Hag Sameach! Every year I get a little closer to understanding Sukkot, truly feeling it in my bones. Maybe the holiday would be more meaningful if I lived where I could spend a week sleeping in the elements and raw air, or eating food from the new harvest... but today I looked up at the schach on the roof of my synagogue's sukkah (which is in the alleyway behind a church) and, instead of stars, saw the newly-washed clothing of guests at the homeless shelter hanging from a line. Although a city may not be the right setting for this holiday, that was a perfect symbol of a fragile, temporary home, and a reminder to be happy right where I am. And I was, singing Hallel, lingering over lunch with friends, enjoying the rare luxury of an away message on my email that I was closed for business. The breast-beating of Yom Kippur was particularly painful this year (one friend told me she put off praying for herself and instead plead for the entire country); Sukkot, in contrast, was a big joyful breath.
The rabbi offered a teaching at services yesterday morning: The numerical value of the letters in the word "lulav" is the same as in "chai" (life). So, suggests the Sfat Emet, the life for which we pray on Yom Kippur is now ours to shake up just like a lulav. I hope this coming year will shake me in a good way, not to loosen the foundation but a tilt just big enough to let me see from a different perspective.
Do you have a source for that Sfat Emet? It seems strange to me, because the numerical value for chai is 18 and the value for lulav is 68!
Obviously I wasn't awake when I wrote my previous comment. The Sfat Emet must have made the connection not with chai (chet yud), but with chaim (chet yud yud mem) which does indeed have the value of 68.
Whew, thanks for clarifying--I would hate to think that my rabbi isn't always completely right! :)
(I don't know the source, unfortunately.)
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