As soon as Yom Kippur was over, we entered what is known as “our time of joy”, – and joyful it is! Building sukkot, decorating them, inviting friends and family to come join us in them, and then as the holiday of Sukkot starts, we enter into out Sukkah to live there for a week!
We have my two brothers from Norway visiting with their families, and that certainly adds to the joy around here, both for the younger ones and the older ones! 🙂 Also, when you have family who are on vacation here, you end up vacationing with them, and we enjoy Israel and Jerusalem from that side too!
A special highlight during Sukkot this year, was being part of the Hakel, which takes place only once every 7 years. In Deuteronomy 31, 9-13, we can read about how after a Shmita, the Sabbatical year, we are to gather together the whole people, and hear the Torah read to us. It was such a unique experience! Tens of thousands of people had gathered together, and what stood out to me was how PEACEFUL it all was! The whole area of the Kotel (Western Wall) was very crowded, but there was absolutely NO pushing or anything as people were coming in and going out from the narrow exits and entrances.
It certainly was special to stand there together and hear a portion of the Torah read out loud. In addition there were blessings and prayers said by many important people both among the more Hassidic group and the ones more connected to the State of Israel, such as the president. I LOVED the strong feeling of UNITY that could be felt very tangibly throughout the program.
When you start thinking about it, – it is so exciting to just take in that this i happening in our days! What was written about thousands of years ago, what was commanded us as a people, we are able to put into practice today, if not at the Temple, so at the place closest to that! I was filled with excitement for what God is doing, and with a strong feeling of thankfulness for getting to be a part of this!
Another highlight, was our Sukkah party when our community gathers in our Sukkah and we have a big barbecue together, the children play and do crafts and the adults get to sit around and enjoy good conversation over another glas of wine. And the best part was when someone brought out a guitar and we sat there and sang joyful songs of prayer together. It doesn’t get much better than that, -sitting there singing with dear friends, looking around at our decorated Sukkah! Times of great joy!
Then later that same evening we received the tragic news that another family that were on their way home from another Sukkah-party, were attacked by terrorists shooting the parents in the front of the car and leaving the four young children in the back seat to watch their parents die in front of their eyes… In a sense my heart has not stopped crying ever since I heard about this. It is so horrible, we are not even able to fathom it. It is so sickening, we don’t have words to quite describe it.
And yet, we are still in the midst of our time of joy. As a matter of fact, I am sitting in our joyfully decorated Sukkah as I am writing this. And we ask ourselves, – how can we continue celebrating when our hearts are overwhelmed with sadness?! The smells of food-preparations are most definitely filling the air here in Jerusalem. Tonight is Shabbat. Guests are invited. How can we smile and laugh and celebrate together when such evil just hit our people??
This Shabbat we will read through the book of Ecclesiastes, and how fitting it is! To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven… – … A time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…
And the truth is, so often in life those times get mixed together, just like they do now. We are rejoicing over God’s faithfulness to us, for what He has brought us through, for what He has done and continues to do. And at the same time we are weeping together with the new orphans in our people, with the family that will feel this loss for ages to come, with the community that lost their dear ones, with our whole people who is being attacked just for being Jews in a Jewish Land.
Shabbat shalom and Chag Sameach to you all from Jerusalem!