Pandemic Sukkot: The Shelter of the Table – Jewish Journal

Posted By on September 17, 2021

When danger strikes, we look for shelter. For more than 18 months, the danger of a lethal virus and its variants has hovered above us and around us. As weve gone about our lives, weve sought shelter from this danger. The literal shelter, of course, has been that of our homes, where were better able to control the environment.

But one of the lessons of the upcoming festival of Sukkot is to teach us the impermanence of physical structures. The frail huts that we set up near our solid homes remind us of our ancestors who wandered in tents in the desert, and who took with them not structures but timeless God-inspired values by which to live their lives.

The coronavirus, which has turned so many buildings into danger zones, has only reinforced the Sukkot message of the vulnerability and impermanence of physical structures.

There is, however, one structure that resides inside every Sukkah and transcends even the holiday of Sukkot. Its a structure that sustains, in fact, all Jewish holidays, not to mention the Jewish tradition and the Jewish future.

Its the table.

Think about the humble table. It could be inside a mansion or a sukkah, but it does the same thing. It brings us together. It binds us to one another. We sit down and commit to a shared experience.

Think about the humble table. It could be inside a mansion or a sukkah, but it does the same thing. It brings us together. It binds us to one another. We sit down and commit to a shared experience, whether for Passover, Shabbat, Sukkot, or any other holiday or gathering.

If you consider what has kept our wandering ancestors connected to their tradition since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., how can we not mention the table?

If you consider what has kept our wandering ancestors connected to their tradition since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., how can we not mention the table?

The fire of the Jewish people forever lives at our Shabbat and holiday table and it is our job to keep it burning, wrote Rabbi Sheryl Peretz on the AJU website in 2006. The rabbi was drawing attention to a Torah verse regarding sacrificial rites in the Holy Temple: A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out.

Even when the Jews were traveling and the altar was portable, the fire had to keep burning. That attitude of radical continuity may have saved the Jews, because after they lost their cherished Temple, they became heroes at keeping the Jewish flame alive. The table became their temple.

Our table is like our altar, Peretz writes. Our ritual hand washing and the practice of pouring salt on the bread as we make the blessing ofHamotziare but two ways that the tradition hints at the connection between the meal at our table and the sacrificial altar of old.

This meal at our table, needless to say, goes beyond great food. As Peretz writes, When we occupy our time at the table with the customs and traditions of our heritage, when we introduce words of Torah, and invite communal celebration, we make our table something much bigger we add sparks to the ageless and everlasting fire of the Jewish people.

The many customs and traditions around the holiday and Shabbat table sustained my ancestors in Morocco through centuries of exile, just as they sustained Jews around the world. After the untold hardships and persecutions and pogroms, and after the singular darkness of the Shoah, today it is the Jewish table that still stands sturdy, proud, and ready for duty.

During Sukkot, the power of the table shines especially bright. Lodged inside a frail hut, it reminds us that the structure that really connects us, that really shelters us, is not a house or a tent but the communal and family table.

Its hard for me to forget the Shabbat tables my mother would prepare for our family in our small apartments in Montreal, as we were going through the classic struggles of new immigrants. Our abodes may have been modest, but our Shabbat tables were exquisite and dignified. They were the real shelter from the storms.

As we continue to navigate the storm of an exhausting pandemic and the anxieties of our times, and as we prepare to enter the eight days of Sukkot, let us not forget the eternal Jewish table, that simple structure that has kept the perpetual fire of our ancient tradition alive.

View original post here:

Pandemic Sukkot: The Shelter of the Table - Jewish Journal

Related Post

Comments

Comments are closed.