Unforgettable holidays

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (stljewishlight.com).   Joel Iskiwitch and John DeMott, authors of the  “What can you do?”  sidebar, are congregants at TE.


I am almost without fail asked the same question every year following Yom Kippur. “Aren’t you glad the Holidays are over?” I politely respond, “We still have two more. Sukkot and Simchat Torah.” 

Why do so many people forget these wonderful celebrations? Sukkot, one of the three Festivals, has several names including Zman Zimchantenu – the time of our rejoicing. We have a festival that includes wonderful rejoicing and celebrating! How could we even begin to think we were finished? We were dare to miss the American holiday of Thanksgiving? Sukkot is a way of thanking God for the bounty of our lives.

And Simchat Torah! I once read a wonderful midrash that described this time of year as when we use our entire body to worship God. The etrog is like our heart whose intent is to serve God fully. The palm is our spine which should be upright in our deeds and our worship. The willow leaves represent our lips and mouth which should only be used to speak words of praise and kindness. The myrtle leaves are our eyes whose duty it is to search for ways to serve God and find ways of performing tzedakah. Finally, on Simchat Torah we use our feet as we dance and rejoice with God’s gift of Torah.

So when asked if I am glad the Holidays are over, I simply say we are only half way there! Furthermore, I am not happy when they are over. It leaves me with an empty feeling. These moments of celebration fill me with a sense of God, community and joy. It does not get much better!