Rabbi Michael Cohen for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
Yom Kippur, the synagogue packed for the holiest day of the year. The
anticipation of the day is upon everyone as they take their seats. But
suppose something different occurs: Mahzorim for Sukkot are handed out
along with hundreds of pairs of lulav and etrogom. This is one of my
rabbinic fantasies -- to switch Yom Kippur with the first day of Sukkot.
We often bemoan the fact that our synagogues are never so full as they
are on Yom Kippur. Part of the problem with the rest of the year has to
do with what happens on Yom Kippur! Known as the holiest day of the
year, Yom Kippur is the day that we go to shul. That long day in
synagogue reinforces the idea that Judaism is heavy and serious, and
that we should spend our time inside the synagogue in prayer or study.
The problem with this picture is that it does not present a balanced
view of what Judaism that takes us beyond the walls of the synagogue.
worshiper also needs Sukkot which counterbalances Yom Kippur. Yom
Kippur takes place inside; Sukkot takes place outside. On Yom Kippur we
fast; while on Sukkot we feast. On Yom Kippur we pray and study with our
minds; for Sukkot we build with our might. On Yom Kippur we hold a book
in our hands; on Sukkot with the lulav and etrog we hold nature. On Yom
Kippur we are serious and introspective; on Sukkot we are told to be
One of the giants of Kabbalah, Isaac Luria (16th
century), instructed his disciples that the cultivation of joy is one of
the prerequisites for attaining mystical illumination. Having gone
through the necessary ten days of teshuvah (return) from Rosh Hashanah
through Yom Kippur we are ready to begin our engagement with the new
year. That engagement can only take place with joy as one of its
elements, the joy of Sukkot sets our bearings on the right course.
Follow us on page.