Sukkot symbolizes transcience amid plenty

Trimmed with greenery, paper chains and children’s art, its roof open to the elements, the fragile sukkah — more than any other Jewish symbol — reminds us that our roots are agrarian and that life is temporary.

Sharing a meal in the outdoor setting with friends and family, listening to the sounds of the outdoors, it’s easy to relax, to focus on conversation and to relish the bounty of nature. Sukkot, after all, was the inspiration for the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving, a time of being grateful for the blessings of the earth.

Indeed, we have much to be thankful for, particularly in California, where produce in abundance fills our supermarkets and farmers’ markets, nourishing our bodies and inspiring a tasty, healthy style of eating.

But it’s too easy to utter a quick prayer of thanks and then return to business as usual, taking the gifts of the earth for granted. How many of us, as we say the words “Ha motzi lechem min ha’aretz,” remember that the bringing forth of bread from the earth is a gift? That there are lands throughout this planet where the earth is less giving and food is scarce? That while it’s easy to stuff dough into an electric breadmaker and let it bake overnight, almost untouched by human hands, it’s much harder to build a connection with the source of our food and nourishment.

The sukkah represents that connection. Fashioned from bamboo sticks or planks, it is deliberately flimsy. A strong wind can knock it over. Rains can destroy the colorful decorations that our children so proudly placed in the three-sided hut.

Such is life. Hurricanes, earthquakes and fires remind us that even our mansions are temporary structures. So, too, are our bodies. And the cornucopia of summer and fall produce is seasonal — even in California.

Sukkot reminds us to rejoice in our abundance. But we also need to remember that we, like our ancestors who built their booths in the fields during harvest time, are dependent on the land. We mustn’t abuse it.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens editorials as the voice of J.