Through Every Change, He Is with Us
October 14, 2014
Dear Friend of The Fellowship,
Before I returned to Israel last week, I could feel the change in the air. Seeing the students rushing off to class at the beginning of the new school year and the leaves beginning to change colour, I knew that a change of seasons was imminent. These changes are added to the many changes we have seen on the global stage in recent months: the rapid ascendancy of brutal ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria, the continued efforts of Israel to rebuild after this summer’s war, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that has left so many, including the entire Ukrainian Jewish community, uncertain of their future.
Change, indeed, is part of life, both on a personal and global level, and it is with this in mind that I approach the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (also known as the Feast of Tabernacles), which began last week. We build temporary structures, or Sukkah, on this day and spend the following week eating, socializing, and even sleeping in them. These huts are meant to remind us of the shelters the Israelites lived in during their sojourn in the desert in biblical times. They are deliberately built to be impermanent; they have no fixed walls, and their roofs are made of palm fronds or bamboo mats, so that one can see the stars while resting inside.
Usually we avoid impermanence, vulnerability, and discomfort. But during Sukkot Jews embrace these very things. In fact, Sukkot is known as "the time of our happiness." This happiness stems from the foundational truth Sukkot brings to mind. Living in temporary booths reminds us that our homes, our livelihoods, our safety, our health – despite all we do to provide and safeguard them – ultimately come from God. That truth would have been clear to the ancient Israelites wandering in the desert, led and shaded by clouds during the day, warmed and lit by fire at night, sustained by manna, sleeping in makeshift huts.
In our modern world, on the other hand, it’s easy to delude ourselves into thinking that all we have materially and otherwise grows out of our own efforts and skills. Sukkot reminds us that it all comes from God.
While this dependency runs counter to the fierce independence so valued in our culture, it actually brings a sense of relief. Our livelihood and well-being is up to the God of the universe Who created us, sustains us, and loves us more than we can fathom. What greater comfort can there be than the knowledge that, despite the changes we may be going through, our never-changing God is with us at every moment, and that He will provide for us?
Whether you are Christian or Jewish, I pray this season of Sukkot fills you with fresh gratitude for God’s permanence in our world that is ever-changing. And may we all pray for the time when the whole world will be able to dwell under the shelter of God’s dominion, in peace.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
President and Founder, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada