By Rabbi Gavriel Rudin, Young Israel of Ottawa
As I sit, right after Yom Kippur, with a full stomach and a full mind, I look back at everything it took to get here. It has been an exhausting month of preparation, planning and constantly adjusting to ensure that the High Holiday needs of all our congregants were met. Not to mention last-minute chazan cancellations and the sudden necessity for an extra minyan. Preparations for High Holidays in a normal year can be hectic and stressful. The complications of COVID-19 have brought this to a whole new level. Having to deal with social distancing, simultaneous services and tents, are probably things that most of us in the rabbinate never thought we would have to deal with. If you see your rabbi, cantor, shul administrator or board member in the next few days, make sure to give them an extra-special thank you for their superhuman efforts.
Now that Yom Kippur is over, it would only seem fair to take a little time off and schedule a vacation. However, four days from now we are beginning the holiday of Sukkot. Who planned this? Couldn’t we get a little break? Ironically, our sages tell us that Sukkot really should have been shortly after Passover. Sukkot celebrates how God protected us with His Clouds of Glory after we left Egypt. If that’s the case, why wait six months to celebrate?
I believe there is an aspect of Sukkot that becomes much more meaningful when it occurs so shortly after the High Holidays. On Rosh Hashanah, we crown God as our king. The obvious statement we are making is that we accept God’s rule. However, there is a second aspect of his rulership. A good king is one who not only tells people what to do, but also takes responsibility for ensuring peace and well-being in the land. Therefore, when we crown God as our king, we are also reminded that He takes care of all our needs.
The very last words we say on Yom Kippur are Hashem hu HaElokim, God- only He is our God. At the end of the 25 hours of fasting and prayer, we leave with the idea that God is in complete control over the world. With this proclamation of His supreme rule, we can breathe a sigh of relief. If God, Himself, is running the show, we clearly have nothing to worry about. As crazy and scary as the world may seem, God has a plan for it all. When we place our complete faith in Him, we can be assured that everything will be OK.
This is the perfect introduction to the holiday of Sukkot. After having learned the lessons of the High Holidays, and acknowledging God’s rulership, we can now truly appreciate God’s care for us at all times. When our ancestors found themselves travelling without food or water and nowhere to go, it was certainly a time of confusion and distress. When they saw God provide for all of their needs and lead them into the Land of Israel, they rejoiced. Just like He cared for them in the desert, so too, He will take care of us today. Let us take this lesson to heart, pass our stressors onto God’s broad shoulders, and have a truly joyous and relaxing Holiday.