By Sue Tomchin, Editor, Jewish Woman
“To everything there is a season; A time to every purpose under heaven; a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap; a time to laugh, a time to weep;…” Most of us have heard the familiar passage from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, if not in synagogue, at least, from the iconic Pete Seeger (and later the Byrds) song, “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
What most of us probably haven’t yet done is to ask ourselves serious questions about what these words mean. A new study guide, Rethinking Sukkot: Women, Relationships and Jewish Text, from Jewish Women International (JWI) takes a fresh look at passages from Ecclesiastes and other texts related to the holiday to spark conversations exploring themes of inspiration, protection, spiritual growth, and other qualities common in healthy relationships. Anyone who would like to gather in the sukkah for a holiday meal and thought-provoking holiday-related discussions will enjoy using the resource.
The guide, the third in a series designed to spark new conversations about relationships by offering a fresh look at old texts, is a project of JWI’s Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community, a group of prominent clergy from a range of Jewish denominations committed to promoting Jewish responses and resources that end violence against women. The first guide was released around Purim, and the second was released around Shavuot. One additional guide will be released in late 2012 on the topic of Shabbat.
“The fragility of the sukkah teaches that there are things we can trust even in times of insecurity; that there are things that anchor us even in times of instability. These are necessary reminders when we go through hard times, as we all must do,” said Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, who contributed to the guide. Cardin is director of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network. “This guide is one effort to serve as such a reminder, and tangible proof that at such times, we are not alone.”
“Many of the themes of Sukkot—such as peace, celebration, thanksgiving, family, kindness, and unity— are building blocks of healthy relationships,” said another contributor to the guide, Rabbi David Rosenberg, coordinator of Jewish Studies and Orthodox Community Liaison, Jewish Child and Family Services, Chicago, Ill. “This guide is a powerful tool that can help us connect the holiday of Sukkot with our goal of fostering healthy relationships in our homes, congregations, and communities.”
Along with insightful text-based discussions about holiday texts and about Sukkot themes and practices, the guide also features supplemental activities that include listening to music, watching a film, and cooking, as well as a mitzvah project that supports building children’s libraries in battered women’s shelters, one of JWI’s signature initiatives.
In addition to Rabbis Cardin and Rosenberg, contributors also include Clergy Task Force members Rabbi Rachel Ain (New York, N.Y.), Rabbi Amy Bolton (New York, N.Y.), Rabbi Sean Gorman (Toronto, Ontario), Rabbi Marla Hornsten (W. Bloomfield, Mich.), and Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum (Princeton, N.J.), in addition to Deborah Rosenbloom, JWI Director of Programs, who led the project.
Download the guide free of charge.
Other Sukkot resources from Jewish Woman:
A Sukkah that is Beautiful Inside and Out
Sukkot as Link to Nature and other Families
Sukkot’s Many Layers of Meaning
Sukkot Dishes to Try