We have just surpassed Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and now the Jewish Holidays shall culminate with the celebration of Sukkot. Sukkot commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people after they escaped slavery in Egypt and thereafter spent 40 years wondering in the desert. Hashem provided miraculous protection for the Children of Israel as they left Egypt and this is what we celebrate at this special time.
Take a moment to think about this: Just as Hashem protected the Children of Israel while they wondered in the desert and lead them to the Promised Land, so do we, at WIZO, protect the abused women and children that have been removed from debilitating environments. We too do this by taking them out of harm’s way and placing them into our care where they receive everything that they need so that they can fully recover and contribute effectively to Israeli society.
Sukkot is known by various names and infers a deep connection to WIZO.
The physical meaning of the word Sukkah is tabernacle or booth. It is a symbolic wilderness dwelling covered with foliage where we eat, sleep and spend our time over Sukkot. The Sukkah reminds us that Hashem protected the Israelites in the wilderness after they were freed from slavery and similarly we, at WIZO, provide a Sukkah, a temporary dwelling, for those who have been oppressed and suppressed, hurt and damaged. Just as they have been traumatised, we at WIZO are able to provide them with what they need so that they can move forward transformed and healed. This physical meaning of the word Sukkah, being the symbolic dwelling covered with foliage, has a very important meaning for us at WIZO.
I am not sure how many of you know that the second name for Sukkot is Chag HaAsif – translated as the Holiday of Ingathering. This marks the end of the harvest and the agricultural year in Israel. Once again we, at WIZO, also gather those who need our love and care as we place them in our houses of safety giving them hope for a better and more sustainable future.
There is in fact a third name for Sukkot. It is Zman Simchateinu meaning time of our Happiness. The most joyful festival in our calendar is Sukkot because it brings families, friends and communities together in celebration. We, as WIZO volunteers, feel this deeply as we too assist those who need our help bringing them together and hopefully ultimately reuniting them with their families.
The spiritual meaning of Sukkot has to be discussed. This reminds us that we are vulnerable to Hashem and to nature and that the Sukkah alone cannot shield us from the forces of Nature, nor the acts of Hashem. We are reminded of the use of the sukkah, that although Hashem created a real sense of security and protection for the Jewish people who were wondering in the desert, we too at WIZO must do all we can to ensure that no women or child is abandoned in Israel and that we constantly, as volunteers, attempt to ensure that they will always have a home away from home with our WIZO.
We celebrate Sukkot by taking the “four kinds” (known as arba minim), which are four special species of vegetation (Willow, Myrtle, Palm, and Etrog / Citron) bundled together and shaken in a particular way. Each of the four kinds possesses something that the other three do not and therefore compensates for that quality’s absence in the other three.
What this message means is that it takes all kinds. It takes all kinds to make a people and Sukkot is the time when we bond with each other so that different people’s qualities rub off on us and complement our qualities and vice versa. We do this so that we can continue to do mitzvot (good deeds) and be devoted to the pursuit of “DOING WHAT MATTERS”. What we need is ACTION and by bringing our unique and valuable individuality together we can create unity and in turn build a better world for those who need our WIZO.
As you construct and decorate your Sukkah with murals, flowers and paper chains and recite the blessing for the lulav and the etrog (the four kinds), remember that Sukkot is the season for rejoicing and a time to celebrate the miraculous protection of Hashem who accompanied the Jewish people in the desert. It is a time for us, as WIZO South Africa, to look forward and to see how we can assist those who need our help in Israel. It is a time to reevaluate our roles as individuals and, like the four kinds, come together with a single idea in mind and with your help and assistance, we will make WIZO stronger and more sustainable. We need you to all participate in our journey. Make it your journey … the WIZO journey.
I take this opportunity to wish you and your families Chag Sukkot Sameach.
President WIZO South Africa