A Sage named Samuel Ben Meir, also known as the Rashbam, lived in early 12th-century France. Son of the great Rashi, the Rashbam was also quite the Torah scholar.
Reflecting on Sukkot, the fall harvest festival, Rashbam brings us great insight on how to make this holiday matter. Our ancestors escaped slavery, struggled in the desert, and faced a future about which they felt uncertain, no matter how trustworthy God may have been. On the way to the Promised Land, our ancestors would plant, and come fall, they would harvest the land and give thanks for their bounty. And, in giving thanks, they were able to take appreciative note that they persevered through great challenges and summoned great resilience while wandering the wilderness homeless for 40 years--a most humbling feeling. Sukkot is a re-enactment of this homelessness, a chance to say thanks to God for bringing us back to our sacred homeland, Israel, and a recognition that all our blessings in life are a function of God’s grace. For Rashbam, Sukkot is less about negotiating adversity; Sukkot is more about fostering virtues like generosity of spirit, gratitude, mutual responsibility, and appreciation for nature and its abundance; Sukkot is about minimizing entitlement, overindulgence, and taking life for granted. Sukkot is more about remembering God, not just in bad times but in good times, as well.
In this special Sukkot spirit, I am pleased to confirm that Leah Levinger, the Executive Director of the Chicago Housing Initiative, will speak Friday night, September 28th at Shabbat services. Considering ways to make housing more permanent for those who live in impermanence is a vital focus for this fall harvest season.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!
Chag Sukkot sameach!
Rabbi Craig Marantz