The Torah portions, or parashot, this week is detail the instuctions for Sukkot. These can be found in Leviticus 22:26-23:44 and Numbers 29:12-16. For Sukkot, the Israelites are commanded to observe the festival a full 7 days and to waive a combination of specified tree branches and fruits (which we know today as the lulav and etrog, or the four species), and to live in booths as a reminder of their wilderness experience.
Sukkot is a festival of wholeness. We wave four species–palm, myrtle, and willow branches, and the etrog–lemon-like citron fruit from Israel. We waive the lulav and etrog in all directions to show that God is everywhere and fully surrounds us. We finish a cycle of holidays and celebrate the wholeness of a new year. Yet, we dwell in a sukkah that is incomplete. The requirements of a sukkah is that it must have only three walls, not four. It must be temporary. Even the roof is incomplete. It has holes so you can see the stars. The sukkah is a reminder of the incompleteness we experience in our wilderness wanderings: in our times when we encounter the unknown, face uncertainty, or feel the pain of loss that has made our lives incomplete. We pray for a sweet, new year. We eat challah that is round and sweet. We strive for wholeness. However, as we journey through this year, we will have ups and downs, times of rejoicing, and times of incompleteness. When we waive the lulav and etrog this Sukkot may we be reminded that God’s presence is everywhere and will fully surround us, even during times we will feel incomplete. And when our lives feel full of holes, may we remember that we are connected to the God who created the stars and will take care of us.