideal holy society. But I want to ask you, what is ideal?


"The ideal changes are based on perspective. Jews all over the world have celebrated this harvest festival. We have celebrated Sukkot in the desert's scorching sands and in the correction camps of the much atrocious tyrant. We have faced the Lord with gratitude, even when we had very little to be thankful about. My saba (grandfather) had often told me and my akhot (sister) stories about the dreaded Holocaust. He told us that the Jews present in the Warsaw ghetto, and this I mean way back in 1941, had built a Sukkah (hut) on the top-floor balcony. They had queued for hours awaiting their turns on the Sukkah and to offer prayers over a set of the traditional four species, smuggled in from Switzerland. People in the face of adversity maintained their faith. If we can keep a small percentage of this dedication, our ideal would be complete. The Holocaust still lives. The violence is now widespread. The natural process would have been to exterminate such extreme episodes of inhumanity. Yet, the saddening fact is violence still exists. It is further pronounced and limitless. Humanity is on the brink of a breakdown. Hatred and jealousy, sins dominant over virtues of love and peace."


He saw his family in the small gathering. They stood tall and proud. The synagogue thronged with festive makers fell silent. Rabbi Elyakim smiled.


"At the face of these magnificent festivities, I urge you to seek him. Not only for his benevolence, but also to redirect us on the path to being humane. Salvation will follow there forth. I pray for our sons. May they practice and preach compassion for thy neighbors. May the spirit of Sukkot linger on. May this bountiful festival bring us closer to humanity and binds every family in love and togetherness."


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