Sukkot is my favorite holiday, and let me tell you, it couldn’t come at a better time.
That’s odd for an admitted political junkie to say, I know, but after the revelations late last week in the presidential race — for those in the know, they were the vilest to date — I’ll be enjoying the time offered by the first two days of the festival to relax in my sukkah with my family, taking advantage of the peace of eating in the outdoors, untethered to the campaign and unplugged from the world.
As you’ll read in this week’s JT, my family and I will clearly not be the only ones. Sukkot is that magical time of year when we take our Judaism outdoors, welcoming neighbors and friends — maybe even those we haven’t met before — to partake of a leaner existence. There might not be air conditioning (or heat), and the clouds might threaten, but there’s something powerful in celebrating an incredibly public Judaism, a reality made all the more possible by the freedoms offered freely by the United States.
Ours is a country where mobile sukkahs can roam the streets on the lookout for passers-by perhaps in need of an opportunity to shake the lulav and etrog.
And I’m not just talking about the ubiquitous sukkah-mobiles that Chabad-Lubavitch has made popular the last couple of decades — the JCC of Greater Baltimore and Rabbi Jessy Gross of Charm City Tribe are coordinating their own sukkah-on-wheels, a testament to the shared idea that our Jewish identities, our customs and celebrations needn’t be closeted off in a wider non-Jewish world. On the contrary, our tradition’s emphasis on the hospitality of Avraham and the imperative to welcome the stranger can be a beacon for all.
The challenge has always been how to protect Judaism and Jewish identity from being watered down from outside influences, but on a certain level, that Jewish spark that underlies everything we do is impossible to be extinguished. Along comes Sukkot to demonstrate that, just like in biblical times, the entire world can enjoy the holiday with us.
It’s a refreshing thought amid the divisiveness on display in our politics. That is why I applaud the undecided voter who got the final question of Sunday’s second presidential debate: “Name one positive thing you respect about one another.” If we can finally force the candidates to find some common ground, however small, perhaps there’s some hope for all of us. I know I’ll be focusing on that as I take a much-needed break next week from the clamor all around.