Sukkot: Our Connection to the Earth

Connecting our own hearts to the Earth: child waving Sukkot branches

This photo shows a child shaking or waving the “four species” of plant life (palm branch, myrtle, willow, and lemon-like etrog or citron), in the seven directions of the world. In 1974, when my own son, David Waskow, was ten years old, I showed him how to do this and then asked him how it felt. He said: "I felt like I was a tree! My own branches were waving in the wind, and I could smell my own fruit."]

Connecting the world to the Earth:

This is a photo of Pete Seeger, my daughter Shoshana Elkin Waskow, and me in 1998, celebrating the seventh day of Sukkot at the Hudson River. General Electric had poured cancer-causing PCBs into the river. We were drawing on activist rituals to stir public commitment to heal the river from the poison.
Arthur, Shoshanna, and Pete Seeger

  • What do we make of the earthy connection between Sukkot as harvest festival and the long-ago scheduling of major American elections in November, when the farmers who then made up most of our population had completed the harvest and could turn their attention to politics?
  • Is a festival a way of harvesting not only crops but joy? Is an election a way of harvesting wisdom?
  • What do we make of the profound Sukkot ritual of waving those four species palm, myrtle, willow, etrog) in the seven directions of the world?
  • And of beating willow branches on the Earth at a river's edge, on the seventh day of Sukkot?

All these aspects of Sukkot raise for us the question as we choose whom we shall vote for:   Which  candidates show that they cherish the Earth and will work to protect and heal it? Which can we imagine celebrating themselves as closely akin to the trees of Earth? Which candidates seem ready to poison the Earth for the sake of profit?

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