Well, we made it yet again into another new year! Mazel tov, and todah rabbah to everyone for your participation: to all of our “pulpit heroes;” to Peggie Soltis for moving and removing all of the Machzorim and siddurim; to Rose and Greg Broida for our pulpit flowers; to our musicians Doug Henirichs, Ron Kean, Jill Egland and Larry Thomas and to Rosh HaShanah soloist Stacy Davis; to our ushers and our baby-sitters, to Norma Schwartz and our oneg chag caterers, our break-the-fast crew, and to open house hosts Gail and Steve Magnus – and of course, to our Shofar blowers, Irvin, Kathi and Jess. Your presence and labors lift all of us, and all of our prayers, and make our High Holy Days rich and meaningful. Thank you.
With poetry and poignancy, the Jewish calendar moves us from our interior worlds - those of our homes and sanctuaries, as well as our psyches and souls -into the exterior. The festival of Sukkot welcomes us into the shelter of temporary dwellings, into the realm of nature and creation. Many people – especially those without a regular spiritual practice – claim to experience closeness with the Divine when confronted by nature’s wonders. Sukkot is a harvest festival, an invitation to commune with God in God’s world. It is also reminder of our fragility and dependency.
We will celebrate Erev Sukkot at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, October 4th at Temple Beth El with the shaking of the lulav and Etrog beneath our sukkah. We are all invited to join Congregation B’nai Jacob in their sukkah on that Shabbat, October 6th, at 6:30 PM, for dinner and services. (No services at TBE that night!). And all are welcome to continue the celebration with our religious school students at Temple Beth El on Sunday, October 8th with crafts, dancing, and more.
The Sukkah is a golden place in which to reflect on the pledges and promises we made between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. It is also a place for us to count our blessings – and to act to increase the blessings in the lives of those who have less than we do.
One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern has chosen the book “$2.00 A Day – Living on Almost Nothing in America.” To read it is to be shocked, appalled, amazed, angered – and, I hope, motivated to act. By the time you read these lines, I will have participated on an interfaith panel discussing the many issues this book raises from a Jewish point of view.
In sum: We need to be ever mindful of the sanctity of all human life. And we need to do all we can to raise those who are fallen – not just by filling our food pantries and supporting our homeless shelters, but by helping our legislators to make laws that restore justice, to ensure that no one if left in a state of such extreme poverty that they cannot find a way to legitimately support themselves and their families.
If you have not yet read $2.00 A Day, I encourage you to do so. I hope that the righteous anger it inspires, paired with the sense of your own fragile humanity, moves you – moves all of us – to get involved in finding solutions to this painful societal problem.
(I hope, too, that you will join us at Sukkot’s end to rejoice in our Torah at our communal celebration of Simhat Torah, Friday, October 13th at 7:00 PM!).
Chag Sameyach, One and All!
-Rabbi Cheryl Rosenstein