Zman Simchateinu

“The simcha, the joy, of Sukkot (zman simchateinu/the time of our rejoicing) is the means by which we receive with a full heart.”

So says the Sefas Emes. Intriguing, isn’t it, that he doesn’t tell us what we receive, but rather simply the reality that we do.

Sukkot is the season of receiving, and specifically receiving with the heart. Our sukkah is a place we receive guests, both those physically and temporally with us, and those who join us from times and places our bodies don’t inhabit. This season of gathering is the time we receive everyone and everything with full hearts:

the night sky

Jews of all varieties

people of all colors and shapes and tongues

chirping birds and crickets, buzzing bees and flies,

the foraging skunk and raccoon.

But it is not the receiving of a host who retains control of the gates. No: On Rosh Hashanah our hearts were broken open to hear the voice of the other (it was written). On Yom Kippur we allowed the Holy to mend our hearts and bring them peace (it was sealed). And now on Sukkot, those supple listening hearts we asked for are finally working—opening and closing, opening and closing, living and dying, born and reborn and reborn again, with each breath and beat.

And our hearts are generous, and they are humble at the same time: Generous because we share life with our fellow pilgrims on the planet, and humble for the same reason.

So we open our sukkot and receive our guests, not because we can close the doors, but because we joyfully accept the futility in doing so. Hevel havalim, hakol havel.

There’s a Hasidishe vort I’ve never seen, but only because I haven’t read it yet: The motion of the lulav is from the heart and out to the world and back again. Three times in six directions: Chai. Out and in and out again. Breathing, beating.

The lulav is lo lev: Our heart is the heart of the holy, and the heart of the divine is ours. And the lulav is lu lev: Would that we had hearts this open, hearts that could give and receive this way all year.

Our hearts are fullest when they are broken open.

Zman simchateinu.