Getting Ready for Different Kinds of Occasions
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
This Shabbat we read Parashat Haazinu, which contains the long and beautiful poem that Moses said before he died. Some years, like this one, we read this parashah on Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat that is between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Some other years we read this parasha on the Shabbat between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. These two special shabbatot fall in the middle of two interesting periods of time.
There are ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. This time is known as “The ten days of repentance”, Aseret Yemei T’shuva. We need these ten days to spiritually prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During this time we reflect on our past year, ask forgiveness from our friends and also review our good and bad behavior before God. We hope and pray that He will forgive us during Yom Kippur.
There are five days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, but only four days of work. During these four days we have to build and decorate our Sukkah, get the Four Species (the Lulav, the Etrog, the Adas and the Arava), cook for the festival, invite friends to our Sukkah (weel, maybe not this year), etc. it seems like too many things for only four days of work! Why do we have more time to prepare for Yom Kippur than to prepare for Sukkot, which is a festival that requires so much preparation?
Perhaps the answer has to do with the nature of Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Yom Kippur is a time when we are judged. Getting ready for a trial can be stressful and hard. You need to devote a lot of spiritual energy in order to be well prepared. As it can be hard and even disturbing for us to review our behavior, we move forward more slowly than what we think we should or could. Ten days may seem like a long period of time for this kind of work, but we certainly need it, if not more, if we want to arrive at Yom Kippur with “all the homework done”.
Sukkot, instead, is a time of great happiness and rejoicing, a festival to relax and enjoy with family and friends. Unlike Yom Kippur, getting ready for Sukkot requires a big physical effort. However, when you are preparing for a joyous festival it is not hard to find some extra energy in your body, as we all want to experience pleasure and delight. Four days seem to be very little time, but when it comes to preparing for a celebration, we are usually able to do our best extra effort.
What is the moral here? That we need time to accomplish our goals and that the amount of time we actually need depends not only on the amount of work but on the kind of work. Preparing for a trial or a hard/sad moment can take a lot of time and effort, while preparing for a happy and joyous occasion can be easier than what we believe.
Before this coming Shabbat Shuva, let’s work on our souls for Yom Kippur. After that, we will surely find enough time to get ready for Sukkot! Having our souls ready can be hard work, surely not less than physical work.
Shabbat shalom and G’mar Chatima Tova!