Have you ever had the experience that you notice something really good happening in your family, like your kids are playing nicely, your child is being particularly helpful, or there is a sense of everything just working. And then the second you bring your consciousness to it and really notice it, or pull out your phone to capture the moment, it’s over? Someone falls and starts crying, or one of your kids hits the other one?
That happens to me all the time.
That moment before everything goes South, that liminal time of just being, dwelling in, and embodying the moment without really making too much of it, is the invitation that this holiday of Sukkot offers, the Jewish holiday which began Monday night and lasts for 8 days (or 7 days here in Israel).
It’s the experience of Embodied Happiness.
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld wrote in his book, A Book of Life (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2002), that every holiday is like an inn that we visit to immerse ourselves fully and to become awakened to the teaching that the holiday offers. Each holiday holds open the potential to direct our steps as we head off on the next leg of our journey through our lives.
The teaching of Sukkot is about impermanence and vulnerability as we sit, eat and sometimes sleep in our temporary dwellings. It’s about gratitude for each moment as we chant hallel, the prayer for thanks, every day of the holiday. It’s about taking pleasure in the physical world and in the harvest and bounty that the earth provides as we shake a lulav with an etrog in six directions every day. It’s about the deep joy, zman simchateinu, that comes from knowing that we can always be in community with others. A simple invitation to a friend or another family to join you in the sukkah for a meal or a cup of coffee can go a long way. And simple fun like grabbing your sleeping bag and asking your kids to join you for a (sometimes restless!) night in the sukkah can be what’s needed to shift the dynamics at home.
My experience of Sukkot this year, and the reminder that happiness can be embodied with the most simple things is just what I need before heading off into the rest of this calendar year – the reminder that what I have is enough, the reminder that while I might have built a structure for my family’s life, it is impermanent and changing, because all of us are impermanent and changing and the reminder that while happiness is sometimes fleeting, it is always possible.
Here’s to a Sukkot of many simple joys.
Blessings for the journey,