Hope, Joy, and Hearing

Of all the holidays, Sukkot has almost as many names as it does days:

Hag HaSukkot” – the Festival of Booths; 

Hag Ha’Asif” the Festival of Ingathering; 

Z’man Simchateinu” the “season of our joy”; 

HehHag” – “The Feast”; and 

Hoshanah Rabbah” during which, we commemorate the seventh and last day of Sukkot

Rabbi Fred Elias

I propose, however, that we add yet another name for the holiday – Z’man Tikvatenu – The Time of our Hope.This is based on our recitation of Psalm 27, the so-called Psalm for the Days of Awe [between Rosh Hodesh Elul through Yom Kippur,” until the end of Sukkot instead.  Its featured lines include the following:

One thing have I asked of the Lord, this I request that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…Hope in the Lord: Be of good courage and God shall strengthen Your heart.  Hope I say, in the Lord.”

These lines hint that the Israelites (Jews) were supposed to be conscious of two things: sitting in the house of God (which we can surmise signifies God’s providing us with Sukkot while in the desert) and for us to have hope in God.  As you may have noticed, there is a doubling of the Hebrew root for “hope” (as in the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah).  

As my newest Hevruta [learning partner], college freshman and  SSDS Class of 2015 alumnus Justin Yehuda recently pointed out, the only other time we see this doubling of the root for “hope” is in Psalm 40 where we read:

“:קַוֹּ֣ה קִוִּ֣יתִי יְהֹ-וָ֑ה וַיֵּ֥ט אֵ֜לַ֗י וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע שַׁוְעָתִֽי”

“I have surely hoped for the Lord, and God extended God’s ear to me and heard my cry.” 

This verse demonstrates that much like God provided Sukkot for us to share our joy, God also provided Sukkot for us to feel God and our hope.

The late Fred “Mister Rogers” famously, albeit unintentionally, makes a connection between hope and joy, effectively debunking for us the notion that Sukkot limits the Jews’ ability to have everything they have during Sukkot. On the contrary, during Sukkot, we have everything we need because we have hope and joy.

He said: “Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”

Part of this equation also lies in our ability to listen to our inner selves and to another, and make changes without losing either hope or joy, as it is described in Parashat Ha’azinu. Rabba Dr. Anat Shabbat, a graduate of Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution to educate and ordain Orthodox women spiritual leaders, offers this interpretation: The Parasha helps us “figure out how to make change permanent. To hear our internal voice through introspection and dreaming; to express gratitude; to utilize poetry and emotion, and to achieve overall balance. In order to successfully maintain change, we must be in constant listening mode.”

“הַאֲזִ֥ינוּ הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וַאֲדַבֵּ֑רָה וְתִשְׁמַ֥ע הָאָ֖רֶץ אִמְרֵי־פִֽי”

“Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; Let the earth hear the words I utter!”

May the upcoming holiday of Sukkot be a Z’man Simhateinu and Z’man Tikvateinu (time of happiness and time of hope and “ableness”) –  and a time for us to both listen and to hear.

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