Yom Kippur – Sukkot, Reflection and Celebration

A simple man once asked a great Sage why there must be both Chassidim and Misnagdim (opponents, referring to Jews of Lithuanian descent who opposed the Chassidic movement).  He remarked that even the Chassidim are divided into many groups: there are those whose service to God is primarily focused on prayer, others who think Torah is the most important aspect of faith, and yet others who believe that joyful expressions serve as a better conduit for spiritual fulfillment. Why are Jews so divided?

The Sage responded by comparing this phenomenon to the military, which has different types of personnel: infantry or foot soldiers, cavalry or mounted soldiers, rocket launchers or distant soldiers, sea farers or sailors. The reason is that all types comes to battle featuring their own uniqueness to ensure that the battle will be won. Even the one who sounds the alarm, or the bugler, inspires the soldier or sailor to respond to his or her duty as they were trained.

So, it is with our Jewish people. We are divided into various groups and follow different understandings of faith in our own unique way. However, we all come together with one identity, one common ground. Walk into any synagogue or temple throughout the world and you will find the prayers are the same (although perhaps the melodies are not and the language spoken a little strange), but the words found in the prayer books are in Hebrew, the universal language of Jewish prayer.

Remembering this parable reminded me of our experiences in Sun Lakes. We arrived here from different corners of our country as well as the world at large. We brought with us traditions and customs that may seem strange to some and familiar to others. Yet, when we sit in the pews, we all join in reciting and singing the prayers of our ancestors as has been done since the beginning.

As the High Holidays conclude we should remember our differences but also our similarities. Some will remember the melodies, some the rituals, and others perhaps looked and listened to words and sounds a little differently. It does not matter whether we profess to be Orthodox or Conservative or Reform. It does not even matter whether we claim to be atheistic or humanistic. What does matter is that when we come together, we are all Jews determined to identify and offer our individual uniqueness to our holiday experience.

Then, I think about the next holiday which occurs almost immediately following Yom Kippur - Sukkot. We seem to have forgotten this holiday as it wraps itself into the High Holiday expressions. Yom Kippur gives us the opportunity to review and consider. Sukkot gives us the opportunity to be mindful of the blessings we receive each day, week, month, and year as we continue the journey from contrition to celebration.

When we gather, let us celebrate our individuality. Let us accept the differences in our beliefs. Let us understand that we each contribute in our own way to the greatness of our survival. Let us be at peace.

I pray that Yom Kippur will find us satisfied with our commitment to faith and understanding. I pray that Sukkot will help us understand that the blessings we receive should not be taken for granted. Each, with its own significance, can help us appreciate the beauty of life as it is lived and enjoyed. 



Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D