“A flyer from Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island landed on my desk. It asks that when congregants come to temple for the High Holy Days they ‘wear something of a loved one who has passed—a pin, a scarf, a necklace, or bring a small picture in your pocket....It will make their light shine again.'
Indeed, the possessions of those who are no longer with us hold tremendous sentimental value. Some of my mother’s jewelry, a pair of my grandfather’s eyeglasses (circa 1920), and my grandmother’s candlesticks—schlepped from the old country—are among my most treasured belongings. They are physical reminders of my past and a tangible connection to those on whose shoulders I now stand.
These possessions, too, are reminders of the divine sparks that dwelled within the people who owned them. The sparks are most evident to me when I remember the ways my mishpacha interacted with the world-at-large and what it is they wished most for future generations.
This year, a few of my mother’s silver bracelets draped on my wrist during the High Holy Day season will remind me—as they always do—of her love, her values, and her well-lived life. Perhaps most importantly, the strands of silver will prompt me to behave in ways that release my own divine sparks into the world. In so doing, I will, I believe, help her light continue to shine.”
—Jane E. Herman, on rj.org
“The sukkah is an intriguing symbol of faith; as we sit in the sukkah, with only leaves for a roof, exposed to the wind, the rain and the cold, we become aware of our fragility in the faces of the forces of nature and our dependence on it. Sukkot also symbolizes the moment in the agricultural year cycle when we celebrate and enjoy the fruits of our summer’s hard labor. Enjoying the fruits of our hard labor is a gratifying experience. Our society today is not primarily agricultural, but we can still relate to these ideas metaphorically and draw some relevant insights for our times. This fascinating juxtaposition between feeling empowered and vulnerable creates a healthy tension that protects us from vanity and teaches us a lesson in modesty. It can also teach us how to be good hosts. While guests are an important part of the Jewish home all year round, they are even, more so during Sukkot. We are commanded to celebrate with the members of our community and especially those who are more vulnerable and deprived. Once the comfort of sitting in the sukkkah is challenged by the weather, hosts become aware of their own vulnerability and the differences between hosts and guests blur. These insights are subtle reminders that the ties that unite us are stronger and richer than the conditions that differentiate us from each other.”
—Yehudit Werchow, on rj.org