Sukkot: A Festival of Hope in the Midst of Adversity
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
This Shabbat we will start celebrating the festival of Sukkot. If you compare this festival with other Jewish festivals, you will find many differences. One of these differences is that most Jewish festivals celebrate a miracle that happened in the past. For example, during Pesach we celebrate the miracles God performed for the people of Israel like the sending of the ten plagues to the Egyptians, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the drowning of the Egyptians into the sea. During Shavuot we celebrate God’s revelation at Mount Sinai. On Hanukkah we celebrate the miracle of the oil, etc.
What about the festival of Sukkot? In this festival we are commanded to live in Sukkot as the people of Israel did when they were wandering in the wilderness after being liberated from the oppression of the Egyptians. As you may know, the sukkah is a humble hut composed by a minimum of three walls, a roof made of leaves, and walls made of fabric. It is a really simple living place, without luxuries, furniture, nor appliances. Living in a Sukkah one is exposed to the wind, the rain, and the cold or the heat. Living in a Sukkah doesn’t seem to be a miracle. On the contrary, the sukkah is a symbol of vulnerability, temporality, and uncertainty.
While other Jewish festivals focus on God’s miracles, we may affirm that Sukkot focuses on human faith and strength. During Sukkot we celebrate how human beings are able to face so many challenges in their lives and try to stand up over and over again and start new journeys despite the adversities that they find around them.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks stated “faith is not certainty: faith is the courage to live with uncertainty.” I believe that this is the spirit of the festival of Sukkot, the ability to have faith and hope despite of the uncertainty and vulnerability of our lives. In other words, we may say that Sukkot is focused on the resilience of human beings. The incredible stories of people’s resilience have always touched my soul.
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.
During Sukkot we are happy despite the uncertainty and difficulties of living in a simple and precarious hut, and we celebrate that human ability.
As everything is different this year, Sukkot will be different as well. However, we can be inspired by one of the messages of this festival. The ability to have hope and faith despite the uncertainties and despite the fact that we are living in a temporal and vulnerable home.
May we be inspired by so many stories of resilience, which encourage us to live with joy in our own Sukkot.