These last couple of days during our Sukkot holiday, the words of our daily evening prayer have echoed in my head: “ufros aleinu Sukkat shlomecha, God, please spread over us the “Sukkah”, the shelter, of your peace.”
The prayer expresses a feeling and a need that I think we all share. There is rarely a day in our everyday lives without the urgent need for a spreading of peace, in which the word “shalom” also suggests “wholeness”, and “completion”. The Sukkah itself is a kind of peaceful oasis: connected to nature, a place simply to sit, to enjoy the company of friends and family, a place of beauty, humility, imperfection and yet gratitude.
· The urgent need for a spreading of “shalom” feels especially relevant this week: Russia’s war in Ukraine is intensifying as Ukraine regains its territory, and we all fear just how potentially world-destructive Putin could become as his losses mount.
· Two Israeli soldiers died this week in terrorist attacks, and the situation feels like it will continue to deteriorate.
· Yesterday the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol held yet another hearing and we were all reminded just how fragile the peace of our society really is…
“Ufros aleinu Sukkat shlomecha: God, please spread over us the “Sukkah”, the shelter, of your peace.”
These words express a hope – perhaps idealistic – that this world really can “give peace a chance.” Yet even with this hopefulness, these words should also inspire us to work with all our energy to create and spread the wholeness and peace of “shalom”. We are taught by Psalm 34 that the person who is eager to live, who loves their days desiring to see good, guards their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech, and also:
ס֣וּר מֵ֭רָע וַעֲשֵׂה־ט֑וֹב בַּקֵּ֖שׁ שָׁל֣וֹם וְרׇדְפֵֽהוּ
Shuns evil and does good,
[actively] seeks peace and pursues it.
May the taste of true peace that sukkot gives us this year, inspire us to seek peace and pursue it all year long so that God’s shelter of peace – God’s sukkat shalom – spread over and protect us all.
As I hope you know, we finish reading the Torah and begin reading it anew at our Simchat Torah celebration this Monday night October 17th at 6:30p.m. preceded by dinner at 6:00p.m. – everyone is invited [RSVP for dinner at Temple Sinai]!! The Simchat Torah morning service hakafot with the Torahs begins at 9:00 on Tuesday morning during which we will be joined by the JCCNS pre-school children!
Shemini Atzeret is Sunday night at 6:00pm following our return from the Hoshana Raba field trip to the Mashpee Wampanoag Elders. Services for Shemini Atzeret on Monday morning are at 8:00am with Yizkor at 9:00.
Please join me in the Sukka after Shabbat services tomorrow morning as we get philosophical with a profound reading of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) during kiddush lunch.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!!
Rabbi Michael Schwartz