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Living here in Israel allows one to gain a deeper appreciation of the holidays of the Jewish calendar. In their deepest sense, they were all meant to be observed here in Israel. Perhaps that is what our rabbis intended when they cryptically said that the observance of the Commandments of the Torah that the Jewish people have fulfilled and continue to practice in the Diaspora is really a training exercise for their true adherence when the Jewish people return to the land of Israel.
This observation is certainly true regarding the holidays of Israel and is especially true regarding the holiday of Sukkot, that we are about to celebrate. Perhaps no other holiday of the year so symbolizes the attachment of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, as does this holiday of Sukot. It is a combination of the weather at this time of the year and the beauty and abundance of the agricultural products that are used for the observance of the holiday. And, this bounty fills our holiday tables and the Yom Tov menu reflects a spirit of rejuvenation that the population feels long after the hot summer in the days of judgment.
In Israel, leaving one’s home to dwell for the week of Sukot in the outside booths that dot the landscape throughout the country is seen as a sign of the concept of redemption of the Jewish soul, reflected in our attachment to our ancient homeland and the gifts of the Lord to the Jewish people.
The Jewish people are in reality the most cosmopolitan group of human beings that the world has ever seen. There is almost no country or area of the world where the Jewish people have not been present or visited. We have been everywhere on this globe and yet despite repeated efforts to make ourselves feel at home wherever we are, there is a gnawing feeling of restlessness that underlies the mansions and seeming security that we have built for ourselves wherever we have dwelled.
From my own personal experience, I can attest that even though I was well settled in my previous places of residence in the United States – for which I am eternally grateful to that great country for allowing the Jews freedom and opportunities never granted to them before in our long history of the exile – I never truly felt at home until I was able to settle here in Jerusalem and in the land of Israel.
I do not mean this short essay to be a rah-rah appeal for immigration to the Jewish state. But, I feel that only here in Israel can a Jew live a truly Jewish life in every facet of meaning that those words may contain. And to me, the holiday of Sukot is the ultimate proof of this statement. Many Jews arrive here to spend the holiday and I notice that the common thread of conversation and feeling regarding this holiday is the attachment that it engenders within them and to the feeling of being at home.
It is somewhat ironic that this feeling of being at home is inspired by a holiday that bids us to leave our homes and live a temporary existence outside of our usual comforts and conveniences. But I feel that that is in the great message that this holiday of Sukot teaches us. Our comfort zone and feeling of security is not dependent upon the physical dwelling or place in the world where we reside.
Many a mansion and palace are filled with heartbreak, disappointment, strife and dysfunction. If one does not feel happy and secure on the inside, the outside will never provide him or her with that feeling of happiness and security. The rabbis always felt that a shack in Jerusalem was worthier and more protective than a great palace elsewhere.
It is this feeling that has driven millions of Jews to gather here from the four corners of the world to build a renewed and vital Jewish state. Not all of us came here willingly or voluntarily. Almost all of us have the right and ability to leave if we wish. Nevertheless, the level of satisfaction of life and of our existence here in Israel is one of the highest in all the world, much higher than the level of happiness exhibited in other seemingly more prosperous and less dangerous places on the globe. That is the triumph of the message of the holiday of Sukot.
Shabbat shalom
Chag Sameach
Berel Wein



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