Hashkiveinu, which we sing together during our evening liturgy, has an even more meaningful presence during the festival holiday of Sukkot. We sing together the words ufros aleinu sukat shlomecha, spread over us a shelter of peace. A shelter of peace conjures up some pretty hearty images – a shelter should protect us, guard us, keep us. Yet, when we look at the construct of a sukkah, a space intended to be a temporary dwelling, a structure through which you can see the stars at night, is that really the kind of shelter we want or need when it comes to a shelter of peace? I would like to think, yes.
Only when we are sheltered in peace, in shalom, can we truly perpetuate a notion of wholeness, which shares the same shoresh, the same root word, as the word shalom. What NFTY helps perpetuate, as we gather together at over 100 regional events across North America each year, is a better understanding of your relationships to God, to Reform Judaism, and to one another. You come together and consistently challenge one another to re-examine those relationships. And this reciprocity is what creates within our NFTY world, a mutual shelter of peace, a shelter of wholeness, and a shelter of holiness.
Much like the temporary dwelling spaces we create to celebrate the festival holiday of Sukkot, we, as NFTYites, come together to form something unique, with a certain purpose, and meaning, and most often in different places. Tonight, NFTYites in NFTY-STR, NFTY-Northeast, and SoCAL/NAR, are also gathering to breathe life into the magic of a NFTY weekend. All of these events have real value, they will will never be constructed exactly the same way again, and all of them are temporary. All of which make an event like this, like a sukkah – fragile, unique, and special. This is a sacred space.
I have many hopes for you while you share this sacred space. It’s my hope that your time together is as sweet as moments shared in sukkot around the world this week. I hope that you know that you are part of a Movement that is rallying around the future of youth engagement in a way that has never happened before via the work of the Campaign for Youth Engagement.
For NAR (Friday night): I hope that when you share in Havdallah tomorrow night, you remember to look up at the stars, and know that the constellations you see, are also being seen by the NFTYites in Southern California, when I share these same words with them tomorrow afternoon.
For SoCAL (Saturday afternoon): I hope that when you share in Havdallah this evening, you remember to look up at the stars, and know that the constellations you see, are also being seen by the NFTYites in NFTY-NAR, as I shared these same words with them last night during their Fall Kallah at the URJ Kutz Camp.
And while NFTY-NAR and NFTY-SoCAL might be thousands of miles apart, when you look up at the stars, you share a common vision. Our Movement, and our future, is brighter than ever before.
And finally, one of my favorite commandments relating to Sukkot is that we are commanded to be joyful. In Deuteronomy (16:13, 15) it says, “Rejoice in your holiday… You should have nothing but joy!” The majority of the 79,847 words that make up the Torah tell us stories and outline commandments. What is so unique here is that the Torah is telling us how to feel. And how remarkable is it that we come together this weekend, ready to share in that joy together. I hope that your weekend is wonderful, that your year is sweet, and that all of your journeys bring you joy.
The NFTY-New York Area Region Fall Kallah was held a the URJ Kutz Camp, and the NFTY-Southern California LTI event was hosted by Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, CA.