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Too Much of a Good Thing?

If the Jews are so smart, why is it we bundle five holidays together in a row, one on top of the other, through an entire month in the fall?
Of course, every month, except one, does include a Jewish holiday. The exception is Heshvan, the month that follows these fall holidays. I guess even God realized we would need a break. There is only so much partying even the most dedicated of us can take.

And perhaps that is the point. These fall holidays were bunched together originally because travel used to be a big deal and once you got somewhere you usually would stay for a while. A month is about right to feel the trip of days or weeks, to Jerusalem, or perhaps a closer city where relatives lived, was worth it. That month–after the harvest was in–was like our summer vacation, time to kick back and enjoy life’s pleasures. Today our holiday season falls at the beginning of what, for many, is the programmatic or academic year–a time to hit the ground running after the relaxation of summer. The disconnect between being busy at work and a demanding holiday schedule reminds us we live in a non-Jewish world. It also reminds us how difficult it is to live Jewish time within the non-Jewish world.
Rabbi Waxman is right: many Jews are holidayed out by the time Sukkot comes around. But it is a shame that for so many Jews their only experience of synagogue-Judaism is sitting through endless prayers and fasting, rather than the wild singing and dancing that marks the last holy day of our holiday season: Simchat Torah. They are not only missing out on the joy of Judaism, but the major message imbedded within the bundling of our holy days: that self-reflection, self- improvement, and the repair of the world must ultimately be fueled by joy to be truly transformational.

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posted October 5, 2007 at 12:26 am


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Julianna Winsor

posted October 5, 2007 at 10:01 am

I am so thankful for the holidays and that they get bundled together.
Responding to the query, I will take you to a river in Massachusetts where stood a blue heron last Wednesday. I thought a-plenty about his experience of life, standing gazing upstream & downstream in perfect pensivity.
That state is tough to achieve, yet through building the original type of sukka booth and literally spending eight days therein, we approach that peace from above which ought to prevail within amid the busy-ness of life.
During Sukkos I contemplate the journey to my eternal identity.

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Janaki Kuruppu

posted October 8, 2007 at 11:50 am

My husband and I only started observing the “rest of the holidays” – those that occur after YK, about 4-5 years ago, and I am so sad that, for so many years, I was missing out on Sukkot and Simchat Torah – such opportunities for joy. That said, I do think it’s difficult to take so much time off work, and my non-Jewish colleagues really don’t understand why we have to take off so many days (I use vacation time, but still)….
I am only beginning to recognize, and to be informed by fellow congregants and gracious teachers, of the lovely mirrors between the festivals and holidays in the fall, and Pesach in the spring. I love that aspect a lot. For me, it reinforces the cyclical nature of our traditions.

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posted October 8, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Sukkot is a great back-to-school holiday, at least for college students. Student organizations like Hillel can use the time to reconnect with each other and reach out to people who might not be aware of their presence. In the rush of events that coincide with the beginning of the semester, it’s kind of a nice grounding.

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posted October 9, 2007 at 12:25 pm

My husband and I have been married over 19 years, yet this is the first year we put up a sukkah (albeit a makeshift one). It was so cool for me when we had our meals there (a few suppers). Our kids enjoyed it, too. Previously, the only (very occasionalO experiences I’ve had eating in a sukkah was many years ago eating in the sukkah of a friend, or going to the synagogue for what was primarily a hebrew school based dairy dinner in the sukkah (still a nice experience). Still, there was really something special about trying to observe this commandment, and I hope we do it again next year and make the sukkah even better.

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