Sukkots lesson — respect life, and Earth

For most of us, it's all too rare that we take the time to slow down and appreciate the simple, free pleasures in the world around us.

Sukkot presents us with such an opportunity.

On this holiday, we build and decorate sukkot, temporary booths constructed from plant material that recreate our ancestors' dwellings in the wilderness.

In those simple structures, we eat festive meals, dance and sing, and sleep under the stars. In our sukkot are no televisions, no computers and no telephones. There is no O.J. trial, no MTV, and no Internet.

In an era in which we have become accustomed to being entertained, the sukkah offers us an opportunity to rediscover the simple joys of natural phenomena and of quiet reflection.

By immersing ourselves in the simple beauty of the outdoors, we can attain a level of spiritual reflection hard to reach in the course of our harried daily lives.

We also for the moment consume fewer resources and contribute less to pollution — creating a better environment for the species that share the earth with us, and reminding ourselves, perhaps, of the importance of preserving the wildernesses our ancestors once called home.

As a harvest festival, Sukkot reminds us, too, of our dependence on the earth's bounty and our responsibility to share it with others.

Mark Xavier Jacobs of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life argues there is no better time than Sukkot to rededicate ourselves to caring for the environment.

He points to the Endangered Species Act, one of the nation's core environmental laws, which Congress is now considering revising. The law, passed in 1973, mandates that the federal government prevent harm to species in danger of becoming extinct.

Revisions to the act would eliminate the protection of animal habitats.

Jacobs suggests contacting elected representatives to urge continued support of the current act, which serves as an ark for so many of our species.

But there are things we can do every day to help ensure the future health of the environment. We can recycle, for example, and do our part to reduce pollution.

Those might seem like small gestures, but if enough people do them, we can help assure that future generations can garner the same joys from the sukkah that we do now.