If the religious communities of America are serious about our deepest spiritual teachings of the profound worth of every human being and every species, Growing the Vote is crucial. For Jews, sharing Sukkot (the festival from the evening of October 2 to the evening of October 9) and its profound teachings with the “seventy nations of the world” and drawing on its wisdom to Grow the Vote is crucial.
We invite you: “Share Sukkot” to “Green and Grow the Vote!"
There are many values hidden in the Sukkot festival that may only show up when you need them. One is hidden in plain sight: Because both Sukkot and the dates of major U.S. elections are connected with the Harvest, Sukkot in every national election year always comes several weeks before the election. The festival could become a period of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual preparation for voting.
Could doing that take the values rooted in and affirmed by Sukkot, giving them a new voice in the broader world? And could that, for many Jews, give richer meaning to and more joy in a festival that has had little intrinsic meaning for them?
We are exploring the second possibility. Let me give an example:
Torah says that the runaway Israelites who had just fled from slavery to Pharaoh sat “in sukkot” (the plural of “sukkah,” the vulnerable “booth” or “hut” in which some sit and eat and even sleep. To remember this sojourn as refugees fleeing for our lives and liberty, we should live in sukkot for the seven days of “Sukkot” -- with a capital “S,” the name of the festival.
You shall live in sukkot [huts] seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in huts, in order that future generations may know that I settled the Israelite people in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Narrowness [Egypt], I YHWH/ Yahhh/ the Breath of Life -- your God. (Lev 23: 42-43)
So Sukkot affirms the value of protection for refugees – – an important issue in the upcoming election.
Another value: the sukkah, a hut with a leafy, leaky roof is open to Earth. Its relationship to the fall harvest strengthens its connection with Earth. Rabbinic tradition teaches that the sacrifice of 70 bulls during Sukkot when the Temple stood represented Jewish prayers for the abundant prosperity of all the “70 nations of the world.” So Sukkot represents a commitment to a loving relationship for all nations with all Earth.
Easy to see how that affirms a much stronger version of the Paris Climate Accords to work with all nations to make sure that we protect Earth’s ability to nourish every people.
These are values. How can we connect the festival of Sukkot with voting --= to make a real difference for those values?
Already The Shalom Center has prepared a number of posters that honor heroes of the struggle to achieve voting rights for all Americans. Why posters? Because there is a tradition of posting in sukkot the names and pictures of ushpizin -- sacred guests. Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, are traditionally among those sacred guests. Each represents a different aspect of God's world and our lives.
To them we would add Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman – – two Jews and a Black who were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi during Freedom Summer of 1964 for working to register Blacks to vote in Mississippi. And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote a brilliant dissent against a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court which gutted the crucial provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And many others.
Even these sacred guests are expressions of value and commitment, not action to Grow the Vote. What could happen during and after Sukkot to make the commitment real? Jews and others from the “70 nations” could take time during the festival to make phone calls and Zoom gatherings to make sure that people are ready to vote and know how to make sure that their votes get cast and counted. They could focus on constituencies that often undervote -- Black, Ladinx, and young Jewish communities, for example.
All this we are calling #ShareSukkot2GrowVote.
If you want to work with us on this, please write me by simply clicking “Reply.” And if you want to help The Shalom Center do this work, please contribute through the purple ”Contribute” banner just below.
With blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste – - Arthur