Hannah's Bat Mitzvah
Jessica's Bat Mitzvah
Hannah's D'var Torah
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach*. Today is both the seventh day of the week - Shabbat - and it is also the week long holiday known as Sukkot. Although Sukkot is the most commonly used name for this holiday, Z'man Simchatenu is a very good way to describe it as well. Z'man Simchatenu means “the time of our happiness.” It is the time of our happiness for many reasons. The first reason is because during Yom Kippur we were just recently forgiven for our sins and Hashem has forgiven us for everything we did wrong in the past year. Next, because it is the time of harvest, and togetherness, or in other words all that the Sukkah represents. By the end of Sukkot during Simchat Torah we celebrate finishing the reading of the Torah for the year that has just ended, and beginning to read it again in the new year. Through this celebration we come to carry something of the joy of Sukkot with us all year long, whenever we study Torah. The Torah even confirms the joyous quality of these days by saying “You will be happy in your holiday … and you will be totally happy."
Even though the Torah says that Sukkot is supposed to be a happy holiday, it has a darker side to it also, like everything in life. When we are praying for rain on these days, we sound desperate, especially in Israel because with no rain, Israel will have no crops and her people will not be able to live comfortably in the upcoming year. We cry Hoshana, save us please!, which does not seem joyous. Another aspect of Sukkot is the Sukkah itself. In it we are not well protected, which makes us feel a little unsafe, and shows us that the world is not a very safe place. Also, the book we read today, Kohelet or Ecclesiastes, says that everything is Hevel or vanity. For example, the rich people are happy, which they may not have earned the right to be, and the poor people are sad, which they don't deserve to be. Also on Sukkot we read about the death of Moses which is obviously a sad event. The Haftarah for today is about the big war between good and evil. So we can see that this happy holiday has a darker side to it as well.
When I think about Sukkot I think about how it is a combination of happy and sad, as I have been discussing. In some ways I can compare this to gymnastics. I have been doing gymnastics since I was a little kid and, as many of you know, I have become very serious about it. One of the hardest apparatus that I work on in gymnastics is the balance beam. When on the beam, I sometimes become very shaky, like when I am learning a new skill. Eventually, when I master the skill, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. Like everything in life, I have learned that what is worth achieving is worth working for. That is true in gymnastics and it is true in how we celebrate Sukkot.
The lesson learned from the many shades of Sukkot is that in life we find happy and sad together. Our job as human beings, and as Jews, is to contribute by bringing light to where there is darkness and to make joy, especially where there is sadness. As a Bat Mitzvah, I promise to help bring out the joy in the world and to try, in whatever way I can, to make the world a better place. In fact, I am already working on that. If you will notice, in your Shabbat program today, you will find an orange sheet about a Tzedakah or fundraising project that I am working on. Read it, take it home and then we all can try to help bring light into the darkness.
Before I conclude, I want to thank Rabbi Fish and Cantor Mandi for their constant support and for all they have taught me during the past year. I look forward to learning a lot more from both of you in the future.
* transliterated Hebrew