Shabbat Chol Hamo'ed Succot
"Three times in the year shall all the males appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel" Exodus 34:23
The proximity of Succot to Yom Kippur in the Jewish calendar encourages us to find a theological link between the two holy days. Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, brings even the most disaffected Jews to repent (or at least brings them to synagogue).
Our liturgy creates the image of us standing before God, confessing our sins, looking for forgiveness and a new start. Only a matter of days after we have sloped away and promptly resumed the behaviour we spent 25 hours repenting for, we are called biblically to appear before God on the pilgrimage festival of Succot.
Yet on this holiday synagogues do not need overflow minyan to cope with attendance. The excitement of Succot today, post-Temple, is home-based; it focuses on inviting guests to dwell in our succah, our home for the week.
Have we simply dispensed with the image of being called before God on Succot? Have we replaced trembling before God with our sacrifices on Succot with a litany of sins on Yom Kippur? Succot is our call to put the good intentions of our thoughts on Yom Kippur into practice.
As we dwell in our booths, we strip back the luxuries of our lives and learn about the realities of life for those less fortunate than ourselves. We remember our commitment to tikkun olam, to our role as a steward of Creation and our obligation to give up some of the materialistic things on which we place such a high priority.
If only Succot were the festival that got Jews to identify with their Judaism rather than Yom Kippur. Perhaps then people would not hide behind the liturgy and their thoughts in synagogue but would take the next step and answer the biblical call by actually changing their ways. Succot is the ultimate reminder that actions speak louder than words.