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Sukkot 2018

09/28/2018 09:16:54 AM


Rabbi Robinson

Sukkot 2018

The day finally came: I had to get rid of my old rabbi’s manual. Despite popular belief, the rabbi’s manual does not come with an allen wrench nor does it explain how often I need an oil change. Rather, it’s a small prayerbook with the wedding ceremony, the funeral service, readings and services for dedicating a gravestone, visiting a dying person, and the like. I’ve used this rabbi’s manual to lead my first funeral and first wedding and countless of both since. It was a satisfying size, and had all kinds of typed notes from various life cycle occasions I’ve performed over the years. But a rolled down window during a rainstorm plus warm weather resulted in it getting moldy, despite my best efforts to save it. And truth be told, even before this incident, it was looking pretty ratty and worn. It was done, so off it went to be buried.

I have another copy, of course, the one I got for my ordination. Plus the new version, as well as the old one in pdf form that I’ve printed out to use, but it isn’t the same. I know, it’s just a book, not the end of the world, but it served me well, and I’m going to miss it.

It’s human nature; we get attached to things. But nothing is forever. Everything is, at the end of the day, ephemeral. Objects, our health, even the way we express our values and aspirations. The question isn’t how we keep things from fading away; it’s how we learn to accept that they will, despite our best efforts. It’s one of my favorite aspects of Shinto and Japanese tradition: there is an understanding that everything, even ceramics and shrines, are impermanent and fragile. The transient nature of life is not to be resisted, but celebrated; that there is beauty in entropy and change.

So Sukkot comes in, and reminds us that as well. Sukkot, as we sit in a hut open to the elements (and boy was that ever true this week!) says to us “gam ze ya’avor”, this too shall pass. The kids’ decorations, made with such care on Sunday, are trashed from rain and wind. The wood of the sukkah curls, the schach rots and falls away, we get damp waving lulav and etrog, and we are reminded that the rain isn’t forever, nor is the sunshine. That the pain we feel will fade, but so will the joy. As Ecclesiastes reminds us this time of year, to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. That’s not just a song, but a reminder to us to appreciate each moment, to make our days count.

I’ll get over the rabbi’s manual. I’ll learn to love the new one, eventually. I will get used to not having it, even as I’m grateful for its service in the first 19 years of my career, as a student and a rabbi. And with the last days of Sukkot, I will remind myself to appreciate these moments, even as they too pass away.

Tue, September 26 2023 11 Tishrei 5784