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What's Missing?
Approaching Yom Kippur

Are We There Yet?
Approaching Sukkot

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Lands of Milk and Honey:
A Jewish Approach
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Celebrating Our Year Together

Our Movement's Principles:
Approaching Reform

Chosen for What?
Approaching Passover

God, Science, and
Living with Uncertainty

It's Your Choice:
Approaching Shavuot
Are We There Yet?
Approaching Sukkot

Since the weather was exquisite and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, we held our October Jacob Project discussion outdoors, in the Micah sukkah. We began discussing why we build the sukkah, and what it represents. The Israelites had just been freed from slavery and were on their way to the Promised Land, and we build the sukkah to relive the time in the wilderness, when we had to eat in frail, temporary structures, like huts. That's right, we build the sukkah not to recount the thrill and blessing of liberation (see Passover), not to celebrate a triumphant entry into the Promised Land, but to remember the not-so-glamorous, wandering-in-the-wilderness, in-between-slavery-and-the-Promised-Land, living-in-frail-huts period in our history. What's that about?

After the exodus from Egypt, were the Israelites truly free yet? How do we define freedom? A quote from The Bedside Torah helped shed some light: "Liberation comes in stages, not all at once… Ultimately freedom is much more than the absence of external restraint…We are most free, most fully human, when we help ourselves and others to live up to our best potential… Freedom is the ability to take responsibility for life and its direction." Did the Israelites have this ability? Did black Americans have this ability right after Emancipation? Do Americans living in poverty today have this ability, even though they were born in a "free" country?

In our effort to define freedom, Sukkot does not let us stop at "the absence of enslavement." Sukkot reminds us that true freedom—the Promised Land where we find the presence of options and the potential for self-actualization—requires a journey and some serious time in the wilderness. Speeches and marches on Washington and bloody riots and eating in frail huts.

So why are we commanded to "rejoice" on Sukkot? What's so festive about this difficult journey between slavery and freedom? What's so joyous about remembering our time in the wilderness? Is it that we can look back now and see how far we've come? See how much better off we are now than before? Or do we simply find joy in knowing the destination is worth journeying towards? Like the etrog that we never eat, but that smells so enticingly sweet…

Sukkot provides an opportunity to ask ourselves, "are we there yet?" a question that implies a little discomfort, but, at the same time, excitement at what's to come. Where are we on our way to our Promised Land? Our country, our people, our selves…are we there yet?

We left the sukkah on a musical note:

"There's a land that I see, where the children are free, And they say it ain't far, to this land from where we are. Take my hand, come along, lend your voice to our song. Come with me to this land, and we'll live…"

--Nickie Roberts

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Yih'yu l'ratzon imrei fi v'hegyon libi l'fanecha Adonai tzuri v'goali.

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