In October I was joined by Tessa and Matan Ben Ami and Charlie Fox for planting at Shining Lights Garden. While we planted ten 500 foot rows of squash seeds (that’s about a mile) we chatted about the High Holy Days that had passed and the Festival of Sukkot that was about to begin. Planting in a garden is an amazing spot to appreciate the values of Sukkot. As we dropped the seeds in the earth and covered it so they would grow, we debated and discussed our favorite parts of Sukkot: the cycle of the dry season to the rainy season (in Israel and in Florida), the seasonality of the fruits and vegetables we eat, and the health of the soil (that we have to feed it as it feeds us). We witnessed it all in one place.
While I kept talking about the agricultural elements of Sukkot, Matan looked up and said, “what about the Torah?” I was so enamored with planting before this harvest and planting, I had not considered another cycle of Sukkot. We end Sukkot with Simchat Torah, as we read the end of Deuteronomy and roll back to the beginning of Genesis. While it isn’t part of the celebration in our Sukkot, this act of renewal is a vital part of this season as well. Just as we started to discuss Simchat Torah, we heard a large tractor in the next field over. It was removing the last season’s eggplant bushes. I couldn’t believe it. It was an illustration of Simchat Torah, right there in the Shining Lights Garden. One season was finished and spent. It was being pulled away to make room for the replanting of that space. (See the picture above) We were seeing the end of one cycle and the start of another, so viscerally and powerfully. This work of the field mirrored the story of Moses and the People of Israel completing the Torah and the cycling back to Genesis. Even as Moses dies after a full life, Joshua leads the way into the Promised Land. We also witnessed the chaos of untilled earth make way for the order of rows and a new Garden of Eden space being planted. This is part of the reason I make the effort to spend time going outside, whether to the beach or to the garden. As much as I learn in the Torah Scroll inside, I find insights and illustrations into that sacred story by being connected to activities and cycles of nature.
You might not be a gardener or someone who loves the outdoors, but I invite you to be part of our Sukkot observances at TBS. Join us in the Sukkah… You never know what connection you might find, from the food, or from the prayer and ritual or from the people you meet in that place!