The Festival of Ingathering

October 2, 2020

This evening we celebrate the first night of the holiday of Sukkot. Some call it the “Jewish Thanksgiving”, others lovingly refer to it as the “Holiday in a Hut”, and yet others call it by its more literal translation the “Feast of Tabernacles” or “Festival of Booths”. My favorite, however, is Chag Ha’Asif (“The Festival of Ingathering”).

In all fairness, the intent of the “ingathering” is in reference to the harvest festival and the remaining bounty of crops gathered in the early fall in Israel. But of course, because of the lens through which I look at our San Antonio Jewish community, there is simply no way for me to reflect on this imagery without considering it as a metaphor for Jewish communal life.

At the Jewish Federation, we often talk about our responsibility to bring everyone together “under one tent”. We use the idiom to describe the challenge of bringing the many Jewish agencies, organizations, and synagogues, each with their own relative “communities”, under one proverbial “tent”, together to form one broader collective Jewish San Antonio community.

It is said that Abraham and Sarah were the model hosts and that their hospitality was legendary. There are stories that no matter from which direction a traveler approached their tent, Abraham and Sarah set up their home so that each side would look like the front, in order to welcome everyone no matter from where they came.

The Jewish Federation of San Antonio aspires to have a tent similar to that of Abraham and Sarah’s. We recognize that in 2020 America, we have a community siloed by politics, by economic disparity, by social standing, by color, by belief, by ideology, and by numerous other factors. Yet, if we consider the famous words of Pirke Avot,

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” (1:14)

We are reminded that it is important to consider the things that define us and provide us personal meaning in life. However, this personal agenda cannot be at the expense of the community, and similarly, it is a challenge that cannot be kicked down the road.

Tonight, as we both celebrate Shabbat and welcome in the Festival of Ingathering, Sukkot, I challenge each of us to not only consider the wonderful benefits with which each of us has been blessed, but to consider what our role is, and what can we do to help build community in a time when community and “ingathering” is so desperately needed.

I wish everyone a Chag Sameach, and remind you that the Jewish Federation is

HERE for you.

HERE for our Community.

HERE for our future.

Shabbat shalom,