September 29, 2023 / 14 Tishrei 5784
Tonight, we begin the weeklong celebration of the Sukkot holiday, known in Hebrew as z’man simchateinu (“our time to rejoice”). But, with so many Jews exhausted from their annual High Holy Days pilgrimage to their respective places of worship, by the time Sukkot rolls around, most are Jewishly “burned out.”
Unfortunately, what is so sad about this reality is that the overwhelming majority of Jewishly engaged American Jews, who are “engaged” because of their membership and association to local synagogues, temples, and JCCs, conclude their Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur experiences feeling physically exhausted, spiritually fatigued, and emotionally drained.
But this does not need to be the case. In fact, Sukkot gets its joyful nickname because we are commanded this week to “rejoice before Gd” (Leviticus 23:41) and “rejoice in [our] festival” (Deuteronomy 16:14). It was the 17th Century Kotzker Rebbe who taught that to be truly joyful one needed to be genuinely holy. Therefore, it made complete sense that we rejoice in Sukkot after having been spiritually cleansed and sanctified from our Yom Kippur experience.
If we had gone on a long trip and our car was running low on fuel, it follows that we would put our efforts into refueling our vehicle. However, what is obvious in taking care of our material necessities does not necessarily follow when we address our personal needs. So many Jews today try to make it from one Yom Kippur to the next year’s Rosh Hashanah on an empty spiritual tank.
How do we fix this? For starters, we acknowledge that the best way to address an empty tank is to refuel it and not simply leave the vehicle stranded until next year.
Some folks are really good; when their gauge shows the tank nearing half-full, they’re already heading to refuel. Others, however, leave it until their warning signal flashes to remind them it’s time to look for a filling station. And yet others simply leave their vehicle in the garage as a showpiece, knowing they have it for whenever they might want or need it, but never having the intent to get its created use out of it.
In San Antonio, we are blessed to have many amazing Jewish institutions, agencies, synagogues, and temples who have numerous options for us to spiritually refuel… especially during this week of our rejoicing! Here are a few highlights, but I encourage everyone to go to our community calendar and see what else might be of interest this week or throughout the year:
- Tonight, across the community, there are multiple Sukkot Shabbat dinners. Go online and register, pick up the phone and RSVP, and enjoy a festive service and Shabbat meal in one of our local synagogue sukkahs.
- Pizza in the Hut at Temple Beth El, Sunday, 10/1, 6:00 pm
- Salsa in the Sukkah at the Barshop JCC, Monday, 10/2, 4:00-6:00 pm
- Build Your [Candy] Sukkah Family Event at Congregation Rodfei Sholom, Tuesday, 10/3, 3:30-4:30 pm
- STRONGER TOGETHER: Sukkot Family Fun Day at Chabad Center, Wednesday, 10/4, 4:00-6:00 pm
- LIFE & LEGACY® Year 4 Celebration in the Sukkah at The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Campus, Thursday, 10/5, 5:00pm
- Sukkot Tot Shabbat at Agudas Achim, Friday, 10/6, 5:30-6:00 pm
So, in the spirit of celebration, festivity, and rejoicing, as well as refueling those empty tanks, I share the following adapted aish.com “Jewlarious” holiday humor:
Little six-year-old Sarah came home from school whining, “Mommy, I’ve got a stomachache.”
“That’s because your stomach is empty,” her mother replied. “You’d feel better if you had something in it” and proceeded to prepare Sarah a snack. Sure enough, Sarah felt better right away.
That evening at services, Sarah saw the rabbi rubbing his forehead. Seeing him after services, Sarah asked him what was wrong. The rabbi, smiling at the precocious Sarah, mentioned he’d had a bad headache all day long.
Sarah perked up. “That’s because it’s empty,” she said. “You’d feel better if you had something in it. My Mommy said that to me.”
This week let’s grab a friend, a neighbor, or a loved one and find some time to rejoice together. Attend one of our local Sukkot events or invite others to enjoy your sukkah. No matter what you do, or how you do it, let’s refuel those empty tanks and make this year a year to truly rejoice from start to finish! Because we are…
Shabbat shalom and chag sameach!