Today is February 21, 2019 -
by Hazzan Michael Krausman
Long before Jules Verne ever wrote about his first time machine or Michael J. Fox ever made his first Back to the Future movie, the Jewish people began embarking on exciting, experiential journeys back into the ancient biblical world of their ancestors. This feat is accomplished not by some fancy futuristic gizmo or magical incantation, but by celebrating the joyous holiday of Sukkot.
By simply building and/or experiencing a Sukkah, we are transported back to the midst of the children of Israel crossing the dessert on our way to a new beginning in the Promised Land. We live in fragile booths or Sukkoth. Reaffirming our connection with nature, we gaze up past the stars through the branches that form the roof of our temporary dwelling, to the God in Heaven who created them, and whose guidance we seek on our journey.
When we come together at the synagogue, we are taken back to the time of the magnificent Temple that once stood in Jerusalem. We join the other pilgrims who have gathered from the four corners of the world to worship together as a community. Showing gratitude for the abundant harvest, we carry a Lulav and Etrog that we use throughout the service. During recitation of the special collection of psalms of praise known as Hallel, we participate in the age old custom of waving the Lulav and Etrog in each direction, demonstrating the omnipresence of the Holy One. A soulful melody that has been handed down from generation to generation is chanted as the Hazzan carefully leads us in the proper sequence of the waving. Once again, at the end of the service, the Lulav and Etrog are taken in hand as all who are present, young and old alike, proudly parade around the sanctuary of our synagogue, chanting the plaintive prayer: Hoshanna, “Save us O Lord”.
Following the service, all of us ancient pilgrims assemble in the Sukkah for a festive Kiddush. We are joined in our celebration by special celebrity guests such as Moses, King David and Abraham: the “Ushpuzin” who adorn our festive celebration.
Our journey through time reminds minds us of the unbreakable bond that one generation has to the next. As we observe the special occasions and celebrations of the Jewish year, sing the special melodies and chant the traditional prayers we experience our history and our heritage in a way that makes an indelible impression in hearts and souls. Through these experiences, pathways of memory are fashioned along which future generations can travel into their past in order to ensure their future.
With best wishes for a Gut Yom Tov to all,
Hazzan Michael S. Krausman