Maybe we are getting used to it, sad to say. Or maybe if it’s not kids it doesn’t hit us as hard. They tell me that Jon Stewart said nothing about it. President Obama, standing but a few miles away, gave it a few minutes then launched into his scheduled press conference on the economy. The media, on the other hand, covered almost nothing else all day. Such was our Monday, the day of the Navy Yard shooting. Another sad day, in the tradition of Columbine and Virginia Tech and Aurora and Sandy Hook and on. Isn’t it agonizing to see these horrors and to know that the next one is just waiting to happen? Men with a history of psychological problems with easy access to deadly weapons is our unfortunate reality that just about guarantees it. Events like this do put in perspective the little things that we let bother us, and do make us appreciate our loved ones more than usual. Jewish tradition doesn’t have too much to say about going off to work (or school or the movies) and not coming home alive, other than teaching us to make our days count and giving us a mandate to be God’s partner in making the world a safer and better place.
Yom Kippur, which actually has some aspects of an encounter with death, is in the rear view mirror, and Sukkot – one of my favorite holidays – comes along at a good time for us. Thursday and Friday are holidays, as are next Thursday and Friday, with sukkah dwelling and semi-holidays mixed in. Do we know how to pack a lot of holidays into one little period of time or what?
The first day of Sukkot features our annual Hiddur Mitzvah Judging Contest – seeing who best dresses and protects their lulav and etrog. There should be little doubt I will run off with the lulav holder trophy this year with my brand new entry, being held in secrecy till the morning; my only concern is that the judge who was most favorable to my entries has retired. Anyway, we have a lot of fun, the competitive juices flowing in an unusually civil way given that it’s Bethesda. Friday is our eighth annual Deli Lunch, preceded by my special sermon on some aspect of the ancient tradition of corned beef and rye. This year we will add to the regular fare a bit of deli from KOL Foods, whose meats come from pasture-raised, humanely treated, sustainable, kosher-slaughtered animals. There will be vegan smoked and peppered Tofurkey slices for the veggies also. And ice cream sundaes for dessert. Only kidding on the dessert.
Sukkot actually revved up on Sunday when sukkah building began in earnest, both in the shul’s back yard and in many of yours, and in about 30 homes where sukkot were put up and decorated by Religious School classes as part of our Build the Joy program. I got to three of those this year. They were so cool that my post Yom Kippur exhaustion didn’t hit till the afternoon, or maybe it was the Redskins that brought about my long nap. Anyway, Sunday was a beautiful day to be outside, and watching the kids building and making decorations and using so many of their senses, and seeing the parental figures schmoosing and taking it all in, reinforced what I always talk about, that Jewish education needs a good dose of the experiential and fun and family involvement. Yasher koach to Rabbi Mark Levine and Tali Moscowitz for arranging all this and thanks to the host families.
It has been a privilege to embark with you on another new year. I hope you have a good one, and a good Wednesday. Chag Sukkot Sameach, a happy Sukkot to you.