The Harvest festival of Sukkot begins tonight and lasts for seven days. It is named after its most prominent symbol –- more than a symbol, an active practice: the Sukkah, a fragile hut with a leafy, leaky roof.
What is the active practice? Traditionally, Jews slept in the sukkah for a week. Now, fewer sleep but many eat there.
I am writing you today to ask for a harvest – a Harvest of contributions to help The Shalom Center do our fragile, vulnerable, crucial work in the world.
Not just because it happens to be Harvest time. Also because we ourselves, The Shalom Center, are fragile, vulnerable, embodying the wisdom of the Sukkah.
In our earlest efforts, focused 33 years ago on the danger of the nuclear arms race becomng nuclear holocaust, we called on the wisdom of the Sukkah. This poster called together one of our earliest spiritually-rooted public actions:
The Sukkah -- your Sukkah of Shalom, The Shalom Center -- is fragile, open to wind and rain. Yet it needs to be built. No one can shelter under a tree or in a cave and call it a Sukkah. And we need you to gather the leafy roof and help us drape the wood or canvas that make our fragile walls.
You can do that by clicking on the maroon Contribute banner on the left margin of this page, and following through with the (tax-deductible) gifts that will keep the leafy roof above our heads.
It is clear the sukkah is fragile, vulnerable. What makes the sukkah crucial? One of the traditional Jewish evening prayers says, “You Who are the Breath of Life, spread over us the Sukkah of Your Shalom.” Why a fragile, vulnerable sukkah of shalom? Would shalom not be safer in a fortress, a palace, a temple, even a sturdy house?
No, our ancient wisdom says. –-- Not despite fragility but because of it, the sukkah safeguards shalom. A full shalom will come only when all human beings learn that we are all vulnerable. That we can only be at peace with each other not when we build Pentagons and Kremlins of power but when we fully grok that all those fortresses beckon attack.
Has that moment come? Not yet, but Sukkot beckons us toward it. That is why it is crucial. Indeed, it is understood as the festival that looks toward Messianic time, the days of Peace and Justice.
The Shalom Center is like a sukkah. We are tiny, fragile. We have a staff of two and besides the two of us, two part-time consultants who deal with glitches in our computers, website, and Email software. And yet –- or therefore!– we carry out a crucial role.
- We have for 33 years been pioneers, a prophetic voice, in the Jewish, multireligious, and American worlds. When no one in the Jewish world was facing the danger of the nuclear arms race, we came into being to do so.
- When few in the Jewish or other religious communities were willing to reinterpret our traditions to call for full equality for gay men and women, including the right to civil and religious same-sex marriage, we did.
- When not a single Jewish organization would condemn the impending invasion of Iraq as ethically monstrous and practically disastrous, we did.
- When after 9/11 there was a wave of Islamophobia, we organized the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah, to bring Jews, Christians, and Muslims together not only for shared prayer and dialogue, but shared action.
- When no one in the Jewish world yet dared to stand against Prime Minister Netanyahoo and AIPAC to support the diplomacy that has prevented Iranian nuclear weaponry without the self-destructive disaster of a war, we organized rabbis to support diplomacy, made our outlook known to Members of Congress, and paved the way for other, larger Jewish organizations to do the same.
And we are still the only Jewish organization that has made the climate crisis that threatens all human civilization into the highest priority for our work. Our own work has become a crucial wellspring of thought and action as other Jewish and multifaith groups begin to take up that concern.
Now we have begun the work of making the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last year alive into “MLK + 50 — A Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation.” Already others are following that lead. More news to come!
Because we are like a sukkah, we can act when larger fortresses cannot. And as we have done in the past, we can affect the larger, ponderous organizations by proving there is good sense in pioneering.
So we need your help to keep our sukkah, your sukkah, able to keep on being The Shalom Center, the Sukkah of Shalom. Please click on the maroon Contribute/ Sustain banner on the left margin of this page, and follow through with the (tax-deductible) gifts that will keep the leafy roof above our heads.