It is now חול המועד סוכות (Hol HaMoed Sukkot). The days between the first and last days of סוכות (Sukkoth). The profane days. The days that are not holy but are still part of the celebration. Everyone is back to work - at least for a few days before שמחת תורה (Simchat Torah) and the long month of celebrations is over.
We built our סוכה (Sukkah) this year at the last moment. And like the previous years it is not perfect. It is structurally sound but it is not kosher. It does not comply with the exact dimensions and specifications of a kosher Sukkah. So strictly speaking, we should not say the blessings over the ארבעת המינים (Four Species - Laurel, Myrtle, Palm and Etrog) since we are playing loose with the commandments. And of course, eating in the Sukkah doesn't cut it either. We haven't fulfilled our obligations to do it right.
But for us, our Sukkah is just right. We take seriously the celebration of the fruits of the earth. We celebrate the harvest and we are very thankful for what we have. We invite our friends and neighbors to join us under our Sukkah and we welcome them in our home as Abraham welcomed three strangers to his tent. We also take seriously that the Sukkah is a house of refuge. It is, to quote Dylan "shelter from the storm".
Today is it Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Harvest comes a little earlier than the States. My family will take the time to celebrate and to mark the day. I imagine they do not think about it in terms of sacred and profane, but it is a time that is carved out (no pun intended for their turkey) to be mindful and to put away everyday concerns.
We are not religious, but the religious holidays play a big role in our lives. And it is a role that is not simply determined by when the Shuk is open or closed or when the restaurants will open again and the TV programming returns to normal. The holidays allow us the room to breath, to separate what is important from what is trivial and to consciously mark those days.
As so many people do not have shelter tonight - some because of hurricanes and some because of war or tragedy or both - I am mindful that ritual is not at odds with reason and that these practices have emotional significance. We all understand what it means to be sheltered and protected.
Perhaps these are the reasons Sukkoth is my favorite holiday. We get to build a little house and decorate it.
We get to share our roof with others. We get a reprieve from the rain and from hardship - and we get to do it every year.
חג סוכות שמח לכולם
Happy Sukkoth to Everyone!