We have been hearing conversations about how festivals would feel so different this time around, owing to the pandemic. We aren’t going into all that, not to worry! But we are going to talk about a festival, nevertheless. Maybe, a festival which we all can celebrate in our own little ways. A festival that now helps us see its meaning the way we have never been able to see before. We are talking about the Jewish festival of Sukkot.
Sukkot is a Jewish festival, lasting almost a week, commemorating not any historic event but rather as a way to express gratitude. Sukkot is called Chag HaAsif (“the Festival of Ingathering,” or “Harvest Festival”), and Chag HaSukkot (“Festival of Booths”). Both the names remind people of two different things to be grateful about.
The name Chag HaAsif reminds one of the bountiful of crops that grow in Israel in winter, which get ready for harvest in the late spring or early fall. The name Chag HaSukkot reminds one of the tale when God created a shelter of clouds from the desert sun when the ancestral Jewish people were on their journey from Egypt, thus protecting them. Some other legends also say how Chag HaSukkot reminds one of the tents they all dwelled in for their forty-year-old trek though the Sinai desert.
In other words, it is a festival all about gratitude. Gratitude for life, and gratitude for the blessings. There are a whole lot of traditions and customs surrounding the festival, right from the ‘dwelling’ one is supposed to live in through the Sukkot week, to the kind of meals one is supposed to have, all reminding, once again, to be grateful of the blessings and bounty we have.
Whatever be our religious background and belief, there is always something one can take from all the religious festivals. We bring you a little story. Read on!
Counting Your Blessings:
Two friends were having a conversation. To be more specific, they were having a virtual conversation over a video call.
Let us call them Mrs. R and Mrs. P.
Mrs. P and Mrs. R were colleagues a few years ago. When Mrs. R shifted to a different city, they continued to remain friends. The two were used to keeping in touch over calls and messages. The pandemic made that connection even stronger.
During this particular conversation, Mrs. P was on the verge of tears. She has had a tough day. She told Mrs. R, ‘I am so tired today. I have been working since 7 am in the morning. I made lunch by constantly going back and forth between my room and my kitchen, with my headphones on, trying to keep track of these endless meetings. My daughter had her online school going on for hours. My husband had his work from home going on for hours. My internet connection was just so shaky, and I kept getting disconnected every couple of minutes.
I got free at 9 in the evening! And now our day is over, just like that. Work, work and nothing else. I am so tired of this pandemic! I wish I could just go to my office and quietly work there, and come back home, on time, and later go out for a nice dinner at my favourite restaurant. That is not going to happen anytime soon, alas…’
And so she went about her rant.
Mrs. R, calm as always, listened to her.
After Mrs. P had calmed down a little, and asked if she had been over- reacting, Mrs. R gently said, ‘I understand things are really chaotic these days. I will not tell you that you shouldn’t react this way. I mean, we all are frustrated by the situation and the makeshift arrangements we are all living in. But I think a little reminder could help you. I was a little troubled too last week. I saw the calendar and realised it is Sukkot! It is the Sukkot week now!’
No sooner had Mrs. R uttered these words, Mrs. P instantly realised what direction Mrs. R was leading the conversation into. A smile came on her face. Mrs. P, now much calmer, said, ‘I am so happy, no, I am so thankful that you reminded me of this. I feel so much better just remembering to be grateful about the things I have. Sure, it was a bad day, sure, the internet connection is terrible. The work will not end, and I am tired of the monotonous routine. I must cook my own food and I must balance out the chores and my work life. Everything just reminds me how we are living in a pandemic. But I have a house to live in, an internet connection that works as much as it can, I have a wonderful family, all safe and sound. I have a roof over my head, and our kitchen closet is full. I think, the day hasn’t been too bad after all. It is the Sukkot week indeed.’
Mrs. R and Mrs. P exchanged a knowing glance, virtually of course. Sukkot week reminded them, to be grateful about, all throughout the year.
This week, we bring you some more stories and anecdotes of gratitude. Watch this space for more!