Sleeping in the Rain (Sukkot 2013/5774)

Five years ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing Sukkot in Jerusalem.  For the first time in my life I was able to sleep in the sukkah through the whole week.  At times there was unbearable heat and at others chilling rain, but this did not decrease my joy of dwelling in our ancestral homeland, practicing the religion of our forefathers out in the open, securely.

However one celebrates the holiday, during Sukkot we try to recognize that all of our joy is ultimately rooted in our relationship with the Divine.  The festival calls upon us to remember how God took care of our ancestors during their wanderings in the wilderness.  Out of unparalleled love, God provided them with shelter, food, and all their other needs.  This state of complete physical satisfaction freed the children of Israel to deepen their connection to the Almighty.  The joy of Sukkot is the joy of falling in love with God all over again; we re-experience our ancestors’ gratitude for God’s generosity in the desert.

Sukkot is the only holiday on our calendar that the rabbis referred to as “The Holiday” (He-Chag), where besides its ritual observances, we are commanded to be happy.  How do we express this joy? We sing psalms of praise, Hallel, every day of the festival.  We wave the lulav and etrog, reenacting the glory of the Temple service.  Emulating our ancestors, we build fragile, temporary shelters, trusting that God will protect us from the elements.  Then we fill our sukkot with luxurious food and drink, and invite guests to our meals, where we share stories and songs that liven the heart.

Of course, there are times when living in the sukkah is hard.  Our rabbis recognized that occasionally we would be too uncomfortable to stay in our sukkot.  If it rains too hard, for example, we are allowed to abandon our temporary shelters in favor of our permanent homes.  But perhaps it is possible to be so filled with joy and love that we are not bothered when the weather takes a turn for the worse.  Picture Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) in the 1952 musical classic, Singin’ in the Rain: so overjoyed in his love for Kathy Seiden (Debbie Reynolds) that, despite a heavy downpour of rain, he continues on his way, dancing and singing, declaring:

Let the stormy clouds chase

Everyone from the place

Come on with the rain

I’ve a smile on my face

Although the requirement to eat and sleep in a sukkah is lifted when it rains, it is not hard to imagine experiencing such happiness that one might continue one’s celebration through inclement conditions.

May we all experience similarly intense joy and love for God on our holiday (even if we don’t end up sleeping in the rain), and merit to see our relationships to one another grow deeper each day of our celebration.  As in the original 1929 version of the song Singin’ in the Rain, may we find ourselves wondering:

Why am I smiling and why do I sing?

Why does September seem sunny as spring?

Why do I get up each morning and start,

Happy and head up with joy in my heart?

Why is each new task a trifle to do?

Because I am living a life full of You!

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